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The First Canal Holiday 1969

Mr Ridge the Arlidge's neighbour was a teacher in a local Secondary school. He was quite a boater and had taken many school trips on the Norfolk Broads. In 1968 he took his first party on a canal trip. Early 1969 saw the Arlidge's plan their first boating holiday since the many Arlidge senior hire boat holidays on the Broads in the late 1940's and early 1950's. (Neil still has Maurice Arlidge's extensive and lavishly laid out photo albums of these pioneering trips, opening the Broads up again after the Second World War.) Neil's mate from school, Ian Scott was invited along and it was pressure from Neil and Ian that led to a holiday being planned on the canals and not the "boring" Broads! Mr Ridge had inspired us as he said his school party had really enjoyed themselves. Maurice Arlidge, being ex-Royal fleet Air Arm, wanted a "proper" narrowbeam cruiser, so the established firm of Maidboat's was chosen as our hire base. We planned to do the Oxford, River Thames and Grand Union Ring and we chose to start on Maidboats canal base at Stretton Stop, Brinklow. (Now Rose Narrowboats, Stretton under Fosse) The alternative would be to have started at Maidboat's River Thames base at Thames Ditton. Maid Mary Shauna was chosen as our boat. One reason for this was the name appealed to us - it was the same as Mrs Ridge's Sheltie dog. This boat was believed to be about 45ft long and could sleep up to 7. The initial crew was Maurice and Eileen, (Neil's mum and Dad) Neil, Ian Scott and Neil's aunt - Doreen. Near the end of the holiday we did indeed have the maximum number on the boat. The weather was perfect all the time and much swimming was done, in river and canal!

The start date was Saturday 19th July and we managed a fairly early start. That night we made Braunston and stopped just before Braunston Arches. We of course by then had done our first locks ever, the three at Hillmorton. Neil's dad did most of the steering on the Oxford, but by the Thames Neil and Ian were taking short turns. Our chosen pub at Braunston was the Rose and Castle, which subsequently became the Boatman, then after a total refit (when the "paddle steamer deck" extension was demolished), the Mill House. The next day saw us doing the Napton and Claydon Flights on the Oxford. Neil and Ian seen to remember how easy these locks were to work, even before we had perfected any technique. We do not remember the summit pound being as struggle, but then there was hardly any other boat movements on the Southern Oxford. Sunday night saw us stop at Cropredy and start a long series of acquaintances with the Red Lion pub. We stopped below the lock, opposite the wharf. There was not any permanent moorer's here then! Monday the 21st of July is of course one of those "do you remember where you were when..." days. This day was when man landed on the moon. We had stopped on the Cherwell river section, just above Shipton Weir. Neil and Ian were swimming and paddling around in the inflatable canoe. At about 14.00 hours Neil's mum called us over, in her characteristic bawling voice. We paddled over to the boat and clung on the side by the centre cockpit. Eileen bought the transistor (as portable radio's were called them!) over and we heard the famous words! Just before opening time we carried on and spent the night at Thrupp, at the Boat Inn. As was the case at the time, we moored right outside!

The next day (Tuesday 22nd July) saw us pass through Kidlington and onto the River Thames, via Duke's Cut (Maurice did not fancy waiting for hours to get the railway swing bridge open - we have never been through it when it was working.) There was no trouble getting on to the Thames as being a Maidboat, Shauna was licenced for both waterways. We were soon whizzing down the Thames. The wooden built Shauna had quite nice lines for a narrowbeam boat and was equipped with a BMC Captain diesel ( and so began out love / hate relationship with the BMC 1.5!) Shauna certainly moved on the Thames, without causing much wash. This was to prove an embarrassment to another member of Neil's family! That night we stopped at Wallingford. The next day we got as far as Mapledurham Lock, when we espied Neil's cousin Arthur and his wife aboard their nearly brand new GRP two story cruiser - Mark Charles. We met up, and decided to go back to Pangbourne, just above Whitchurch Lock. We moored to the trees just above the lock. This is "private" now! We started back at a fair pace and I seem to remember Arthur had to overtake us in true cruiser style. We were hardly causing any wash, but the two large Perkins diesels of Mark Charles caused quite a stir! Neil can't remember the exact state of affairs, but he seems to remember that the Whitchurch Lock keepers punt was sunk. Arthur got banned from the river for a while! That night Arthur and Maurice went off in Mark Charles tender to go to the pub and then "night fishing"! Neil thinks that they were not lucky to have another mishap in this smaller craft!

Wednesday saw us shove off and get to Shepperton that night. The next day we left early,  Neil and Ian cranking a few Thames locks! We stopped at Maidboat's for something, it probably being a diesel and water top up (maybe Maurice checked the tide times for Brentford?)  I think it was more luck than judgement, but we went straight in / out at Teddington Lock and did the tidal section to Brentford. That night we got to Uxbridge on the Grand Union. This must have been a long / fast moving day! The Scott's senior, Les and Marion and Ian's sister's came down to see us at our mooring, which I seem to remember was just above Uxbridge Lock. (no permanent moorings there then!) There was just room on the boat, so Debbie and Alison, Ian's sister's stayed on the boat for the rest of the trip. Thursday 24th July, we set of fairly early. At Denham Deep Lock we gave a scruffy individual a lift up to nearly Widewater Lock. He was carrying a large bag. The next thing we knew was that he had got out a bloody great crossbow, with some evil looking bolts!!! After blasting a few ducks out of the water he jumped off near the railway bridge to gather up his trophies (dinner?) We had a fair days run and got up to the classic canal side pub (well it was then!) - The Three Horseshoes at Winkwell. Neil and Ian got seriously into lock wheeling. 

Sunday 27th July saw us have another good days run, getting over the summit to yet another classic canal side pub - The Globe at Linslade. This was yet another fine evening and all the younger members went in swimming / canoeing. Monday we got to Cosgrove (having passed through Milton Keynes - wot Milton Keynes!) Yet another canal side pub was our evening stop, the Barley Mow. Tuesday 29th July saw us at Stoke Bruerne - The Boat Inn for lunch. We carried on through the tunnel and got to Bugbrooke for the night. Wednesday we carried on up the Grand Union. Neil remembers there being A LOT of bats in Braunston Tunnel! At Braunston Turn we carried straight on up the Northern Oxford and got to Hillmorton. Thursday 29th July we over shot the hire base at Brinklow and got to the classic canal stop of Hawkesbury Junction. The power station before the junction was still in operation. That night we went to the Greyhound pub. The next day we started late and went a short way up the Coventry Canal. Neil can not remember where to! We got back down the Oxford to Ansty, where we went to a pub (presumably the Rose and Crown?) The last day was just the short hop to Brinklow. 

This canal holiday will always be fondly remembered by Neil and Ian. We did a lot in two weeks,  yet still had a good few lunch time stops. The weather was perfect and the only traffic on the Grand Union was a few working boats. Maurice Arlidge did take some pictures of this holiday, but like a lot of his photos,  Neil never found them when clearing out 66 Woodlands Close.


Maid Mary Shauna in 1965. (Photo Jim Shead)

Maid Mary ? The semi-derelict narrowbeam Maidboat at the bottom of the Oxford Canal. Picture taken August 1999.

Maid Mary ? The semi-derelict narrowbeam Maidboat at the bottom of the Oxford Canal. Picture taken August 1999.

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