1979 – Guillemot

79-06The winter trip for 1978 – 9 had to be cancelled. I recall that this was due to ice, but David remembers it as being due to low water levels due to a strike. (This was the “Winter of Discontent”)  Instead, Ken Harrop organised a fortnight’s trip in May. I wasn’t on this one (the only one I missed entirely) so all reminiscences and information welcome. I do have Hilary’s photos and notes though as well as Mike’s diary for the event.

The trip got off to a good start when one of the crew lost his glasses in the cut. Amazingly, they were retrieved the next morning before departure. They had to pay £24 for a passage of the southern Stratford Canal, then managed by the National Trust, but still got stuck in a lock for an hour on the Lapworth flight and also caught fast in a bridgehole further on. Being a cultured crew they visited the theatre in Stratford, one of only a very few recorded instances of cultural activity on these trips!  It snowed on May Day!

Thursday, 3rd May was election night when the Tories swept back to power after the “winter of discontent”. Perhaps wealthy Upton-upon-Severn was not the best place to be and several of the crew got into a “heated political discussion”  with the locals in the pub which almost led to them being thrown out. They did most of the BCN in heavy rain, which they would have enjoyed, and even got up to Titford Pools. On their asccent of Farmer’s Bridge locks they were delayed whilst a body was removed from the cut.  Smethwick was described as a “real place” with “forges and places” – “real ace grot!” One of the crew won the raffle in the Three Tuns at Fazeley and they all got free butties because there was a darts match on. (Note to younger readers: darts matches are what happened in pubs before quiz nights were invented!). There is a report of being delayed at Atherstone locks because of the number of other boats – the only recorded instance of this I have come across.

Dates: 28th April  – Saturday 12th May 1979

Boat: Guillemot, from Willow Wren at Rugby

Route: Rugby – Braunston – Hatton – Kingswood – Stratford – Tewkesbury  – Stourport – Aldersley Jc – Wolverhampton – Wyrley & Essington – Walsall – Tame Valley Canal – Salford Jc – Birmingham – Oldbury – Titford Pools – Spon Lane Locks –  Birmingham – Fazeley – Hawkesbury Jc – Rugby.

Crew:  Lynda Barr (1 night), Jon Bore, Clive Coole, David Evans, Ken Harrop, Lily Hopkins, Mike Piet, Duncan Roberts, Hilary Smith,  Phil Swann, John Tidy, Pat Tidy.

Stopping Places and Pubs

Saturday, 28th April: The Rose (Watneys), Willoughby

Sunday, 29th: Zetland Arms (Davenports), Warwick

Monday, 30th: Bulls Head, Wootton Wawen  

Tuesday, 1st May:  Stratford-upon-Avon (Theatre – “Merry Wives of Windsor”)

Wednesday, 2nd: Manor House and Miller’s Arms Pershore (Marston’s and Courage Directors)

Thursday, 3rd: Swan (Wadworth’s 6X), Upton-on-Severn (Election Night!)

Friday, 4th: Tontine Hotel (Banks’s), Stourport

Saturday, 5th: Round Oak (Springfield Bitter), Wombourne

Sunday, 6th: Top of Walsall Locks (Pub not recorded but sold Springfield Bitter) Possibly the New Navigation?

Monday, 7th: Prince of Wales (Ansells) Birmingham (Tied up Gas Street basin)

Tuesday, 8th: as yesterday! (After trip via Old Main line and Titford Pools, Spon Lane locks and New Main Line)

Wednesday, 9th: Three Tuns (M&B), Fazeley Junction

Thursday, 10th  Maid of the Mill (Davenports) Atherstone

Friday, 11th: Union Jack, Stretton (Nr Brinklow)


Mike’s photos are on this Flickr link

There are also lots of Hilary’s photos that will be included once I’ve scanned them.

Mike’s Diary Notes:

