Oxford Canal - April 1970

Brinklow to Banbury

Log title page

Editorial note from Andrew: This voyage taken by me at the age of 9 with my parents is where our whole involvement with canals began. Other trips with my parents followed in 1982 and 1990 (Alison was on the 1990 trip). Then in 2001 we took our own kids on a trip onto the Shropshire Union with Cheshire Cat hire boats.

Scanned pages from the original hand-written log can be found on Flickr. The photos from the original log as well as the typed up text can be found in the pages that follow.

The text from the original log is reproduced verbatim but I have added comments into the log text and the occasional extra photo or link where, for instance, we have cruised the same part of the canal and have a more recent photo.

Previous web searches have turned up very little information about the Maid-Mary line of hire boats so these pages may be of interest to others who had holidays on Maid-Mary boats. As we have learnt more about the canals it is interesting to reflect that 1970 was really quite early in the restoration of the canals and there is at least one reference to us passing a working boat.

The Boat

Maid Mary Wanda specification

The Maid Mary-Wanda was hired from the Brinklow Depot of Maidboats Ltd. Fibreglass built she was very comfortable. Note the heavy fenders & rubbing strakes to protect her in the locks.

The Crew

The Smith Family
Daddy - Captain & Chief Engineer
Mummy - Chief Cook & Assistant Helmsman
Andrew (9) - Bow rope handler & Paddle operator
Helen (12) - Assistant Cook & Stern Rope Handler
Howard (7) - Deckhand & Lock Gate Pusher
Melanie (5) - Deckhand & Lock Gate Pusher

Editorial Note: Daddy is my father (Rodger Smith) and Mummy is my mother (Frances Smith).
Rodger is an ex-merchant seaman which explains some of the terminology in the log!

South Oxford Canal map

The Oxford Canal

The Oxford Canal is a very old "contour" canal completed in 1790. It is two parts separated by a 5.5 mile stretch of Grand Union Canal. (Editorial note: A stretch we know well as our shared ownership boat Sojourn is moored at Wigrams Turn Marina as I type this! (May 2007)).

We started at Brinklow between Coventry and Rugby & went Banbury and back again.

To navigate we used Ordinace Survey Map Nos. 132 & 145 & British Waterways Handbooks 6 & 9.

Saturday 25th April 1970

Brinklow Marina

13:30 Hrs. Crew joined Maid Mary-Wanda at Brinklow. Our gear was loaded on along with ships stores of food etc.

The family on board

All the children were fitted with life jackets

We received instruction on the engine and its controls. By 15:15 all formalities were complete & the boat turned round.

15:20 Cast off from Brinklow and dropped the pilot.

16:00 Moored at Cathiron for tea. All gear now stowed and shipshape.

17:50 Cast off and passed through Newbold Tunnel

Editorial note: We passed through Brinklow and the Newbold Tunnel on Sojourn in April 2007 (37 years later. God I feel old!).

Moored for night near Bridge 52

State of weather
Sunshine & showers, turning to heavy rain. Wind rising.

Sunday 26th April 1970

Hillmorton map

01:00 Stern line pulled out mooring rope stake. Boat swung across canal. Captain resecured.

Roused all hands. Breakfast Frosties Sausage & egg
Special note: Quality of cooking excellent. Last night we had steak, sausages & potatoes. The frig is not working so we must use up perishables.

09:00 Got under way. Almost immediately, we narrowly avoided a workboat & its butty coming out of a bridge hole. Just beyond the bridge, fouled propellor but cleared with assistance from Maid Mary-Judith.

10:00 Through our first locks (no trouble). Three of them at Hillmorton. Several more experienced crews helped.

Hillmorton bottom lock

12:00 Stopped at Bridge 74 for lunch. Roast beef, peas, beans, sprouts & roast potatoes.

Mummy steering

14:00 Under way. Joined Union Canal at Braunston. Mummy & Daddy took turns steering. The canal is wider and in good condition.

16:00 Disaster! Ran aground on clay bottom. Shifted ballast, rocked boat, went ahead & astern.

Napton Junction circa 1970

16:30 Got clear and continued to Napton Junction (photo left). Passed several converted workboats loaded with schoolchildren, including Kimberley & Baldock.

17:00 Moored at Naption locks

18:00 Inspected locks on foot

20:00 All children in bed. Cold! Oil heater will not work

Monday 27th April 1970 (Mummy's birthday))


07:30 Breakfast

Underway. beautiful morning. Used E.D. unit. Only one we ever found.

Shopped at farm near Bridge 116.

12:00 Marston Doles for lunch. Chicken - delicious


13:15 Phoned boatyard re frig & heater. Arranged rendezvous at Brige 136 for 16:00 hrs. Cast off from Marston Doles.


Passed School boat Baldock which ran heavily aground letting us past. Went astern & took their line & a heaving party to opposite bank. Refloated. We went aground twice ourselves this afternoon but refloated easily.


16:00 Met engineer at Bridge 136. Fixed frig & heater. Found he was an ex-Shell marine engineer. Swung the lamp a bit. Weather beautiful. Pub here "George & Dragon" does meals. Will call on way back.

? ? Bridge 137A from Fenny Compton Tunnel

18:00 After tea passed Maid Mary-Gwenda & Maid Mary-Stella moored at Bridge 136. On through Fenny Compton "Tunnel" which has not been a tunnel since it was opened out in 1868. Lots of moorhens nests. Saw also several bright yellow birds with black & white tails as well as hawks & hares.

