Delia Daws (nee Towers), aged 81, of Kendal, recalls canal boats in the 1930s


WhenI was at school, most of my leisure time was spent playing outdoors. I just had to jump over the back wall, cross a field of cows, and I could reach the canal.

It was fascinating to watch the coal boats sailing past, bringing the coal to the Canal Head depot.

I soon made friends with the skipper’s daughter, Mary Ann.

I was really envious to see someone covered in coal dust! They would pick me up at the Natland Mill Beck bridge, and together we would sail under another three bridges, feeling very important, to unload the coal.

On returning home, I was put in the bath and all signs of my adventure were washed away.

In summer, the hedgerows on the canal banks were full of a large variety of raspberries. I picked as many as I could, which my mother made into jam.

In autumn, rose hips were there in abundance. We were asked from school to collect them - these were sent away to make rose hip syrup, rich in vitamin C.

Some winters the canal would freeze for eight weeks at a time. We had fun sliding across it, always being told to keep away from under the bridges. Nobody ever fell in.

I don’t know how the coal came at those times but we never ran short.

Gradually the boats stopped coming and coal came by train to Kendal.