|Clock House - Why's it called that, then?|
|How Woolhampton commemorated the last Diamond Jubilee|
Woolhampton has a mainline railway station but we noticed it is called Midgham which is another village nearby. A little research revealed the station was renamed Midgham to avoid confusion with Wolverhampton. Two so very different places you could not find but I suppose the poor sound quality of station announcements might have led to confusion. However, any hapless traveller arriving at Woolhampton rather than Wolverhampton might have considered it a lucky escape once they saw what a nice little place they had landed in. On the other hand, arriving in Wolverhampton by mistake might have prompted questions about who they had upset in a former life!
Lunch at the Rowbarge Inn, by the canal, got our vote so off we went. We got as far as Woolhampton lock to find two boats in the lock trying to fill it with one bottom paddle still fully open. We and another boater shouted to them to lower the bottom paddle only to find it had failed in the open position. Despite this knowledge the boat crews still attempted to fill the lock seemingly not realising it would never fill and they would drain the upper pound in the process. We finally got them to realise they were stuck in the lock. I called the BW Emergency line on their behalf. A maintenance chap had the paddle fixed within the hour so the boats could get on their way. An excellent response from the BW duty staff. By the way, lunch at the Rowbarge was very good albeit a bit expensive.
We meet many characters on our travels around the network but Steamboat Tony has to be one of the most notable so far. Tony owns the only wooden Thrush steamer narrowboat still working on the British waterways. He recovered her from a derelict wreck at Aynho, which took him two years to complete. The steam boiler burns wood so he has to feed her continuously the amount of wood he burns being phenomenal. He told me he cannot afford to miss any opportunity to collect firewood as he travels. Tony had a mottley crew when we saw him comprising friends he gathers along the way. He is an absolutely fascinating character and at 71 years old has led an exciting life. His full story can be seen in a documentary on YouTube here.
Another fascinating aspect of life on the water for us is to meet folk who make their living trading on the Cut. While at Woolhampton a working boat and butty passed through having been up to Newbury to deliver coal. It was pouring with rain when they came through but they remained fairly cheerful, for the most part. I have often daydreamed about running a working boat chugging around the network transporting some kind of cargo or people, even. But, all romantic notions aside, the working boatman's life is hard even in these modern times and seeing them at work negotiating locks and other obstacles brings me back to earth with a bump!
|First get motor and butty into towpath.|
|Tie them together.|
|Move into lock.|
|Exit lock and before leaving couple up butty.|
|And on your way.|