"We show off about these boats because we love them! There's a team of us and we're all volunteers from the Heritage Working Boats Group. This season we've taken them to Foxton, Audlem, Etruria, Stourport and Braunston so far. We show the boats off from Easter to October, and then we take them to a 70-foot shed in winter.
Leo is from the fleet owned by the Canal & River Trust. It's a restored butty boat that was commissioned by Grand Union Carrying Company in 1935, and built by W J Yarwood & Son of Northwich. From the late 1700s up until the 1960s canals were busy with working boats like these. But then boats weren't needed for haulage anymore and they were just left to deteriorate. The Trust searched for grants from the Heritage Lottery Fund and other sponsors and that's how these boats were restored. And we've been looking after them ever since. The upkeep is hard work. We do all the maintenance apart from the engine and the signwriting.
We quite often have to take the boats for filming sessions to be on TV. The producers usually cover up the name though. We sit inside the cabin out of the way while they do the filming. It's surprising how they do the process. There are often half a dozen trucks full of equipment, and incredible amounts of people. I've had to move the boat to almost the precise inch where they want it, and do everything over and over again at least two or three times!
We’ve both been volunteering for years. I used to work for the Post Office, and Mick used to drive lorries for Unigate milk, but since we've been retired, doing this keeps us out of trouble. We take it in turns to take the boats to shows and the group meet up at social events as well. We're probably seen as experts by the public, but we just pick up the history of the boats as we go along. The Trust make sure we're up to date with health and safety because we have families climbing aboard the boat, and we're both qualified skippers for the charity. As volunteers we don't have to be experts, but we're all enthusiastic!"
Gordon & Mick, Pelsall, Cannock Extension Canal