Out with the Old…...

Well, we’ve had some snow then. You’d think that we’d never had any before. Just to prove that we have - here’s a picture taken in Gas Street Basin, Birmingham, around 1991.

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Roach is the middle boat, the others (for those of you who just have to know) are Cedar, Cyprus, Argon and Yeoford.

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The recent snow did impact on us, though, and delayed our departure from Awbridge for a few days. It seems that our particular part of South Staffordshire, together with the adjoining part of Shropshire, had loads more snow than the rest of the country. We couldn’t get off the yard for two days, but luckily we had a crate of Bathams laid by for just such an emergency. 

The snow-scape did provide scope for some seasonal photos with the old Kodak Brownie, and, because I can, I include a couple for your delectation and enjoyment. The arty one is taken through the rather fine brickwork on Awbridge Bridge, the other is of Dimmingsdale Lock.


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We finally managed to persuade Pete to board Roach and he set off for all points North. Obviously, it was chucking it down with rain when he set off - it is traditional with Pete, but he loves it, and wouldn’t have it any other way. We did manage to relieve him for a couple of days to allow him to dry out, but made him return when we got to Middlewich. This gave him the opportunity to ascend the Cheshire Locks, nick-named “Heartbreak Hill” in recent years by people for whom more than two locks in one day constitutes strenuous exercise. He got back to the yard in time for Christmas. Just.


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The cold weather has ensured that we have been very busy delivering by road as well as by boat, and Jenny has been kept busy (and warm) bagging up on the yard. Here she is loading coal into the hopper with our JCB (Jenny’s Coal Brute). She is an able operator of this machine, and has perfected the “tongue-sticking-out-in-concentration” technique. 

Her enthusiasm for all things coal is a joy to behold, and this made my choice of Christmas gift for her extremely easy. She has had to wrap it herself though - in around 1200 individual parcels.


I have been delving into the “Plastic Bag of History” again, and found a few more interesting photos. The first shows Roach tied up at the bottom of the "Rochdale Nine Locks” in Manchester. This was taken in 1988 (I think), and there wasn’t a soul to be seen anywhere. I had a good night out in the pubs around Deansgate, and then a quiet nights sleep - I don’t imagine that would be possible nowadays.

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This next photo is of “Roach" tied outside of Dave Blowers’ “Stewponey" opposite Langley Maltings up “The Crow”, taken around 1990, I would guess. The maltings were still in use then, malting barley for Banks’s Brewery. I was lucky enough to be given a tour of the maltings as we were trying to interest them in buying their anthracite through us. The (six, I think) boilers were individualy hand fired, and each boiler had a small pile of anthracite by it, delivered by a wooden two-wheeled barrow. Even the wheels on these barrows were made of wood. We never got the job, which was a shame, but the maltings closed soon afterwards and then, as all buildings that the owners of wish to develop, suffered from a mysterious fire. The remains of the maltings are still there, but I imagine that total demolition will be the only viable option now. 

The reason we tied there was the “Bridge Inn” public house that housed the Holt, Plant & Deakin brewery (actually owned by Ansells, but nevertheless a welcome diversion). This pub was on the bridge behind the photographer (me!) and has sadly just been demolished. This pub was used regularly by Dave and myself, as was the “Crosswells” just down the road. Actually, Dave and I used most of the pubs in the Black Country regularly, and there are still lots of good ‘uns still extant.

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The final photo is of Vic Berry’s scrap-yard in Leicester, also taken around 1988, and shows how to neatly stack obsolete transportation artefacts. I was quite surprised that there was not a similar heap of old Grand Union boats there. 

Happy New Year to one and all.

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coalboat@waitrose.com © John Jackson 2014