Canalway Cavalcade 2014 is almost upon us. For one weekend a year the tranquil waters of Little Venice spring into life with hundreds of visiting canal boats, side shows, stalls, competitions and most importantly, the canal festival institution known as the beer tent, even though its not usually a tent at all!
Saturday 3rd May, Sunday 4th May and Monday 5th May 2014
Full details and current program available from the Official Canalway Cavalcade 2014 website
In the distant past our canals were almost lost – due to much improved roads and rail networks our 18th century waterways found it hard to compete and many railway companies bought the canal companies with the obvious intention of closing them down but thanks to a handful of activists who realized the closure of a canal would be a tragedy, events were held around the UK to raise awareness for the general public and also to insist on their legal rights of navigation for cargo carrying. Most famous were the events held on the Kennet and Avon Canal where a token cargo was carried forcing the Great Western Railway to patch up broken locks and assist the passage through an otherwise abandoned canal.
The Inland Waterways Association was formed to campaign against closure and promote rebuilding of the canals under threat and the whole concept of using our waterways for leisure boating was born,Today the IWA Canalway Cavalcade is a reminder of the historic gatherings of boats, and has been held in its current form since 1988, but way back since the 1950’s British Waterways held the most amazing leisure boating events in Little Venice and it wasn’t unusual to see speedboats and water-skiing together with the pristine Zoo Bus boats which saw a new lease of life for some of the old working narrowboats as they were fitted with passenger cabins and operated a regular bus service from Little Venice to Camden via London Zoo.
Those very passenger boats, some now almost 80 years old, still operate today under the London Waterbus Company, and the oldest will hopefully be on display in the historic boats procession in this year’s festival and will also be running boat trips to Camden just like they have done for the last 50 years.
So what can you expect if you come along to Little Venice during the Canalway Cavalcade 2014? You will certainly see some boats – many of the narrowboats in the central moorings will be historic craft, lovingly restored and polished by their owners, and moored side by side there is definitely a little rivalry to see who can polish their brass and display their traditional cabins adorned with lace, and painted roses and castles to the best effect.Side stalls will be selling all kinds of things ranging from food and drinks to traditional canal art, bric-a-brac and even plants.
There will be boat handling competitions, a little difficult to understand for those not involved in boating but if you’ve ever tried to reverse a narrowboat around an obstacle course you may even be tempted to applaud the winners.
And the highlight, for most, is on Sunday night when the illuminated boat procession is concluded with a live band playing on the island, Browning’s Island, in the middle of Little Venice. Robert Browning would surely turn in his grave at such a thought.
Lady A is available for private bookings throughout the Canalway Cavalcade weekend and as always we invite bookings from small private parties, maximum 12 people, who are welcome to bring their own picnic food and drinks to enjoy while we take a two or three hour private cruise along the Regent’s Canal. The Saturday is now fully booked but Monday we might be able to offer you a trip!