ULSCR Summer Tour – Four Counties Ring: 13th-20th Sept 2008

Boat 1 – Sandringham

Day 1: Saturday

In the beginning there was a blonde and a ginger and it was good. They were joineth by a Guy wearing glasses in a land called St Pancras. They boardeth a train and henceforth fell asleep.

Anyway, writing the report in that style is taking too long… so Clare, Guy and I fell asleep on the train and awoke with Guy violently shaking us and yelling in our ears. Mike picked us up at Flitwick station and we promptly fell asleep again all the way up to the boatyard in Great Haywood – sorry about that Mike! He dropped us off in the pub car park where we spread ourselves out over three parking bays (which resulted in dirty looks from the locals) while we waited for the pub to open. We were joined in the pub (when we were finally allowed in) by the other UL canal boaters, including Jenny Pick who joined us for a day with delicious ginger cake which lasted all of five minutes, proving that UL do not believe eating is cheating.

After lunch and a pint, we all excitedly headed to the boatyard to check out our new homes for the week; ‘Sandringham’ (woop!) and ‘Tap Dance’ (boo!). We quickly settled in and were off in no time. ‘Sandringham’ got off to a perfect start, ‘Tap Dance’ however crashed into the bank after about 20 metres – a sign of things to come!

It was a very relaxing day on Sandringham, full of beer, gin and some weird stuff called ‘Real Ale’. Hmmm…? The evening pub was the Greyhound Inn in Burston which was very nice (apart from the long wait for the food). The problems started on the walk back; we got savagely attacked by a ferocious dog (actually, we just got barked at a bit, but some us may have overreacted after a few pints). We then had to wait for Clare to take a photo… this simple task took approximately 20 minutes. We eventually got back to the boat where much gin-related fun was had by all, led by Mike and Roger obviously!

Day 2: Sunday

The Sandringham-ers were rudely awoken by an over-enthusiastic Q at stupid o’clock in the morning. We made a visit to the Wedgewood Factory, where you could make pots on a potter’s wheel. The South African lady who was there before us obviously did not understand the concept of the potter’s wheel… Potter: What do you want to make? South African lady: A giraffe. Potter: Errr, it has to be round. South African lady: Oh ok, a hedgehog then… [silence]

Anyway, the pot that Clare made was very pretty! Lucy, Alex and James/Mini D joined us on the boat when we got back after driving up from Oxford that morning.

It was about 3.45pm when Q realised that Etruria boatyard (where we were due to arrive in 2 hours and stay the night at) closed at 4pm. Well done Q. We ended up mooring quite close by and my parents taxied everyone to the evening tower St Peter ad Vincula in Stoke on Trent. My Grandpa let everyone in whilst I had a nice chat with my Grandma and picked up some yummy chocolate mints that she made for Sandringham – mmmm!

Our evening meal was had in a (very classy – ahem) American Diner where I took great delight in completely embarrassing Clare and Q by ordering a “Birthday Cocktail”; the waiter presented them with exotic cocktails whilst ‘Congratulations’ blazed out to the entire restaurant, at which point all the customers turned and stared, oh how we laughed! Q then announced that “If my wife ever did that to me, I would divorce her immediately”. The walk back to the boat was amongst crazy boyracers driving around in hatchbacks.

Day 3: Monday

We started off the day by going through the Harecastle Tunnel, where unfortunately a handbell quarter was lost. James steered brilliantly through the tunnel; getting out at the other end was a totally different matter. He immediately crashed into the side of a moored boat, at which point a very angry Scottish women emerged: “You f***ing imbeciles, don’t you realise how bloody expensive these things are? Etc etc” James continued to ram her boat with a big grin on is face. So after we banned him from driving for the day, he tried to put his hand to cooking. I had been slaving over a hot stove cooking yummy bolognaise sauce, and seeing he was so keen to help, I put him in charge of the seemingly simple task of boiling some spaghetti – not a difficult job I thought. That is, until great big slabs of spaghetti were served onto my plate (overcooked on the outside and raw in the middle). We never let him in the kitchen again.

