Tales from Spalding’s narrowboat

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We have just arrived at Peterborough, our pilot Anthony joked.

We were in fact at Spalding Water Taxi’s landing stage behind Hills department store on the river Welland and a light drizzle had begun to fall.

It was the end of a journey aboard All Well and Good, the company’s 47 feet long narrowboat, and we were all feeling cheerful.

We had reason to feel light-hearted: the company was good, the journey interesting and a small amount of Prosecco had been consumed.

A group of people – Tulip Radio’s Jan Whitbourn, town centre manager Dennis Hannant, Springfields facilities manager Jackie Sawyers, Springfields PA Julie Atkinson, Jeff Gray, who looks after Springfields’ marketing, along with this reporter and her husband – had been invited along for a cruise by Spalding Water Taxi Company operations manager Anthony Grunwell.

Anthony and taxi manager Simon Clarke piloted the vessel, offering all aboard the chance to have a go.

While I was quite happy to leave steering a very long boat to others, some aboard were more keen to try it.

However, having seen the concentration on Anthony’s face when it came to turning the vessel – near Chain Bridge Forge, the only place on the river on the town side of High Bridge wide enough to complete the manoeuvre – I think I was wise.

“There might be a little bump,” Simon, I think it was, cautioned, before someone else quipped back, “Have you got your water wings?”

If it falls to town centre managers in future to organise boat evacuations in case of disaster, watch out: Dennis declared that in the event of the boat being holed town centre managers were off first.

In fact, Anthony performed the move perfectly, one suspects possibly because one or two unwary users may have had to call on him to get them turned round in the past – the sluice gates at that end of the river form a dead end.

However, head in the other direction, towards Crowland, and the river opens up beautifully, with plenty of space for manoeuvre.

Ordinarily, one would expect to see far more wildlife on that stretch of the water, but on our hour’s trip we were lucky enough to see a kingfisher darting below branches along the river’s edge in the middle of town. Earlier, before we boarded, Anthony and Simon saw a seal in the river.

There were jokes about anti-nausea travel bands and having to duck under High Bridge, but in reality the trip was a dream. The world was a peaceful place as we chatted, explored the boat and, glass in hand, watched the town slip slowly by.