The idea of the Spalding Water Taxi was conceived as a way of transporting people between Spalding Town centre and the Springfields outlet shopping centre a couple of miles away on the edge of the town.
Now, I have to confess straight away that I was sceptical about the business plan and could not see how four tiny boats could operate this service at a profit but that shows how much I know and why I worked in the public sector and was not a private sector entrepreneur because it was an immediate success and continues to operate today.
A year after it started transporting people along the Coronation Channel a group of us hired one of the boats for a private charter to celebrate the leaving from work of one of our colleagues (Mark Croston) – we were celebrating by the way, not him! We filled a picnic hamper with sandwiches and savouries, took along some beer and wine and climbed on board at the Spalding quay. It had been raining all day but by seven o’clock the grey skies had been swept away and the sunshine was dancing on the River Welland as the river pilot cast off and made his way along the river as though towards Crowland.
It was a perfect evening and from down on the tranquil water there is a completely different perspective of the dry land side of the town. The River Welland is over a hundred kilometres long and is a major waterway across the Fens. It rises in the Hothorpe Hills in Northamptonshire, then flows northeast to Market Harborough, Stamford and Spalding, to reach The Wash near Fosdyke. For much of its length it forms the county boundary between Northamptonshire and Leicestershire, Rutland, Lincolnshire and Cambridgeshire.
We could only go a short distance tonight of course and so after a while the pilot turned back and took us into the Coronation Channel and, this is an interesting thing about the Water Taxi, this is the first time that the Environment Agency has allowed boats of any kind to use this particular waterway, which we shared tonight with birds and water fowl of all descriptions.
As the sun slipped slowly out of the sky and spilled a milky sunset into the channel the pilot made for home and we disembarked conveniently next to a pub where we finished the celebrations.
I like the Water Taxi and have taken the trip several times now. Each time I flinch when I remember my doubts about its viability and have to admit that I was wrong.
Well done Ian Canham for having the vision to set it up and the courage to keep it going!
Some more of my boat journeys recorded in the journal: