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The 1973 Canal Holiday

This was a two week holiday at the start of July. The boat was a centre cockpit wooden Shropshire Union Cruisers hire boat starting from Norbury Junction on the Shroppie. The boat was quite "fast" (an early canal holiday criteria!) and was powered by a well behaved BMC 1.5 diesel. There was one bit of bad design - the rudder. There was no skeg, and the rudder shaft was virtually at the back of the boat.  The rudder shaft soon got bent on the shallow cuttings of the Shropshire Union as there was a lot of slippage debris in the channel. This made the steering some what vague,  leading to more collisions with underwater obstructions, further bending the shaft! Andy Lee was continuity from the first lads canal holiday, the year before. Robert Bradman (Brad) was in Andy's and Neil's year at school. Dave Rainbach was Robert's neighbour in Ruislip. Richard Coney went to junior school with Andy in Eastcote. Graham Williams was a friend of Richard, Robert and Andy.

The basic route was thus :- Norbury Junction to Autherley Junction - Shropshire Union Canal. Staffs and Worcs link to bottom Of Wolverhampton 21 locks. BCN Old Main Line to Gas Street. Worcester and Birmingham to Kings Norton Junction. Northern and Southern Stratford Canals to Stratford. Up River Avon as far as we could get (Upper Avon was not yet open downstream.) Back up Stratford Canal to Kings Norton Junction. Worcester and Birmingham Canal to Worcester. River Severn to Stourport. Staffs and Worcs Canal to Autherley Junction. Shropshire Union Canal to Hurleston Junction. Llangollen Canal to Llangollen and back. Shropshire Union Canal to Norbury Junction. 

Neil can remember very little about the overnight stops other than we did stop in Wolverhampton, Llangollen and Stratford. Only a couple of  pubs spring to mind,  the Boat Inn at Gnosall and the Wharf Inn on Shebdon Embankment. There was one navigation catastrophe. Neil can't remember who was steering (it was not him),  but we took the wrong arch coming out of Bancroft / Stratford Basin. The other arch is bricked up a few feet in! The top rubbing strake was hanging off afterwards. This we did a good fake-up job on, with nails and a bit of blue paint. It was never noticed when we bought the boat back, but it did not matter for we lost our deposit due to the bent rudder shaft! I Know Andy Lee (the hire was in his name) kicked up a fuss,  but I can't remember if we got the deposit back in the end. Andy and Neil started to keep a log to get an IWA Silver Sword navigation award. Neil has lost his, but due to Andy's death, his photo's and log will never turn up.

Would you hire a boat to this bunch?! About to set off from Graham Williams house. The crew are Dave Rainbach, Richard Coney, Robert Bradman, Andy Lee and Graham Williams. Neil taking photo. The trendy vehicles are Richards Vauxhall Vx4/90 and Neil' first car, his father's ex company Viva HB. This was affectionately known as the "No Brake Special" (it had drum brakes all round). or due to it's colour,  The Spaz Chariot. Notice the long fibreglass aerial on Neil's Viva, these were all the rage at the time!

Our centre cockpit Shropshire Union cruiser - Sir Walter Raleigh. Location is Wolverhampton, top of Wolverhampton 21. There does seem to be a rather lot of towpath here and is believed to be from the time before Broad Street Bridge was replaced with the modern concrete by-pass one. BCN.

Roaring along towards Coseley Tunnel. BCN.

Crossing over the Netherton Tunnel Branch. BCN, Wolverhampton Level.

Passing the Gower Branch, down to the New Main line. This view has not changed much. BCN.

Looking down Spon Lane Locks. The new M5 Motorway has yet to start crumbling! BCN.

Smethwick Locks. This view has changed. All these factories have gone. BCN.

There has been an incredible change here! This is Deep Cuttings Junction,  the National Indoor Arena will be to the left, Farmer's Bridge locks and the Birmingham and Fazeley canal go off under the cast iron roving bridge. Note the roundabout. The railway line deflectors were still there at this time. This is looking back as we take the turn to Gas Street Basin and the Worcester and Birmingham Canal. BCN.

Bucket Aqueduct and Lock. Notice the lack of protection for the rudder, which stuck out. Southern Stratford Canal.

Wooton Wawen Aqueduct. (on the way back.) Andy Lee sports Mexican Hat. Southern Stratford Canal.

Edstone Aqueduct. Southern Stratford Canal.

Because we could not go down the Upper River Avon (not yet all restored) we went about as far up as you could get. We have just run out of water! The Upper Avon.

Tardebigge Flight. Worcester and Birmingham Canal.

Tardebigge Flight. Worcester and Birmingham Canal.

Tardebigge Flight. Graham Williams in control. Worcester and Birmingham Canal.

Leaving Holt Lock. Rare shot of Neil sporting long hair! River Severn.

Kidderminster Lock. It is a shame there is not a picture looking down stream from the lock as the ring road had not yet been built! Staffs and Worcs Canal.

Staffs and Worcs Canal.

Richard Coney in control. Shropshire Union Canal.

Stretton Aqueduct. The A5 passes underneath. Brad, with Andy steering. Shropshire Union Canal.

Tyrley Flight. Shropshire Union Canal.

Nantwich. Basin off to left. A few more boats here nowadays! Shropshire Union Canal.

The start of the Llangollen Canal at Hurleston Junction..

Grindley Brook Locks. Llangollen Canal.

Grindley Brook staircase locks. Llangollen Canal.

Llangollen Canal.

Sun Trevor. Llangollen Canal.

Approaching Llangollen. Llangollen Canal.

The wharf at Llangollen. A bit busier nowadays! Llangollen Canal.

Our mooring in Llangollen. We have wandered back to the boat with a pint, Neil still has some of the beer mug collection! Note the spade for emergency dunny dumping! Llangollen Canal.

Coming back down Hurleston Locks. Dig the flares and long hair! Llangollen Canal.

We leave Andy behind! Hurleston Junction. Shropshire Union Canal.

Hack Green Locks. Shropshire Union Canal.

Going down Audlem Flight. Shropshire Union Canal.

Packing up at Norbury. As soon as we had finished the boat was whisked away into the dry dock, to have it's rudder shaft straightened. This we imagined happen often! Shropshire Union Canal.

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