Reflections of an Ancient Boater—Fradley Junction's Heyday?

Published: Monday, 31 May 2021

THINGS are looking up. Spring has arrived!

By that I mean I can meander along a towpath, or better still sit outside a canalside pub and have a beer and exchange banter with other boaters, wearing only a T-shirt and shorts. Up until today it's been winter gear i.e. fleece tops and thermal vests.

Fradley Junction

One of may favourite ways to spend a sunny afternoon is to sit outside the 'Mucky Duck' at Fradley quaffing a pint of real ale and watch the 'entertainment' provided by boats arriving from the Coventry Canal and trying to wind whilst other boats are intent on entering or leaving Junction Lock!

The resulting 'interaction' provides displays of skill, (or not), courtesy (or rudeness) plus the occasional argument. Great entertainment for a boater turned gongoozler!

However, this was not to be this time (Thursday 27th May). The pound below Junction Lock had only one boat moored on the visitors mooring and there were NO boats queuing for the lock.

How different this was from the heyday of the canals (2005-ish?) when it could take four hours to get through Fradley during the season. At the time there were extensive Canaltime hire boat fleets at Alvercote and of course Sawley, so it often felt like every other boat coming and going was a Canaltime one! Long queues were to be expected either side of Junction Lock. This prompted me to always start early and make sure I was through Fradley before 9am. Also mooring at Fradley was almost impossible if you arrived there later than 2pm at the height of the season.

Not any more

If anyone tries to tell you boating is more popular than ever then I would suggest they are perhaps just repeating CaRT propaganda? On a delightful warm, spring afternoon in May I counted roughly two boats per hour going past the Mucky Duck! Why so quiet ? Maybe I just picked an off day.

So I challenge CaRT to publish the usage of the nearby Woodend Lock, (where they have a Telemetry Station), and we can then see just what has happened to the popularity of boating since CaRT came into being. Just give us the facts please!