Lucy then got the Anklungs out [QUOTE: “Anklugs are better than crack” (Guy)] whilst we waited to ring at that day’s tower – the lumpy eight at Church Lawton.

We all regressed back about 15 years in the ‘Romping Donkey’ pub that evening – there was a climbing frame, go-karts and a ‘thrusting horse’. Need I say more? I think the fact that Mike’s dinner was a bottle of wine contributed heavily to the evening of drunken singing on Sandringham. Some classics came out “Peter Jasper…” and “UL, UL”, as well as new ones “Jack the necrophiliac”. Other evening activities included Alex peeing on the roof, Lucy making Mike a badge saying ‘Fluffer’ on it [QUOTE: “I love hands all over my body” (Mike)], people climbing through the 2 feet x 2 feet windows, and many glasses being smashed. Twas a good night.


“It’s coming! It’s coming” (Guy – possibly something to do with Gin)

“The day we go sober is the day we die” (Guy again)

“Pray quiet for the fluffer” (Alex)

“I’m not as crude as Laura” (Mike) “Yes but she is Northern” (Clare – thanks!)

“Well, I don’t mind taking young men in hand” (Roger) “I f***ed him up the a*se” (Mike)

“I feel slightly aroused” (Guy whilst hugging Hugh)

“Guy is sucking off the table” (Clare)

“The one thing about w**king is you don’t have to put on a clean shirt” (Roger)

“You don’t want se(a)men in your lock” (Guy)

“He smokes like a fish” (Q) “and drinks like a train” (James)]

Day 4: Tuesday

We (well, Q and Chris) woke up this morning to find our boat floating about in the middle of the canal, it appeared someone had untied us. I wonder who that could have been Gee and Huge? Clare and I were rudely awoken by the boat smashing into every single solid object in sight, other boats, the bank, some poor ducks, etc. We think Chris was taking revenge on our rowdy behaviour from the previous night by deciding to drive. [QUOTE: “A pity his driving wasn’t as slow as everything else he does” (Clare)]. Chris took his revenge on Roger in a completely different way however; [QUOTE: “I awoke with bursting bladder to the sound of enthusiastic splashing only to find way to bog blocked by Chris washing his privates in my face. Jeeeus!” (Roger)]. James now decides to announce to a hungover boat that he recorded all of our sensational singing from the night before. Great. Thankfully, it is yet to go on Facebook.

The tower of the day was Middlewich, organised by Q. It was not a lockout, however he did arrange for us to ring dodgy bells and the clapper flew out of the sixth after 10 minutes.

The evening pub was the Old Barbridge Inn, Tap Dance had their dinner on the boat (boring!) whilst we had a lovely meal in the pub. Clare and Lucy left early leaving me and Mini D at a table full of oldies talking about bellringing, thankfully the other boat joined us for drinks later and rescued us.

Day 5: Wednesday

Why someone organised a tower so early in the morning I will never know. Obviously too early for Clare and Lucy who thought it would be a great idea to take a ‘short-cut’ through a field of stinging nettles, and arrived half an hour late for the tower that Clare herself had organised. The tower was St Mary, Nantwich and we were greeted by a very friendly, smiley, happy woman who looked like she wanted nothing more than to be got out of bed by a load of students wanting to ring at her tower. Ahem! Back on the canal boat Lucy decided to take another short-cut through a tree whilst she was driving. And we thought her driving skills behind the wheel of a car were bad!

[RANDOM QUOTE FROM THAT AFTERNOON: “I was following your advice and sucking it, but it didn’t taste very good” (Clare – not really sure what she was referring to…)]

The second St Mary of the day was at Market Drayton where we rang with the locals then went to a curry house. They gave us free wine which we drank on Thursday morning – it was grim!

Day 6. Thursday

Today was a beautiful day – the sun was blazing down on us so hard that even Chris got his legs out! Some of us played UL-opoly in the afternoon, Q looked like he was winning throughout most of the game, but skill always shines through and I stole the victory from him in a glorious fashion (it had nothing to do with the fact that no-one wanted Q to win so gave me all their properties).

