Get down Shep

I was sorry to hear of the passing of John Noakes last week. He came to our yard a few years back to do some filming for a DVD about the inland waterways, which was sold to raise money for the Cotswold Canals Trust. Like everyone else of my generation I grew up with him on Blue Peter, and he turned out to be exactly like he appeared on telly - a thoroughly nice bloke with no airs and graces; no “look at me - I’m a star” about him at all. He turned up at the yard dressed all in white - ideal for a coal yard - and wanted a go at bagging coal. We furnished him with a size twelve “Scubbin”, a very large fork to the layman, with which he proceeded to load a fork-full of finest house-coal into our scoop-scales. Unfortunately, he loaded the coal too far forward in the scoop which immediately tipped the coal back out, right down his front. White clothes - I arsk yer! It was a pleasure to meet you Sir.

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Incidentaly, the “Scubbin” he used is a piece of history in itself as it used to belong to “Caggy” Stevens. For those who don’t know, Alan “Caggy” Stevens was, among other things, the last horse boater on the Birmingham Canal Navigations.


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There’s been plenty going on around here recently. We dry-docked Roach at Stourbridge in April, mainly to enable a hull survey to be carried out, but also to apply a further couple of coats of fancy, and fantastically expensive black paint to protect the hull from being eaten by our extremely predetory canal water. Stourbridge Dry-dock is a fine place to work on a boat, it is covered, clean, and has access platforms right around  the boat to enable ease of working on it. Mainly, though, Stourbridge has loads of fine hostelries for taking ones ease in after a hard days talking about boat maintenance.

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The old girl did look better for a new coat of black, mind. This photo was taken by our esteemed Advertising Executive, Mr Langford, who had inadvertently stepped into the canal having been blinded by the dazzling new paint. I imagine that he has got himself out by now. Another shot from an unusual angle is this picture of our yard taken by me whilst hanging one-handed from a drone. It looks quite tidy from this angle.

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We managed to find time to go on holiday last month, and headed north for a roam around. We ended up staying in Haltwhistle, Northumberland, where one of the pubs, the Railway Inn, has a landlord who is also the local coal-man. This, predictably, meant a few more pints and a long natter about our respective experiences in the industry. He also seemed to know a bit about football in spite of being a Newcastle United fan. A proper local pub.

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Just to prove that we really were on holiday, here’s a picture of Jenny scampering along Hadrians Wall, and then here she is again, in pensive mood, looking out over the Solway Firth from the promenade at Silloth. Silloth is right at the end of “The Land that Time Forgot”. 


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We ended up at the fashionable resort of Barrow-in-Furness, which is an interesting place while at the same time managing to be the epitome of dismal. The beaches and wildlife on Walney Island were fantastic though, well worth the effort of getting there. I’ve put a few of our holiday snaps in a gallery here if anyone is interested.


Bagging of summer-priced coal is now in full swing, ready for stocking up all our customers in time for the coldest winter ever (as forecast every year by most of the media on “slow news days”. I expect that they will be right one day). We are also awaiting the arrival any day now of the entire Grand Union fleet to load coal for Northamptonshire and beyond. This fleet includes the good ship "Southern Cross", captained by Skip Dimmock, who is busy lavishing the shiny bits of his boat with gallons of “Brasso” in the hope of retaining his “Coal-boater of the Year” title. We shall see. I’ve heard that the Judges need to see an improvement in his whisky intake before any consideration is given to his retention of the title.

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And finally…..

Orders for Summer priced coal are now being taken - and we have the best prices on the cut. Help us to keep on carrying by canal, and ensure that fine sights like the one above are still to be seen. Call Jenny or John on 07885 284812 with your order now.

coalboat@waitrose.com © John Jackson 2014