Benbow, hired from the Tardebigge Boat Company at Easter 1972 was the only boat not hired from either Willow Wren or Union Canal Carriers. A converted working boat (which has since been returned to working condition) it had a number of luxuries that the Willow Wren boats didn’t have, such as central heating and fitted carpets. The carpets were a nuisance: they just got wet when someone opened a gate paddle prematurely and the central heating required a large extra water tank on the roof which made getting under some bridges problematic.
Being early in the season the boat hire company hadn’t got round to licensing their boats! At first they tried to dissuade us from using the River Severn, as they knew the licence would be checked at Diglis. They told us the river was in flood and even turned the boat round to face north, but we insisted on following our planned route. Sure enough, at Diglis we had to buy a short-term licence at a cost of £5 which was refunded by the company when we got back. However, we also reported them to BW for running unlicensed boats and BW also refunded the money.
The crew would have been bigger had not six people who put their names down to come decided to hire their own boat. Although they followed the same route as Benbow I now have no recollection of who they were or what their boat was called. After the River Severn we came up the Staffs & Worcs to Stourton Junction, where we got well and truly stuck in the bottom lock of the Stourbridge Canal necessitating a call-out from BW to get us through.
At the end of the trip Jim and Duncan made a marathon bus journey from Tardebigge to Hereford on Midland Red buses including a very circuitous route from Worcester on a very well loaded Ford R192, before catching a train to Llanelli.
Crew: Kris Brook, Jim Davies, Hugh Mowat(?), Ed Leetham(?), Two Gas Engineers, Duncan Roberts
Route: Tardebigge – Worcester – Stourport – Stourton Jc – Netherton Tunnel – Birmingham – Knowle – Kingswood Jc – King’s Norton Tardebigge.
Jim’s photos are on this Flickr link