[RANDOM QUOTE FROM THAT AFTERNOON: “The hole in my a*se is getting sooo big” (Me – referring to my hole in my jeans that had been slowly growing over the week)]

Clare also showed off her legs in some very sexy hotpants, Q turns round and immediately calls her “slutty”. Cue James ‘defending her honour’ by trying to ram Q off the back of the boat with a long pole. He was not successful and almost fell in himself. Oh dear.

Roger then grounds us whilst testing the new ‘beer fender’ – which was an empty beer polypin that Q inflated which we hung it off the side of the boat. It took us approximately 30 minutes to get us going again. We didn’t test it again.

We were just walking along the tow path after getting off the boat in Gnosall (which has a silent ‘G’ Clare!) to ring at St Lawrence, when we heard a big splash behind us; James had literally stepped off the boat into the canal. Special boy. Q, as helpful as ever, stands there in hysterics instead of actually giving him a hand!

After we left Gnosall, the Sandringham possy put the pedal to the metal to catch Tap Dance. After 2 hours hard cruising we closed the gap to 200 metres, but a lock was visible on the horizon. The plan was hatched by Captain Q; wouldn’t it be funny to drive straight into the lock in front of Tap Dance? Alex and Mini D cruise up behind Tap Dance at the mooring pins, and as the lock gates open (courtesy of the Tap Dance crew) Mini D floors it. Taken by surprise, Gee tries to shut the lock as we storm in. All out warfare ensues as the outraged crew of Tap Dance steal our parrot mascot and central mooring rope. We got away in the end though, mwah ha ha ha!

Unfortunately we didn’t get away for long; Tap Dance caught us up at the next lock and got their revenge by pelting water balloons at us. How immature honestly, you wouldn’t catch Sandringham doing anything like that!

We had to say goodbye to Roger at this point (not because we kicked him off the boat for grounding us earlier in the day, but because he was swanning off to Turkey – it’s alright for some!). So long and thanks for all the fish!

Day 7. Friday

Our last full day on the canal [sob], our breakfast order was ‘one white one, one brown one, one with a bit of marmalade on’, hmmm; remind you of anything? Things were looking grim as the UL were running out of beer. Two polypins finished and only a third of the white knight left. Even worse news; all the Fosters had gone – noooooo! And when I sent Roger and James on a shopping mission to Netto (which no-one has heard of – how can you not have heard of Netto?!) the day before, they came back with ‘Oranjeboom’ which tasted like pee (no – other lagers do not taste the same before you say anything).

We then decided we needed to get our revenge on Tap Dance for soaking us with water balloons:

How to make super water bombs
Dirty canal water (60 litres)
Nescafe Gold Blend coffee grounds (1/2 tub)
Red wine (1 glass)
Flat lager left to stand on the side for 24 hours (1 glass)
Balsamic vinegar (200mls)
Kracker wheat biscuits (10)
Dirt from the floor of canal boat (1 dustpan)

Take three empty polypins.
Carefully pour in the canal water.
Add the remainder of the ingredients and stir until the mixture turns a murky brown.
Carefully carry the polypins onto a low bridge.
Wait until your target drives under the bridge.
When target is in correct position, slash the base of the polypins and the mixture will crash onto
the unsuspecting victims. Result.
Immediately race back to your boat and hide to avoid any repercussions.

So we pelted Tap Dance with our Super Bombs – Ana got the brunt of it – sorry Ana! We were on the lookout for any possible revenge throughout the day and sure enough, that afternoon they arrived with more water bombs. James, Mike and I were on the bank after manning a lock, we jumped back on the boat and the boat raced off whilst they were still pelting us. Mike and I managed to get inside safely, James, however, showed his love for the canal and fell in AGAIN. I don’t think anyone could move for laughing – it was hilarious! Poor Mini D! The final night was spent in a pub that sold completely inedible food. Gee made a stonking speech and presented us all with Tour Awards – woop!

