By Dave Roberts
Britain's canal system is now so much a part of the 'leisure industry' that many people alive today have never known it in any other way.
In the 1960s the whole network was in transition from an industrial carrying facility to the system we know today, largely given over to pleasure cruising and holiday-making.
In fact if the 'leisure boom' had never happened our canal system might now be just a memory, and the courses of old canals given over to nature trails and country walks in the same way that many - too many, some would say - old railway lines have.
In 1967 Granada Television in Manchester, with one eye on the coming of colour TV a couple of years later, made a children's drama documentary for children in colour.
The Flower Of Gloster tells the tale of a group of youngsters moving an old narrowboat, converted for cruising use, from a boatyard in Wales to London.
As far as we know, this series, which was the first Granada ever made in colour, has never been seen since, and all we have are memories of watching it on 405 lines in black and white the year it was made.
Almost inevitably the boat's journey along the network brings it to Middlewich 'where the Shropshire Union meets the Trent & Mersey'.
We have a vague memory of the youngsters getting into trouble with an old boatman for trying to get the boat through a lock during the hours of darkness. Seemingly moving boats in the dark is a serious transgression of the rules, or was in working days at least.
They should be grateful that Auntie Maureen never caught them at it.
The Flower Of Gloster is a precious record of Britain's canals in the 1960s and we can heartily recommend that you pre-order your copy now!
|Middlewich canal country, mid-sixties|
For a full description of this photo see this diary entry