Text and photographs copyright of Jim Shead.
Top 100 Sites
This article More than a Mooring - Valley Cruises is the copyright of Jim Shead - The seventeenth of a regular series of articles on marinas and boatyards. First published in Waterways World Febuary 2005.
Springwood Haven on the Coventry Canal is the new base for Valley Cruises, perhaps best known for their cream and grey liveried hire boats. The marina is owned by Adrian and Kay Wagstaff. Adrian's interest in boating started off in the 1970s when he worked as a "Saturday Lad" on hire boat changeovers for a boat company called Magpie Line Cruisers in Nuneaton. He went on to a boat building apprenticeship working for Rugby Boat Builders at Hillmorton before leaving the industry for a short period to become a gas service engineer. During this time he was working evenings and weekends building boats for people.
In 1985 the BW owned boatyard site at Atherstone came up for sale and Adrian and Kay bought it, although Kay knew nothing about narrowboats at the time and was "thrown in at the deep end". The hire fleet there had been run down and there were only two hire boats left and they were due to go out on hire in a couple of months time. They took up the challenge and by the end of the year were running four boats.
After some hard work and a few lucky breaks they ended up with two bases, the second being at the Clock Warehouse at Shardlow, which enabled them to offer one-way cruises. In 1990 the opportunity occurred to buy the land on which Springwood Haven marina is situated. British Waterways supported their plans and initial indication from the planners was positive but before their application got to the Planning Committee another adjacent property was sold and the idea of a marina on the site was rejected.
They then spent the next seven years fighting for planning permission. Around 1996/7 planning permission was obtained for the marina, shop, tearooms and five (two storey two bathrooms) log cabins on the hillside. Given their long battle with the planners they had expected they would have to drop some of these features but the whole package was agreed. This means that there is scope for further development on the site.
The digging of the marina started in September 1997 and it was filled with water over the Christmas/New Year holiday. The hire fleet was not moved down from Atherstone until the end of 1998 season, although some private boats were in the marina before this. At this time the workshop, slipway and dry-dock had been built but a Port-a-cabin served as an office.
A few years later they moved in to the new offices and shop. This building is the focal point of the site and trouble has been taken to give it the look of a traditional canalside warehouse, with the bricks specially treated to age them and some original blue clay tiles on the roof. They have also spent a lot of time and effort in landscaping the marina so that all spoil from the excavation has been arranged to blend with the natural terrain. They have even managed to retain a large oak tree in the middle of the site.
Large pieces of rock uncovered by the excavations have been retained and transformed into natural looking rocky features around the site. The car parks have also been placed where they are unobtrusive with separate loading spaces close to the boats.
The finger moorings in the marina are three boat widths apart rather than two, as in most other marinas, and are longer. This gives extra space between moored boats. The moorings are fully occupied with private boats and their nine hire boats. In the past eight years the hire fleet has been very successful with a very high booking rate, most of it from repeat business as they do very little advertising.
They also build one or two high specification bespoke private boats each year, although the next boat they plan to build will be a "spec" boat. This is a very attractive looking marina providing pressure washing, blacking , a wet dock for painting, an engineer on site and all the services you would expect.
Return to the main Articles Listing page