“What’s a faggot?” (James has lived in cave all his life)

“Would you like another lager?” (Clara to myself) “No I want a G & T – this lager tastes rubbish”
(my reply. I have been forced to record this quote so people can refer back to it in the future)]

Day 8. Saturday

Very depressing morning – we all had to pack up our stuff and clean the boat in time to drop it off by 9am at Great Haywood. Everyone was very sad, we said our tearful goodbyes and the ULSCR Summer Canal Tour was over [sob]… for most people anyway; James and I went off to Alton Towers for the day and had an awesome time! We went on six rollercoasters and I screamed so much I lost my voice. To finish the day off, we thought it would be a great idea to go on the log flume and get absolutely soaked for the bus and train journey home. All good fun!

A huge thanks to Clare and Q for organising an amazing Summer Tour! And to all those who recorded short stories and quotes from the week in the ‘Sandringham Log Book’ and therefore making this report a lot easier to write.

By Laura Matheson

Boat 2 – Tap Dance

Disclaimer: Some names, locations and identities have been changed to protect the innocent. No plants were harmed during the making of this report. Where the logbook provided an incomplete record, the editor’s memory and imagination was used.

Day 1 (Saturday) Great Haywood to Barlston

After a long hot summer members inboxes were filled with pre-tour emails, itineraries had been ignored and a t-test showed the organisers had significantly less hair; but that wasn’t enough to stop the UL leaving London to ring someone else’s bells and tear up a different corner of this land.

Via planes, trains and automobiles everyone descended on the Clifford Arms pub in Great Haywood. Here there was real amazement that a pint could be bought for less than £3! An advance party hot footed it to the marina and were shown their boats, Tap Dance (12 berth) and Sandringham (10 berth). Both sizeable craft at just under 70ft in length they would require ‘careful’ handling. On board Tap Dance were Hugh, Ana, Clara, Lian, Jacqui, Jess, Hartley and Guy with Jones joining the following evening. This was to be the boat of youth & students. This was in contrast to the Sandringham’s roll call which ran like a UL hall of fame: Trimm, Bailey, Jackson, Dyer, Kippin, Bricheno, Matheson, Dicks and Dyer. But the question on everyone’s lips was could a boat filled with such ringing talent turn their hands to tiller handling and lock striking?

On each boat two leaders had been assigned to oversee supplies and rotas. Tap Dance had Admiral Von Wantoch and Captain Westlake. They ran a tight ship but the crew were always grateful for their hard work in keeping the team together, especially during battle. After boarding supplies were loaded, the three polypins of beer from Q’s local microbrewery were hauled aboard and the marina staff gave a worryingly short briefing. Able Seaman Gee took the helm of the Tap Dance and after a graceful three point turn she began the first leg of her journey northwards on the Trent & Mersey Canal.

The Tap Dance gracefully rose up through the first lock as the crew slipped off shoes and relaxed on deck with the first pint, surrounded by postcard scenery bathed in sunshine. As the afternoon progressed the tiller was swapped between hands to give everyone a go and it was with Lian at the helm that the Sandringham made their first failure of an attack. Lian held position brilliantly deflecting them into another boat and forcing them into a rapid retreat. As the sun set we moored up by Burston Bridge (No. 86) and fuelled our stomachs.

Day 2 – (Sunday) Burston Bridge to Stoke

Sunday dawned with the boats shrouded in mist and the only sounds coming from a large gaggle of Branta canadensis. On Sandringham Quentin was seen sticking his hand around the prop shaft with more joy than a young boy on Christmas morning. While on Tap Dance Clara and Gee were on the early shift. The two boats cruised through the misty meadows with Sandringham in front providing the first entertainment of the day. Clara and Gee tried to interpret what Q was thinking as he scratched his head with a bemused look and glanced behind. The answer soon appeared – a lock! What would Quentin do being the only crew member conscious. Soon Trimm was roused and appeared on deck without shoes or glasses and the two of them handled the lock while the rest of Sandringham’s crew recovered from the previous nights gin fuelled orgy.

