Me & My Boats: A family afloat
- Credit: Archant
Blissful childhood holidays on the cut led to a lasting link with the waterways and Wardle Lock. By David Pinney
My parents bought their first boat, when I “was on order”, in the summer of 1976 – a 25ft Davidson’s TrentCraft - after apparently going for a day out, and heading towards the pub at Trent Lock with a friend and accidentally taking a wrong turn, they ended up at Davidson’s yard at Sawley Marina. There they saw ‘Goldfinch’, went out for a test cruise, and as I understand it, ended up buying her a short time later. My arrival one October weekend interrupted their plans for a late season getaway! Throughout my childhood, we would normally holiday for 2-3 separate weeks each year on her, with many additional weekends spent pottering up and down the T&M from Stenson Marina.
As kids in the early 80’s, we would spend hours playing in the River Dove where it went under the T&M aqueduct between Willington and Burton-upon-Trent.
We would always have our first break of the year over Easter weekend – obviously some years would be really cold, some would be lovely and warm – we had no heating onboard, apart from an instant hot water heater and a basic cooker.
One of the things I remember most about this boat (apart from its Orange cabin colour) was the need to keep checking that water was still coming out of the wet exhaust from the raw water engine cooling – the system had a habit of sucking up silt and mud from the canal, clogging the filter and overheating the engine.
As soon as I was old enough, I would don my lifejacket, shuffle along the gunwales from the front cockpit to the stern to check!
As we grew, in the mid to late-80’s, my parents decided it was time for a bit more space and upgraded to a 32ft Creighton cruiser, with a centre cockpit and sun deck at the stern.
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As luck would have it, ‘Muffin Too’ had exactly the same inboard diesel engine, cooker and gas fridge as Goldfinch, so Dad and Mum both knew all the ‘tricks’ for how to look after these and get the best from the now ageing 1970’s technology! The longest trip we did was one summer, taking nearly three weeks to do the round trip from Stenson to Reading on the River Thames to visit my Grandparents at Goring-on-Thames.
As ever, I’m sure Dad kept a detailed log of what time we started each day, the weather, lock timings and where and when we finished each day, including any pub stops along the way!
He kept these records accurate to the minute, and would use them at the end of each ‘season’ to calculate totals for engine run hours, distance travelled, and the number of locks done, along with the height gained or lost in each one.
Muffin Too lasted our family throughout the rest of my childhood and into my University days, however Dad found that when I was away, he was spending more and more time on the boat at weekends alone as my Sister was growing up and had a ‘social life’ (and I suspect had outgrown boating, preferring to be with her friends).
Mum would stay at home (without protest and to ferry her around), leaving Dad to go to the boat to ‘tinker’ and/or ‘pootle’ to the local pub in the evening.
It was during my time at university that my Dad worked out at the end of one season, that he wasn’t getting value for money from Muffin and reluctantly decided to sell her on, however, my boating days were far from over.
I met my wife at university, and quickly discovered they had a boat. ‘Quintet’ is a 57ft trad, with a replica boatman’s cabin and a Ruston & Hornsby 2-cylinder slow revving engine. One summer, Quintet also happened to be moored just around the corner from Muffin, so during the holidays, I was able to spend some time with both Dad and Charlotte.
My in-laws used to only moor for a few years at any one marina before moving it to a different part of the country. Their boat has spent time in marinas near Wigan, York, Sawley, Anderton and is now near Skipton where they live.
Charlotte and I spent many years holidaying on Quintet, normally taking a week in late spring and early autumn from wherever the boat happened to be at the time. It wasn’t unknown on occasion for the boat to be away from her home mooring for several months over the summer.
A few years ago, we were living in Sheffield and I was working in Derby, during this time, we were looking at moving closer to my work, and one of the options we seriously considered was to buy a widebeam narrowboat and live on that somewhere along the T&M between Sawley and Burton.
We even got as far as talking to boat builders, sketching internal designs and viewing boats for sale! It took well over a year for our house in Sheffield to sell, and during that time, I learned I was to be made redundant.
Around this time, a number of fortuitous things happened: Some inheritance came our way; A brokerage tweeted about an old lock cottage being up for auction and a conversation with a friend in which he told us to knock on some doors and see which one opened.
We went to view Wardle Lock Cottage in Middlewich, started dreaming, mentally knocking walls down and a few weeks later, the auctioneer was pointing at me as he shouted “SOLD”!
We didn’t at that time know much about the history of the cottage, or its former resident (‘Auntie’ Maureen Shaw), but that has now significantly changed.
We now have our own children and we still holiday on Quintet pootling along the L&L from Skipton.
We have spent over five year renovating the cottage and upgrading it internally so that it is now suitable for modern family living.
We are now able to call Wardle Lock Cottage our home and our kids can often be seen out on the lockside helping boats through the 5th busiest lock on the system (according to CRT statistics).
As with any boat or old building, it is still very much a work-in-progress, it is our current BOAT**; there is always something to ‘tinker’ with and a ‘to-do’ list as long as your arm!
** BOAT = Bring Out Another Thousand
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