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Summer 2006 National Waterways Festival.

Beale Park, near Pangbourne on the River Thames

All the organisation had been impeccable; we'd received clear instructions from the IWA and also our licence from the EA, and we had been allocated a bank-side mooring which would make it so much easier getting on and off with the dogs. This meant that we may have up to 6 boats moored outside us, and we did wonder how we would manage if we arrived to find them all tied up on the mooring so that we had to cast them all adrift in order to moor up. In practice it worked fine, there was only one boat already there when we arrived on the Thursday afternoon and a helpful IWA mooring warden was there to help us as soon as we arrived. The one snag was that we were totally hidden by the bulrushes, and I know that several people who were looking for us, walked straight past without spotting us. Several people with the same problem, simply cut down all the reeds and bulrushes, but we didn't feel like doing that so we stayed hidden. A number of people from the Canal World Forum did find us however, and we passed some enjoyable hours chatting over a few beers together.

 

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David Suchet arrives to open the ceremony on the beautifully-restored steam launch Consuta
Another beautiful steamer on site was Alaska, plying between Pangbourne and Beale Park
Alaska with a good head of steam on the main lagoon
Raymond Baxter's historic Little Ship (ie from the Dunkirk rescue fleet) L'Orage

The festival was great; it was the first time we had attended by boat and it was marvellous having enough time to meet so many people and see such a variety of boats, as well as chatting at length to the exhibitors. The weather was kind to us (apart from a torrential downpour for 5 minutes while David Suchet was opening the event), and the displays in the arena - including the jousting, falconry, and vintage cars - were all great fun. The evening entertainment was, of course, first-class and the range of 50 beers in the main bar was superb although the boaters had drunk so many of them on the Thursday and Friday nights, before the festival opened, that they were down to their last barrel by the end of Saturday. Luckily they had fresh supplies available by the next morning, but nowhere as much variety.

 

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An impressive display if underwear on this boat ("IWA reducing 60 years of Bloomers")
The daily visit by the Queens of the Lavender
The IWA asked for bunting, and they certainly got it.
Jousting display in the main arena

The whole festival was marvellous. There were happy friendly people everywhere and there was a joyous atmosphere from the bunting that flew from almost every boat. The parade of illuminated boats was, as always, just superb. Many of the boaters had clearly put a great deal of effort into the task; two of the boats were particular impressive, and for me the best was the James Bond display (Diamonds are Forever) with music, special effects, and 007 himself performing a spectacular routine in the spotlights on the roof.

 

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Emily-Anne, a modern steam-powered narrow boat
There was a fine display of Dutch Barges in the lagoon (N/B Cactus in the foreground)
N/B Cactus was beautifully turned out ...
.. with a magnificent Bolinder engine (listen to it running)

It was interesting to see how some people were convinced that none of the rules applied to them. There was a rule that engines could be run for 3 hours a day to charge batteries, at a set 90-minute slot in the morning and the early evening; most people were happy with that but near us were two boats who each said they needed to run their engines continuously from 6am until midnight because their batteries wouldn't last that long otherwise, which, they said, gave them exemption from the rules. And then one of the boats next to us found that the fire-break behind us was ideal because it gave them somewhere to keep their dinghy with its outboard engine and cans of petrol. Surprisingly the Safety inspectors ignored this point, preferring to to concentrate instead on criticising the GRP cruiser owners behind us who were having great difficulty in breasting up or mooring to the bank on a way that allowed them to get on and off.

While we were there we also took the opportunity to visit Beale Park itself. It was definitely worthwhile, and I was particularly pleased to watch the Cara-Cara birds feeding as we had seen them in the wild in Chile. They are big, vicious, carnivorous birds and I certainly wouldn't want to argue with one.

We finally left the site on the Tuesday morning. On our way past the lines of moored boats we waved goodbye to friends old and new, and looked forward to doing it again one day.

 

 

Back to Page 2 of trip report Slideshow of whole trip Pictures of illuminated boats Slideshow of illuminated boats
Go to Allan's Page Back to Page 1 of trip report Canals Home Page Report of opening of Jubilee Junction Go to Deb's Page

 

All pictures on this site are Allan Jones unless otherwise stated

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