Interview 13 - Carys Bruns

Carys Bruns, manager of College Cruisers, Oxford

Interviewer: Pete Ledwith
Total recording time: 38 min


  • Carys is interviewed in the office of her busy Jericho based narrow boat business so the interview is peppered with doors opening, closing and dogs barking! There is poor sound quality for the first 50 seconds.
Access available in Oxfordshire History Centre and Libraries only

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Track Content summary Length
13.1 Carys explains the background to her and her husband taking over the College Cruisers business from Alan Strong, the current fleet of 9 hire boats and boatyard. Her own interest in boating from 1960s holidays with parents – when canals were full of weeds! She has some worries about boatyard development that has dragged on for years. 12 min : 26 sec
13.2 Satisfactions of the canal boat hire business. 3 min : 13 sec
13.3 Age and type of people living on canal has changed from older owner occupiers to younger people renting. Some boats are not safe and there have been fatal accidents. 3 min : 9 sec
13.4 There are some tensions between leisure boaters and residential boaters who are to some extent a ‘closed community’. Those cruising occasionally come too close to residential boats and are confronted by those living aboard. Carys has to listen to complaints (sometimes abusive) from the latter. She conducts 1½ hour handovers with boat hirers and spells out hazards and rules etc. 2 min : 11 sec
13.5 Carys loves canal boats and loves the Oxford Canal. 99% of her hirers return happy. She knows her business well, is a boater herself and has good relationships with Oxford Narrowboats. 2 min : 4 sec
13.6 Carys supports but is generally pessimistic about canal heritage. She is aware her office building used to be the Jericho Ferry house. However College Cruisers filled in the ferry inlet as it was not of any use. Changes in canal vista are the amount and scale of housing development and loss of old canal bridges. 4 min : 30 sec
13.7 Oxford is the jewel in the crown and at present the canal does not match the jewel in the crown so much as – for example – the canal in Stratford, where Carys lives, which is a jewel in the centre of the city. Towpath ought to be clearer. City end of the Oxford Canal has detractors – visitors report feeling that they are intrusive in walking through areas where residential boaters have spilled out to use nearby green space as gardens, storage, seating etc., and whose dogs are loose. Also overgrown trees, etc., although Canal and River Trust do reasonable job. 7 min : 26 sec
13.8 Oxford Canal boat hire is popular amongst Canadian, Scandinavians and people from USA and some Europeans beside the British. The hirers are families, stag parties and hen parties many of whom return with families and friends. Film crews are frequent hirers; most recently Griff Rhys Jones made a programme about his favourite book – The Wind in the Willows. 2 min : 38 sec