Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Waterways of England.

This is just one of a series of around fifty old newspaper articles that I have been reading. I have been researching from old newspapers and magazines the last 200 years or so of the inland waterways. With particular interest in the issues of the day that were effecting the canals. The most active periods for evaluation and change, has always been just prior, during and shortly after the two world wars. It should be remembered that between the wars the ownership of some of the canals changed hands as the railway companies bought up the waterways to get reduce competition. What is not clear is the effect this early form of asset stripping had on the viability of the inland waterways. Its good to take a look back at what people were saying and doing in the past. Most surprising of all are some of the problems that beset the canals back then - are still prevalent today. Reading old newspapers can throw up some rather interesting stories. Here is what we would call today a public interest story.

Caveat: Some of the articles are difficult to read and even using modern electronic  scanning and text conversion methods. The odd punctuation, word or character may have been transcribed in error. 
The Queenslander
Thursday 13 July 1933

Cruising on the Waterways of England.

Most travellers when they visit England go on motor tours to see the countryside, as the excellent roads appeal to the motorist. They forget the rivers of England, the glorious streams that intersect that green luxuriant land. Even the English people themselves are hazy about their inland waters, yet it is possible to take a houseboat through the canals of England, provided the boat has not a beam of more than 7ft. What a glorious holiday that would prove! The rivers provide some of the loveliest holidays in the world, and Evelyn Gardiner, in "Good House keeping," tells of the joys of such a trip during the English summer. Some time ago two friends of mine decided to take a holiday on the Thames, she writes. Hiring a boat and a boat tent they started above Oxford and made their way leisurely down the stream to London. It was not arduous, for the current was with them. The nights they spent on the banks in the comfort of their boat tent. On the way they stopped at the places of interest, which, I believe, included such spots as the Trout, at Godstow! But can one blame them? Was there ever such an entrancing inn, placed close to a waterfall so that the musical sound of its rushing water soothes and delights? 
Oxford they knew and re-explored, that city whose spires rise majestically towards the arc of the sky. Abingdon was another halting place, and there they wandered the ancient streets, On they went, past Pangbourne and Mapledurham, close to which is a Tudor Manor House in which Queen Elizabeth stayed. Henley, Marlow, Bray, where that determined vicar turned Papist, Protestant, Papist, and Protestant again! At Bromley Lock they learned that all the Swans in England do not belong to the Crown. For there, once a year, the ceremony of Swan-Upping is performed, when all the swans belonging to the Dyers and Vintners Company are marked for identification. Past the glories of Eaton and Windsor they came, and so finally to Putney, where their trip and their holiday ended. But it is not all of us who can indulge in so long a holiday, nor, for a matter of that, all of us who know how to manage a boat. Yet even sailing can be learned in London itself. It is possible to have lessons on the lake in Regent's Park, where all kinds of craft can be hired. 
The Norfolk Broads compared with the Thames in the main hold very different pleasures. Thirty odd years ago the Broads were practically unknown outside the Eastern counties, but for the last twenty years they have steadily increased in popularity among those who love boating and its kindred pursuits, such as angling, swimming, etc. The Broads are a series of extensive lakes cut up by some 200 miles of navigable waterways, tortuous and lovely, of which the principal rivers are the Yare, Bure, and Waveney, with their tributaries the Ant and Thurne. One of the great attractions of these broads and rivers is that there is always sufficient water to sail on. The fall does not affect them much. Many other rivers run so low as to leave craft on the mud. This only takes place on Breydon Water, and then only if you are out of the channel. All lovers of nature will be greatly impressed the moment they find themselves on this wonderful lakeland. The attractions of the Broads cannot be overrated. After the day's sailing is over the evening sets in. The yacht moored and everything made snug, one may stroll to the village, near which you are moored and taste the delights of foraging for supper and replenishing the depleted stock. A visit to the local inn is well worth while, for many a good yarn maybe heard spun by veteran wherry and yacht skippers, who know little of other life besides that of cruising up and down the Broads summer and winter. 
The Beaulieu River is a little more difficult to negotiate, sweeping as it does into the Solent. From Bucklars Hard, that tiny village consisting of one short street of ancient red-brick houses, one can see yachts of all sizes moored on the river. It has always been a wonder to me that Bucklars Hard has not long since been "discovered" and consequently ruined. But the little place remains quiet and serene. It can scarcely be called a village, for its main street and. as I have said, that is all it consists of. ends, so to speak, in the river. I like the river it is framed by trees, but behind it are the New Forest moors. Bucklars Hard is one of the places to which I should take that questioning foreigner. Having shown him the beauties of the Thames, described to him the Severn, that river which rises in the wilds of Wales, I should In contrast allow him to enjoy the peace of this Hampshire village. For I seriously believe that it is the peace of the English countryside, as well as its wonderful colourings (such soothing colours are to be found no where abroad), that would impress him. He would see the mellow brick against the dark foliage of the trees, blue smoke quivering in the air, and the river flowing black and stately towards the sea, and if he was not impressed, and still burbled of his snow peaks or his lakes ringed by mountains, well, I should be inclined to agree with those of my countrymen who feel that England needs no advertisement.

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