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It’s a Small World

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I had no sooner posted the last blog, when I got a message from the Chief Advertising Executive at Ryford Steam-Powered Advertising Inc - “That’s me and my dad on that boat passing your train of boats in Birmingham in the photo on your blog”. It was about twenty years later that we actually met. They still have the same boat, too, and even moor it right by our yard. 

I managed to get a very rare picture of him looking out over his very own piece of restored canal. Who knows, maybe one day coal will be delivered to Ryford by boat again. Here’s hoping. Actualy, here’s hoping that it’s us that can make that delivery before old age finally catches up.

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In other news, I notice that the three narrow boats exhibited in the basin by Gloucester Waterways Museum have been removed from the water. It seems that only the FMC butty boat “Northwich” is to remain on view to the public - and that on dry land! The other two boats, “Wye” and “Oak”, both of which have had thousands of pounds of restoration work carried out on them over the years, are to be stored pending restoration! I do not expect them to see the light of day again. The same treatment has been meted out to some of the exhibit boats at Ellesmere Port Museum too.  Mind you, it’s not as though the boats at Gloucester have been looked after whilst on display, they have looked derelict for many years now. Boat people were generally very clean and fastidious in the way they kept their boats, and this should be reflected in the presentation of all exhibits. It seems to me that the word “museum” is not appropriate for these attractions anymore - they are more like a waterway themed exhibition, curated by someone with, at best a limited knowledge of, or at worst, a complete disregard for, our fantastic waterways heritage. 

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Many moons ago, around 1994, I delivered coal to the Waterway Museum at Gloucester, for use in the stoves of these three boats.  The cabins were then open to the public, and the boats were in a reasonable state of repair, and, more importantly, looked cared for. The coal was off-loaded onto the museums' Lister-truck - a three-wheeled, flat-bed affair with the engine right on top of the front wheel.  This is what museums should be like, interesting and alive. Around the same time, I loaded some iron bollards, which had been made by a local blacksmith in Gloucester, and were destined for the new development at Salford Quays in Manchester. These were loaded into Roach using the museums own mobile crane as shown above, and were subsequently delivered the same week. The bottom picture shows Roach in the approach to Hulme Lock in Manchester awaiting unloading.

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On the coal-delivery front, we have been busy dodging stoppages, and making road deliveries in-between. Pete has done a bit more boating for us, and we had a very quick dash from the yard to Stoke Prior and back in five days - this being the "window of opportunity” offered by the Canal and River Trust. Hard work but rewarding. Ascending the Wolverhampton Locks in the fading light afforded the opportunity of a few atmospheric photos, particularly around the refuse incinerator half way up. Spurred on by the smell of the Great Western, we made the top in time for a hot pork sandwich and a pint of Bathams. Just to prove that I do steer Roach on the odd occasion, here is a picture taken at Cambrian Wharf on this trip.

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After a quick dash up the Shroppie, Roach had only been back on the yard a day when we found out that a car had struck the bridge parapet at Dimmingsdale and closed the canal. We are at present awaiting news of a re-opening date so that we can resume our waterborne deliveries. As I remarked earlier - here’s hoping.

coalboat@waitrose.com © John Jackson 2014