Text and photographs copyright of Jim Shead.
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This article More than a Mooring - Weltonfield Narrowboats is the copyright of Jim Shead - The nineteenth of a regular series of articles on marinas and boatyards. First published in Waterways World April 2005.
The marina at Welton Hythe is the home of Weltonfield Narrowboats on the Leicester Section of the Grand Union Canal about half a mile from the main line at Norton Junction. It is a base that offers a good choice of cruising routes as it is less than a days cruising from three other major canal junctions at Gayton, Braunston and Napton. The day to day running of the business is in the hands of Sarah-Jane Page and her brother-in-law Nick Mellor who are both directors as are her parents Hugh and Judi Mayes who founded the company in 1975.
When Sarah-Jane was a child the family had a holiday on a narrow boat called Sir Tarquin from Countrywide Cruisers at Brewood and went up the Llangollen Canal at Easter. It snowed and they built a snowman on the roof of the boat but this does not seem to have put the family off canal boating.
Her father was coming out of the air force at this time and decided that boating would be a nice business to get into. When driving up the A5 one afternoon he saw a for sale sign for the old disused farm that is now the marina. He bought the canalside property with no planning permission and then fought to get planning agreement, having to go to a tribunal to get approval to start the business.
They had a couple of hire boats built by Harborough Marine over one winter and another two the following winter. The original hire fleet was run from a small inlet in the canal bank which they built for the first four boats. Hugh Mayes then decided they could build their own boats. They went to Hancock & Lane for the hulls and started fitting-out in about 1978. They then expanded to six boats then, at its height, they had eight hire boats plus two boats that they ran for the airforce RAF Cottismore and RAF Wadington and a spinal injuries boat for the disabled which they built and hired out.
Over the winter of 1985 they built a new marina which they flooded in January 1986. They built a second marina close by at Welton Haven in 2000. There are now only three boats in the hire fleet as this area has declined and the marina has taken over as the biggest part of the business.
The mechanics, painters and carpenters that are needed for the hire fleet are still on site and available to do servicing, refits and painting for people using the marinas. They also build about four bespoke boats each year using Graham Reeves hulls. They have approximately 200 moorings on the two sites at Welton Hythe and Welton Haven.
Moorings are charged by the foot and moorers can pay yearly, half-yearly or quarterly. There is water and electricity on all the pontoons. The Welton Hythe marina has only recently been upgraded to have water on all the pontoons, previously they were on a spring water supply but now they have mains. A lot of customers have been with the marina five or six years and some since the marina opened.
The usual diesel, pumpout and gas supply services are provided but there is no laundrette or showers on site. However, they do offer a boat cleaning and laundry service to customers which is a much less common service. There is not chandlery shop on site as they are not on the main line and Braunston and Whilton are close by so they would to get sufficient turnover to compete. For security and general site maintenance they have full time caretakers. Someone is always on each of the sites and the gates are locked out of business hours.
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