The Tap Dance’s crew awoke to porridge and bacon sarnies for breakfast. A fine day’s cruising ensued with a stop at midday to visit the Wedgewood visitor centre and Pottery. Lucy, Alex and James arrived from Oxford and both craft set sail for Stoke.

After ringing at St Peter ad Vincula, a smooth ring of 10, the nighttime delights of central Stoke were sampled. A few pints from the Titanic brewery were sunk in The White Star then dinner was had in Frankie and Benny’s.

Day 3 – (Monday) Stoke to Hassall Green

Log book entries for day 3 are sparse, highlights include the following:

When asked by a member of staff in the Wedgewood pottery museum what the public audience would like to make, a lady in front of the UL group said she would like to have a go at making a giraffe. The staff member replied ‘It has to be round’. The lady then asked ‘How about a hedgehog?’ Comment below this entry reads ‘I think it was funnier at the time’.

During passage through the Harecastle tunnel there was handbell quarter peal attempt on board Sandringham. Sadly it didn’t come round, possibly reasons for this include excessive diesel fumes. Après lunch activities included handbell and Anklung focus. One member was overheard saying he found anklungs more addictive than crack. The (in)ability to cook spaghetti on board Sandringham was of great amusement to the crew of Tap Dance (see tour report part A for details).

The day ended with an evening of much merriment, first at the Romping Donkey Pub and then in the rather crowded saloon of Sandringham. Much gin was consumed amidst a roar of filthy innuendos and outrageous quotations, some corruptions of which can be found in Part A).

Day 4 – (Tuesday) Hassal Green to Barbridge

Tuesday saw an early start with many locks, after which the following log book passage occurred:

After an après 10 lock snooze and upon arriving in a lock containing a large and very dead fish, able seaman Gee appeared from the cabin in a geology t-shirt and a pair of colourful boxers. He proceeded to the side of the lock where he photographed the aforementioned dead fish before climbing back over the lock gate and flashing 3 other members of the crew while re-boarding.

Other highlights of day 4 were seeing a nuclear waste train on the Crewe-somewhere railway line, a few pints of the onboard ale and the ringing of handbells by Jones, Jacqui and Gee. They rang 2 bob courses of plain bob with a single halfway and end, successfully making the bobs while Hartley failed to dodge the bridges and banks. The day ended with both boats however rounding the Shropshire Union junction without touching the banks, however the slight tap of a moored boat by the Sandringham led to fierce words and the supposed calling of the most likely fictitious canal police. The crew of Tap Dance ate a delicious meal of bangers and mash with Hugh’s speciality ale gravy followed by a few jars before bed in the Old Barbridge Inn.

Some quotes from Day 4:

Jess: “Well I don’t think I’d want to go and have sex on a giants penis!”

Nick H: “Jones you’re a pervert , another word for scanty?” (while trying to complete a crossword)

Day 5 – (Wednesday) Barbridge Junction to Market Drayton

The Tap Dance slipped her moorings at 07:00 with Admiral Von Wantoch on the bridge and Able Seaman Gee at the helm. Smooth cruising with strong coffee and porridge meant a fast cruise to Nantwich. A kingfisher, chaffinches, wood pigeons, a dead squirrel and moorhens were spotted. Jones took the helm for a very tricky but smooth manoeuvre into the boatyard to pump out a rather full waste tank. Some crew members went to ring at St Mary, Nantwich while Jones, Clara and Gee reversed the boat expertly out of the long and narrow marina. After this unscheduled stop a Morrison’s order was phoned through while the water tanks were filled. Once underway Jess and Ana cooked an excellent Spagbol lunch for everyone.

After lunch Gee took the helm with the hope of shortening the distance between the boats and making up some lost time. However he failed to realise that the substantial bow wave was causing water to enter where it shouldn’t. This mistake was only realised when Clara asked whether there should be water on the saloon floor, when the engine hatch was lifted some expletives may have been said after seeing dangerously high levels of bilge water. This was resolved by switching on the bilge pump and some hand bailing by Gee using a pint glass.

