Bankside at Bedford
The Bedford River Festival happened – and we were there!
Some stats for starters:
Prizes won: 1*
Participation in boat parades: 3
Cruise companions during parades: 16
Total number of callers: 34
Youngest caller on board: 4.75 months old
Most mature caller: in 8th decade
Most requested drink (Saturday): Pimms
Most requested drink (Sunday): beer
Empty bottles: numerous
Most unexpected comments:
· Wow, I could put my piano on here (from a music teacher)
· How much to come on? (youthful spectator)
· This loo technology is the same as on the space shuttle (re. the composting toilet)
· Did a lorry bring your boat here?
· Can I have some water for my dogs?
There we were, along with an estimated half a million other visitors, at the biennial Bedford River Festival. So much to see, in fact one of our visitors said it had taken his family two days to see it all (then qualifying his remark: “with pushchair”). For many it’s a chance to spend a few hours or a couple of days down by the river watching boats of all sorts, watery races, demonstrations by canoeists and rowers, sailors and rafters, dragon boaters and invaders (Vikings). And on the water too was Thomas the Tank Engine… There was music – folk groups, jazz groups, pop groups and who knows what else on the main stage, apart, delightfully, from Harmonise, the
The wind dropped during Saturday evening and we bravely participated in the illuminated boat parade: on board were two veterans of our boat, two colleagues and a spouse and two neighbours. Last minute instructions were given re. Lighting Up: travel black until the sound of the Harbourmaster’s horn. With so much noise from the banks which was his horn? “Lights on!” shouted our skipper and in the cabin we scrabbled to press plugs into sockets. I managed my task –but could not see my illumination. “Yes, it’s lit,” shouted Chris, chief lookout. By the front deck steps we scrabbled around with unfamiliar fairy lights, the “hairnet” over the bow, but then success. From the bank calls of appreciation: “Look, a helicopter”. So Ken night-cruised at
The raft races on Sunday afternoon brought even more crowds to the bank, supporters of local teams and companies. Paddling a half-sinking raft proves hard work; though most seemed to make it to the end many tilted dangerously; some crew plunged into the water to push and swim their vessels downstream, waterfights broke out, and right opposite us two paddlers abandoned ship, swam ashore, climbed out and proceeded to wet-hug any members of the crowd foolish enough to stay close by!
The afternoon dwindled away, as did the crowds and the decision was made to de-flag the craft, prepare for departure – and line up for the lock. Some hours later Cleddau was safely moored up again in the
Life back to normal?!
*2nd prize awarded for illuminated narrow boat in the night parade (“The judges liked your helicopter”)
Probably over fifty illuminated boats participated – but only two narrowboats, so we were second out of two in a competition we didn’t know we’d entered! The prize? an impressive trophy with engraved plaque! Something else to buff up with a polishing duster!