Canal festival returns to Braunston

Braunston canal festival
Braunston canal festival

A weekend of historic family fun is taking place in Braunston at the weekend.

The 13th Braunston Historic Narrowboat Rally and Canal Festival has come a long way since small beginnings in 2003.

Co-sponsored by Braunston Marina and Towpath Talk, the event has become the premier rally and festival on the English canals.

Tim Coghlan, of Braunston Marina, said: “Its successful formula is now much copied, with similar events springing up all over the canal network.

“This is good for the canals – but the Braunston Rally remains the best, with by far and away the most historic narrowboats and visitors in attendance.

“The Rally’s location is at the heart of the canal network, in the beautiful setting of the historic Braunston Marina and the canal and village at Braunston. But probably most importantly for the boaters and visitors, is the ability for the boats to parade in a sort of figure of eight.”

The twice-daily parades of 80 or more of these ancient canal leviathans is a challenge for the steerers.

Tim added: “The Rally also inspires the restoration and ongoing maintenance of the surviving fleet of historic narrowboats, 150 of which have already attended various rallies over the years, with some not seen before already booked in for this year. Three of the regular attendees are having makeovers this winter, with Raymond and Sculptor both having the work done in our large dry dock at Braunston Dock – both sponsored by Braunston Marina.”

Another historic narrowboat which has received a major makeover this winter is the Fellows Morton & Clayton butty Kildare, which is paired with President – the last surviving steam working narrowboat. The pair will be the star of the Rally which will have the theme of the surviving Fellows Morton & Clayton fleet, several of which predate the First World War, including President & Kildare.

Following the death of Sonia Rolt in October - a Second World War canal veteran and wife of the canal author Tom Rolt - a gathering of the four surviving narrowboats she worked on the canals from 1943 to 1951 will be held. A plaque will be unveiled at 10am on the Saturday morning of the Rally to record Sonia’s Braunston years from 1946 to 1951, when she was married to her boatman husband George Smith.