19:15 Locked through top two locks at Claydon. Stopped for supper, steak, sausage & egg. "Gwenda" & "Stella" passed, "Gwenda" as usual at full speed. ("Gwenda" had a very violent helmsman as we learnt to our cost from time to time).

20:00 Worked one more lock before mooring for the night. We learnt later that it is bad practice to stop before completing a "flight" of locks.

Tuesday 28th April 1970


07:45 Hands roused with tea in bed by Daddy. Breakfast of scrambled eggs.


09:00 Continued thro' Claydon locks. Weather bright but frosty.


10:30 Moored on outskirts of Cropredy. Pleasant village with Civil War history. Will pay longer visit on way back. Good shops & pub.


11:30 Underway. Through Cropredy Lock.


12:30 Moored for lunch about Bridge 158. Stewed steak, carrots, mashed potatoes, ice cream.

Weather now very reasonable. Sunshine but strong wind. Now weather became overcast & cold. Overcome Elsan disposal problem - bought a spade)


15:30 Approached Banbury. Some difficulty with "drawbridges" due to strong wind & light crew.


16:00 Moored at Banbury. Crew in No.1 rig for shoreleave. Pictures "Goodbye Mr Chips" followed by chinese meal.

"Gwenda" moored ahead, also "Shipton Mariner" which is identical to "Wanda" from the same builder.

Wednesday 29th April 1970


03:00 Checked mooring lines in rising wind. O.K. But "Shipton Mariner" bows adrift across canal.

07:30 Helen roused crew with tea. Beans, & sausage, toast marmalade for breakfast.

Mummy & crew ashore for stores. Banbury is a very good little shopping centre. Daddy located "winding hole" 1.5 miles ahead but will try to turn in basin just ahead to save a lock & two drawbridges. Will be touch & go for length.


10:00 Carried out turn with crew man-handling line. All hands did well & it looked quite seamanlike. Started return journey. Strong head winds made passage of drawbridges difficult even under power. Weather sunny & dry.


12:00 Moored for lunch just before Cropredy

13:00 Took on water at Cropredy. Visited church. Saw Civil War armour on wall. Cropredy was site of battle (1644) recently re-enacted.

? ?

14:30 Worked up to summit thro' Claydon locks passing "school" boats still going south. "Kimberley" in lead but "Baldock" in hot pursuit. Mummy leaping ashore to take photos hurt her ankle but took some attractive shots.


18:00 Moored at Bridge 144.

Editorial note: We actually have a picture in our April 2006 log of Bridge 144! This link will open in a new window.

19:00 Daddy & children walked to Claydon & back.

Thursday 30th April 1970

07:30 Mummy served tea in bed. Egg bacon & rolls for breakfast. Weather dry & bright but a little overcast. Warmer. All hands had a good wash & dressed up a bit.


10:30 Under way

11:30 Moored at Bridge 135.

12:00 Excellent lunch at "George & Dragon".

13:30 Under way again.

16:00 Marston Doles lock

17:00 Started down Napton flight. Moored between locks 8 & 9 for tea. Advised (pleasantly) by lockkeeper that we should not have stopped between locks as this wastes water. We should have followed the water we had drained from upper locks. By stopping we caused this water to run over a weir.

17:45 Moved thro' last lock & moored for night.

Friday 1st May 1970

A beautiful morning so warm we wear light clothes.


09:00 Under way as early as possible. Passed "Gwenda" & "Stella" moored by a pub. Obviously stopped for a meal the night before.


09:30 Joined the Union Canal. Lots of wildlife on the banks. A heron, a snake swimming & a moorhen with a snake or an eel in its mouth. The snake was brown with yellow & black pattern. The heron took off & flew with a lazy style, its head tucked in. Passed a "camping" boat (a work boat with canvas cover) full of school boys.


10:30 Moored just before Braunston. Visited "Blue Line Cruisers". Nothing special in gift shop. Price of boats was fantastic, thousands for quite ordinary craft. Saw "Rose & Castle" pub. Looks good.


11:30 Sunbathed - girls in bikinis - really warm.

12:00 Lunch. Roast potatoes, sausage, beans with whipped pudding.

13:00 On up the Oxford Canal. Steady motoring to Hillmorton lock. Assisted by boys on "camping boat" who swarmed over the locks & took us through with them. (Hillmorton locks are "paired locks"). They eventually turned down the Rugby Wharf arm.


16:00 Moored just beyond Bridge 58. Had sandwich tea followed by a stroll.

18:00 Work boat "Jupiter" went past towing its butty on a short strap.


18:15 Decided to move up to Newbold-on-Avon. Got three pubs, two next door to each other, "The Boat Inn" & "The Barley Mow". Also an excellent chip shop.

19:00 All hands gorged on fish & chips.

Children to bed.

Saturday 2nd May 1970

07:00 Roused all hands & set to cleaning ship & packing gear.


10:00 Under way through Newbold tunnel. Quite pretty this last stretch. Tow path crosses disused arms by cast iron bridges

11:30 Last meal.

11:45 Started run-in to Brinklow. "Stella" close behind.

12:10 Moored at Brinklow. Crew "signed off". All given good character discharge.

Distance steamed 86 miles. Fuel used 11.5 gallons

Some other postcards stored in an envelope at the back of the log


Boat Inn and Canal Basin, Stoke Bruerne, Grand Union Canal


Top Lock, Stoke Bruerne, Grand Union Canal


A pair of narrow boats on the Grand Union Canal near King's Langley

Andrew's LinkedIn profile