This event is the stuff of legend, but until randomly browsing today, looking for something entirely different, I had no idea that the occasion had been pictorially comemmorated. It is 11.03 on Friday June 26th 2009. Warrior is tied up part way up the Braunston locks (probably in the Nelson pound) in preparation for the rally. I am on Warrior - that's its headlamp bottom right. Along comes a rather lovely looking josher so out comes my camera (Petrel, I always think, is a lovely advert for twenty+ years of annual varnishing).
Jim however, is out on the towpath, and at the lock he gets chatting to the steerer - who is not attending the rally, but making haste to escape its clutches. As he tells it, the conversation goes something like this.
Jim: That's a lovely boat. Be no good for my missus though, she only wants a big Woolwich. Can't find one though. Looked at loads, none of them are any good...
Duncan (for it is he): I know where there's one. (hands over slip of paper) Ring this number.
Jim: (heart sinks).
And Duncan steers Petrel off, little knowing what he has set in train.
Posting that photo of Chertsey being unloaded at Croxley Mill in 1970 leads me back to the recent trip, and an earlier post, and some wonderful photos sent to me five years ago which I don't think I ever posted... If only I had had a good look at them beforehand, I could have tried to recreate the angles. Anyway, here are three more photos that dg sent me back in 2011, taken I believe, by his dad. They show a pair of Willow Wren boats, Grebe and Wagtail (which the internet - I can't currently lay my hands upon Bread Upon the Waters - leads me to believe were FMC Antelope and Freda) approaching, in, and leaving what is captioned as 'Croxley' lock - formally called, at least now it seems, Common Moor.
Aren't they fabulous?
And here are Chertsey and Renfrew in the same lock on July 30th
This is the nearest to a direct comparison, with the middle one of dg's pictures.
Surprisingly, very little seems to have changed - other than a bloody great paper mill having disappeared.
Inspired by my recent re-bonding with Chertsey, and in time for this weekend at Alvecote, I have finally finished compiling a new information sheet (twice as long as the old one and also available as a flier!) and photograph album. One of the reasons for producing it as a flier is so that people can take away my email address and send my any nice action shots they've taken of Chertsey on its travels. So often you see people snapping away - sometimes they even ask! - but by the time you've had a conversation and written down the email address the you're probably out of earshot. So if you've taken any nice photos of Chertsey.... my email address is the URL of the blog less the www. and the .blogspot.co.uk and plus @gmail.com.
Over the years I've had Chertsey (seven now and counting) I have acquired some very nice photos. Many of these however came with the proviso that they not be put on the web, and some that they not be publicly displayed. Hence I have compiled an album for sharing privately (on request) which has the added advantage that I can include more pictures and put them in chronological order, providing a kind of narrative of Chertsey's life.
Looking back through the photos though I found this one that I really love, which I am allowed to share, taken by Richard Pearson of Chertsey loading coal at Gopsall Wharf on August 18th 1970
And this one, of the same coal being unloaded at Croxley Mill a few days later.
I'd still really like to recreate this journey one day.
Why this customer thinks the Nelson is the best pub on the cut
However, there are a few more contenders. Not many - this was a trip where we largely fended for ourselves, with serious on board supplies of food and beer. There are therefore just six nominees, and that's including the festival beer tent. In order of visiting they are:
The Samuel Barlow, Alvecote Marina
Always decent food and usually good service, but (special events apart) a limited choice of beer and not a great atmosphere - maybe as good as you could get in a big square room dominated by a close knit group of regulars. It was a good venue for my early birthday dinner though, as we had our own little group. Very dog friendly, and the steak was excellent value as always. Solid and reliable, but somehow for all that, not a favourite.
The Admiral Nelson, Braunston
Still seems to be keeping up its form - the latest revival must have lasted what, four or five years by now? Sadly we arrived there on a Monday, meaning that the full menu - quite understandably - wasn't available. The bar menu is perfectly good, although the charm of serving chips in miniature chip baskets and fish on ersatz newspaper is starting to pall a little. Mega super dog friendly; good beer, nice environment, so this one is still a favourite, and a regular stop.
The Old Crown, Weybridge
Four pounds thirty five, thank you very much. OK, it hasn't got any nasty froth on the top, but all the same. Weybridge is another world. Also in the Old Crown, we had steak and chips. And that was exactly what arrived on the plate. A piece of steak. And some chips. No peas, no onion rings, no tomato, no mushrooms, not even a salad garnish. It won't be giving too much away to say that this one comes at the bottom of the list.
Thurston Brewery Festival Bar
At three pounds a pint you can't knock it, so I won't. One nice flavoursome beer (Invader) which was alternately on and off with one less flavoursome one. Also a porter for those as likes that sort of thing.The head brewer was there serving and told me something interesting which I hadn't heard before, but which sounded plausible - that IPAs aren't supposed to be really hoppy. His take was that the problem with the long sea journey wasn't with the beer going off, as most beers then were matured for a year anyway, but with the flavour of the hops fading, hence the addition of lots, so that it would still taste normal when it arrived, rather than extra hoppy. I accepted his explanation, but added that I like it hoppy anyway. But not grapefruity or elderflowery.
The pub at Iffley lock (on the Thames near Oxford)
The rather useful Perfect Pint app told me that this was in fact called the Isis Farmhouse, which enabled me to check out its opening times (very specific) and dog friendliness (fine), but no one seems to know it as that. We turned up on a Friday which excitingly promised to be a folk night although that side of things was a little half-hearted.
I didn't garner much of the place's history, but it seems to be one of those places that's hard to keep going, largely because it has no road access. A few people (including most of the musicians) arrived by boat, and many more on bikes. In appearance, the place is best described as resembling - well, no, in fact being - a big dilapidated house, furnished with various old bits of furniture, stuffed animal, garden furniture and very tatty soft furnishings.
The ceiling is half painted; the carpet comes to an abrupt halt in unexpected places, and the walls are mostly bare plaster. One barrel of very local beer is available at a time. The menu includes beans on toast, ploughmans, and pork pies as well as a couple of more adventurous offerings. I had a pork pie, and it was excellent, and accompanied by home made bread, the freshest salad and a lovely home made coleslaw.
The Greyhound, Hawkesbury Junction
Another longstanding favourite, a canal pub that somehow manages to retain a tiny bit of a sense of history and mystique (for all the Nelson's virtues, it sadly doesn't). We arrived early accepting that we would stand around for a while waiting for a vacant table outside in the sun, and our patience was rewarded. Ever reliable for Bass (which I find a bit sweet now) and something Robinson's quite nice and not too strong for me. The mixed grill caused no complaints (especially not from the dog), and we saw two people successfully execute the turn, one of them a hireboater with a broken arm. Neither was a particularly long boat though.
The Greyhound, I think, is the runner up this trip, but the winner is... You've guessed it, the pub at Iffley lock. Go there if you can.
Day 24, Marston Doles to Hillmorton, 7 1/2 hours boating and a four hour sojourn in Braunston.
We were away early this morning as planned, and it was lovely. First down Napton (just) and we didn't get stuck at all, so that's good news. And it only took two hours. We stopped at Braunston for essential supplies of vegetables and chimney strings and treated Jim (as recompense for the six am start) to an all day breakfast at the Gongoozlers Rest, which was a very long time coming. We left Braunston at three and tied up here below Hillmorton at six. Jim steered nearly all day (except down Napton) and thoroughly enjoyed it, whilst I enjoyed sitting in the sun.