Hi, howya doin' ? All peaceful here at home apart from the flippin pigeons non stop cooing in the garden. They spend the whole day scuttling around under the bird feeders, catching the crumbs that the smaller birds drop. I'm still smarting from my fall off the wall two days ago, so no gardening for me. Anyhow I said I'd write a bit about our first impressions of Wigrams Turn.
Actually that got me thinking about all the proper moorings we've had for Herbie over the years. We did about five years at High Line Yachting (hereafter referred to as HLY) down the good old Slough Arm, then four or five at Crick, then four at Cropredy, and now Herbie rests out the current lockdown on a pontoon at Wigrams Turn. These last three all belong now to the Castle Marinas group, as does our previously intended spot at Kings Bromley, and although they all operate to broadly the same rules, they do have quite different characters.
Apart from the obvious differences of the shape and size of these places, it occurs to me that they have quite different social feels, and I think it may be mostly due to the number of on site liveaboards.
When we were at HLY (which if you don't know it is a long offside linear mooring with boats two abreast) half the boats were permanent liveaboard. Cruising boats like ours were moored on the open side against the liveaboards which were bankside. Strangely, most of the permanent residents seemed quite happy to have an unoccupied boat blocking their light and their view of the canal and having people clambering across their boat from time to time. Some said it gave them good insulation against cold and wind in the winter. A few people has made little gardens against the hedge, and our friend Saltysplash even had chickens and I seem to remember rabbits. There were always people about and we always had the lend of a trolley when we needed one. One nice lady even kept us supplied with free firewood. It wasn't the smartest place we've been and I don't recall any posh boats at all. When we left HLY after repainting Herbie, we were one of the smartest boats there. Arriving next at Crick, we were quite a long way down the smartness pecking order.
Crick has a lot of smart boats, especially in one row opposite the office. Hudsons and the like abound. The liveaboards moor together in a couple of areas and small clusters of permanent residents socialise among themselves like a big family, especially on the picnic benches in the summer. There were quite a few barbecue parties as I recall. In our little corner where all the boats were cruising boats, it was very sociable too. We were a bit concerned about being on a pontoon with boats close on either side, but we soon learned that the grassy knoll just behind the boat was a lovely social space and we spent a lot of time out there. The marina itself is very tidy and well kept, as is Cropredy.
Cropredy has a lot more open water than most places, you could easily do a loop the loop down the middle. We were lucky in being one of the few boats who had an end of row slot, leaving one side of the boat with an open view across the fields. Like Crick, the staff were very friendly and helpful, in fact the new Cropredy manager Georgina is so extraordinarily nice that it made us even more sad to leave. The proportion of liveaboards at Cropredy seems a lot smaller and consequently it seems bereft of people much of the time. Folk we met were friendly enough, but not much social gathering went on. It's a great marina in a lovely spot with good cruising on hand but not as socially cohesive as other places we've been at. Maybe something to do with the wide open spaces.
We had high hopes of Kings Bromley with its more higgledy piggledy layout, which I'm guessing would lead to more social clustering, especially as there were some particularly nice spots for sitting outside like the little island on the end of 'our' pontoon. Hopefully we'll get there post virus and we'll find out for ourselves. Meanwhile we're at Wigrams Turn.
Now we only spent a couple of hours at Wigrams before driving home, but it was immediately apparent that people were hanging around talking to each other, and a man on the pontoon across from us quickly introduced himself and offered us help. He lives aboard with his dog. There definitely seemed to be more of a bustle about the place. Layout wise, it isn't he most pretty of the marinas in the group. Most boats are on pontoons three boats long, and getting in and out of your slot needs some care, but spaces between the pontoons are wide so you don't feel so hemmed in. Georgina from Cropredy used to moor at Wigrams and she speaks of it fondly.
I understand those people who eschew marinas, preferring a towpath mooring, but I reckon there's such a variation that everyone could find somewhere they would like. When we first got the boat we imagined that a marina or boatyard was just a place to park, but we soon found out that it can be a nice place to just sit by your boat and find new friends. We've spent many happy days on the boat without leaving our berth. If I were choosing a marina now, I'd look first at the cruising options from the site, then it being well run by friendly staff, then at the environment to enjoy within the marina. All the rest, like facilities etc are nice to have rather than essentials.