Canal 1979 (Stratford, Severn & Birmingham) Guillemot from Rugby
Saturday 28 April Meet crew lunchtime in ‘Avon Mill Inn’. Onto boat & change fridges. Off at 16.00. Sail to Willoughby. ‘Rose Inn’. Walk back. Fell in on mooring. Sat on by Duncan – lost glasses. Latish to bed.
Sunday 29 April Up at 7.30. Steer Braunston Turn. Rain & sun & Wind. Share GU locks with Water Willow. Stop & water at ‘Cape of Good Hope’. Walk into Warwick. Sit & drink well at ‘Zetland Arms’ (Davenports). Bed happy & late.
Monday 30 April Up at 6.00 & ready to go. Meet Water Willow & race up Hatton. Boats ahead. 2 hours ascent. Look round & stop at Lapworth. Buy licence. Lunch on Stratford Canal. To Wooton Wawen and moor. Walk to ‘Bulls Head’ & drink in both bars.
Tuesday 1 May Wake at 8.30 having slept well. Gentle run down to Stratford. Stuck under bridge into basin. Rain & snow. Swim in pool with cold shower. Vegetarian tea & to RSC for ‘Merry Wives of Windsor’. Search in snow for chips.
Wednesday 2 May Up at 8.00 & down Avon. Nasty weirs & races especially at Evesham. But run along well. Waves on river. Cold. Boat in snowstorm (photo?). Smell of curry all day but not bad! Pershore. Visit housing and to ‘Manor House’ & ‘Millers Arms’.
Thursday 3 May Off in sunshine but soon cold again. Lunch at Tewkesbury chippy & eat in sunshine (this is where the ‘chippy with the longest queue is best in town’ rule was proved – those who queued had a good meal while those who went to one with no queue fed the seagulls!). Pillage shops. Visit town & Abbey. Spot blue colour for parsley sauce (there was an outbreak of playing with food colouring on this trip – green custard, red beans, etc). Hard work up Severn in wind & against current. Upton upon Severn. Moor outside ‘Swan’ for Wadsworth’s. Election night. Phil argues with local Tory at closing time. Chinese pillaged! Wait up for some election results (we went to bed when it was obvious Maggie had won – beer bottles left on pub doorstep).
Friday 4 May Visit the Map Shop. Some sun on Severn. A quiet reach. Slow against wind. Mourning because of Thatcher win. Power locks so not much to do. Piped off Jon Bore at Worcester. Sunny but still cold. Stourport – up through basins. Talk to lock keeper. ‘Tontine Hotel’. ‘No anything’ notices.
Saturday 5 May Quick photos & away at 8.30. Shallow, twisty but ace cut. Gate paddles. Mass pillage at Kidderminster but lose John Tidy. T-shirts visible at last. Run aground in hailstorm. Flood boat & bail out. Multi-coloured pudding from Lily. ‘Round Oak’ at Wombourne. Springfield bitter.
Sunday 6 May Up at 07.30 and away in sun. Bratch Locks. Walk up Wolves 21 in sunshine. Pick up floating pole ladder. Meet Lynda & pick up water at top lock. Wyreley & Essington Loop along motorway. Bags etc. Circle power station. Stop alongside pub at top of Walsall Locks.
Monday 7 May Birchalls Junction to Farmers Bridge. Real grot in Walsall. Lynda steering. Walk in rain for miles. Follow ‘native guides’ to chippy. Over & under motorways. Rain on Tame Valley. Up Aston & Farmer’s Bridge to water at summit.
Tuesday 8 May Leave Farmers Bridge. Body of Paddy O’Malley fished out of cut. Shopping in Smethwick. Industry. Wolves Level to Oldbury & up 6 locks to Titford Pools. Ice lolly & gricing. Back along locks & 180° turn into Spon Lane locks. Back along Main Line to Farmer’s Bridge. ‘Prince of Wales’ for medicinal purposes. Early to bed.
Wednesday 9 May Early Start. Cold weather. Down Farmer’s Bridge & Garrison Locks and on to Brum & Fazeley. Sunbathing. Water with leaky hosepipe. Tea & to ‘Three Tuns’. Raffle & sandwiches.
Thursday 10 May Medium start but feel bad & stay in most of the day. Constant rain & cold. Shopping in Tamworth. Slow up Atherstone Locks because of other boats. Davenports & chips in ‘Maid of the Mill’ at the summit.
Friday 11 May Early morning start in rain. Steer 2 hours. Lunch in sun on roof at Hawkesbury. Pipe off geriatrics (who could that be?). Just miss demolition of power station cooling towers. Finish early at Stretton. Ace sweet & sour dish from Lily. Wine. Walk to Stretton (1.5km) & hot pub. Leave late & cheeses on board for supper.
Saturday 12 May Up at 7.00 & off early. Arrive Rugby 9.00. Fuel & water. Hide ladder in long grass. Unload in heat & drive Phil & Clive to station. Drive back to London.
Sunday 13 May Postscript: on way back from London, Mike stopped in Rugby to pick up the ladder, although 6 feet had to be chopped off so it would fit on the Mini’s roof rack – the main section rotted away many years ago but he still has the short section in the garage!
Crew: Ken Harrop, Mike Piet, Duncan Roberts, Lily Hopkins, Hilary Smith, Jon Bore, Clive Coole, Phil Swann (friend of Ken’s), Dai Evans, John & Pat Tidy (Ken’s friends from Clwyd?)
Notes: This was organised in May as we were fed up with bashing through snow & ice and, as ex-students, we were not so poor or tied to out-of-term periods – however, the snow followed us to Stratford-upon-Avon on 1 May!

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