After the afternoon’s drama we arrived in Market Drayton at 6.30 to join the local band for their practice night. After which there was wastage, balderdash, a curry and scruples but not necessarily in that order.

Day 6 – (Thursday) Market Drayton to Breewood

The sixth day began early for Hugh and Clara who were on the early shift. The peace was destroyed for the rest of the crew by the low rumble of the diesel engine and Clara’s attempt to wake the crew by bumping the boat off numerous solid objects. Once all awake the crew enjoyed bacon sarnies for breakfast accompanied by much pyjama focus.

Mid morning Hartley, Gee and Jones began to ring handbells in the fore cabin with much success until Clara began moisturising her legs in the next cabin in Jones’ line of sight. The ringing struggled along until Hartley suggested that he and the secretary take a joint shower to conserve the low water supplies. Jess was not keen on this group activity and Lian came to ring so that only one of the MasSec pair could shower at a time.

At 13:30 the Tap Dance moored near Gnossal and met Sandringham’s crew to ring at Gnossal where methods ranged from Plain Hunt to Surprise. Gee rang the tenor, Jacqui called call changes and Roger went home. The sun filled afternoon drifted by with relaxing cruising until we moored up before a lock to wait while the it was prepared for entry. Just as the lock gates were opening the other boat committed the un-gentlemanly and heinous crime of racing past and into the empty lock. A brief spat ensued in the lock as the crew of Tap Dance took revenge by removing the Sandringham’s parrot mascot. For a moment it looked as if Able Seaman Gee would be taken hostage by Terrorist Trimm’s rope bondage manoeuvre but luckily all the crew escaped unharmed. This was not the end as further downstream Tap Dance caught up with Sandringham. The sky turned grey as a barrage of water balloons rained down on the crew of Sandringham and honour was restored!

Day 7 – (Friday) Brewood to Stafford

The log for day 7 begins with a few sparse entries:

The MasSec pair enjoy a few Moscow Mules at 9am. Trimm rugby tackled Gee at the first lock.

Crew members exclaimed that the first lock should ‘get out’ at being 2 inches deep. Jenga focus – LB was heard saying “Mmm I’m going to suck your bricks off… mmm woody” after a Jenga and gin incident. While watching bins being emptied during a brief pause on the lock side Jones was heard to remark “It would be quite a nice job if everything was a bit cleaner”.

The Tap Dance motored along and caught up with Sandringham in Penkbridge, where Lucy was swapped for gin, before cruising on through the lovely hot sunny afternoon hours. However once again the tranquillity was broken by the Sandringham when they attacked with filthy dirty water bombs. This time the crew of Tap Dance needed a stealth attack as the Sandringham rabble were on the lookout. The Tap Dance’s kitchen was turned into a bomb factory, producing bucket after bucket of water bomb ammunition. After the crew were briefed and war paint was applied the troops were dispatched. A decoy was put in place at the next lock by the Tap Dance’s crew engaging the enemy in polite conversation, while the attack force took up positions around the bridge just beyond the lock. As the Sandringham cruised out of the lock and under the bridge the trap was sprung and they came under fire from all sides. Most of the crew got quite wet but James went one step further. As he leapt along the side of the boat to escape the water balloons he lost his footing, slipping into the murky canal waters. Luckily the water only came up to his chest and
he was dragged back aboard.

As dusk fell both boats entered the outskirts of Stafford where they moored and the crews headed to the nearby watering hole. As Hartley walked up to the road above canal he remarked upon the view, saying ‘It’s quite nice, for the Midlands’. After the last supper the UL Summer Tour Awards were given out for all manner of hi-jinks and tom-foolery.

Day 8 – (Saturday) Stafford to Great Hayood

The final day dawned with a beautiful sunrise as golden shafts pierced the morning mist over the fields. The boats were cleaned and cruised back to Great Haywood where they were returned to the hire company with considerably less paint then a week ago. Final goodbyes were said before members departed for southern lands to prepare for the coming term at Hart St. It only leaves me to thank Quentin and Clare for all their hard work in organising a brilliant Summer Tour.

By Guy Atchison