Some time ago a wonderful initiative was dreamt up to get us poor ‘office based’ staff out on the track with the help of some of our very accommodating and willing boating customers. Of course I jumped at the chance, who wouldn’t? I love nothing better than seeing what we do. I’ve said it before (and I’m sure I’ll say it again!) but trips like this remind me why I’m here and I think that’s crucial. So, cupid got to work and paired us all up.
We met Allan and his beautiful boat Albert above the top lock of the Hatton flight. Usually you can rely on the great British weather to let you down but the stars had aligned to provide us with some really very perfect weather. Allan told us that we should have been there at 6am to see the sunrise, I absolutely believe him. He welcomed us onto Albert, which was all ready for the off, and made us feel at home. The inside was just as immaculate as the outside. When we commented on this he wryly warned us not to open any of the cupboards!
Off we went, up the Grand Union. We passed dog walkers, ramblers and boaters who all greeted us welcomingly without exception. The scenery was captivating and I made the most of soaking it up as I sat at the bow with a cup of coffee and biscuit in hand, it really couldn’t get much better. It was interesting to pass areas where the recent rain had caused us difficulty with very large trees falling from the steep embankments as we often hear about these incidents in the office.
It is said that you borrow freedom when you ride a horse but yesterday I felt that we had borrowed a piece of history as we cruised on Albert. We passed under bridges where the indents remained from years of wear by tow ropes when the only power used was four legged, there were split bridges, a Barrel (or domed) roofed cottage, the trip through Shrewley Tunnel and, of course, the narrow locks. Allan’s knowledge of the area was second to none and he told me a charming tale about meeting a traditional work boat and butty locking in the traditional manner – butty first towed by the lady and powered boat after skippered by the man…who would clearly need to remain in charge of all things ‘mechanical’. How pleased I am that things have moved on.
I nervously took my turn at the helm, I’d like to think that I’ve handled boats before in a fairly able manner but it’s very different altogether when you’ve been given the tiller to someone else’s lovingly restored boat and they are standing right next to you. I’d also, very stupidly, waited until we approached the first narrow lock on the way in to Lapworth and Kingswood Junction before volunteering. In hindsight this was not the smartest decision I’d ever made but there’s nothing like a bit of pressure to focus the mind. I could tell you that everything turned out to be fine and I skilfully manoeuvred Albert through the two narrow locks (with a three point turn in between) and back through the very narrow gap onto the Grand Union again but that would be a lie as Allan patiently helped me recover my often crooked approaches.
I left feeling contented by the time we spent out in the fresh air and the sights we’d seen along the way, I was also reminded about how informed, passionate and dedicated you all are. If I’m really truthful I was also envious that I didn’t have my own Albert to return to.
Thank you for a thoroughly enjoyable morning Allan.
Sarina joined us in 2008 as our customer services co-ordinator. Among other things, she manages our national customer service team, complaints procedure and requests for information made to the Trust. She says that the most important thing to her is to be able to go home and feel as though she’s achieved something, however small that might be. Her job is hugely satisfying, widely varied, full of deadlines, immensely interesting, sometimes challenging and no day is ever the same, although some are surprisingly familiar!See more blogs from Sarina Young