In the early ’70s a group of like-minded individuals came together at Salford University to run the Inland Waterways Society. Some of them having had previous experience of canal boating, they decided to organise a Society boat trip. Being penniless students they chose to hire over the New Year break – which was then the cheapest week available. As enthusiasts they naturally wished to hire a “full-length” (70ft) boat and as very few firms hired such large boats they ended up with “Grebe” from Willow Wren at Rugby.
The first trip was a success and the New Year Boat Trip became an annual event. One of the crew had contacts with students at Newcastle University, but when they were invited to join a trip it was quickly found that there were now enough participants to warrant a second boat and so the tradition of a “Salford boat” and a “Newcastle Boat” was born. (One year there were three boats!). Winter trips continued until 1977-8, but when the 1978-9 trip had to be cancelled because of ice the trips moved to the Spring (there had been an early Easter trip in 1972) and these continued until the mid-1980s, although by then very few of the original participants were left.
These trips have stayed in my memories ever since and even when I had my own boat between 2004 and 2014 and could go off boating whenever I like, I still thought about the “good old days” that these holidays represented. Passing the Boat Inn at Stockton Brook I recall the time an emergency stoppage “forced” us to go into the pub and drink some of the best beer I’ve ever had in my life. At Audlem I recall the night fierce gales brought down two inn signs almost onto the heads of the crew, whilst Middlewich, Rugby and Braunston bring back many memories as the start and end points of the trips. But my memories are far from perfect or complete, so I have set up this site to collate as much information about the trips as possible. Fellow crew members such as Duncan Roberts, Martin Tordoff and Hugh Mowat have contributed much in the way of reminiscences, information and photographs as has my now partner Hilary, who was always on the “other boat” in those days.
The site is divided into two sections – The New Year Trips and the Spring Trips and each “trip” has a separate page. If you can add anything to the detail please do so via the comments box and I will incorporate it into the site. Photographs are also welcome, please use the comments box to let me know you have them and I’ll be in touch to arrange to receive them. Apart from the Tardebigge Boat Co., which we only used once, all the boat hire firms we used are still in business, albeit with changes of ownership and/or name and there are links to their websites on the sidebar.
I hope you enjoy reading the site and that it brings back as many happy memories for you as writing it has done for me. Any more information – or any corrections – you may have would be most welcome.