Tales from the Riverbank – and the Towpath

"Tales from the Riverbank" cast photo

I seem to have been doing quite a lot with canals recently.  Last October I was privileged to attend the re-opening of the renovated Market Harborough Canal, accompanying a parade of boats (with brass band) from Foxton Locks.  I have been following progress at Foxton, and the plan to reinstate the boat lift, for years.  Then on June 26th I went along to the Braunston Marina Historic Narrowboat festival with my good friend Chris Heaton-Harris MP.  It’s on his Daventry patch.  And today, I went to Worksop for the Chesterfield Canal Festival.  There I met, amongst others, Cllr. Robin Baldry, Chairman of Derbyshire County Council, and Cllr. Liz Yates from Bassetlaw, who is Chairman of the Chesterfield Canal partnership.

Why all the canal interest?  First, because the organisers were kind enough to invite me.  Second, because the East Midlands has a rich heritage of canal infrastructure, much of it being renovated.  And third, because an interest in the region’s canals is not just nostalgia for industrial archæology.  It’s also a very practical modern investment in tourist infrastructure.  In the case of the Chesterfield Canal, currently being renovated mile by mile, the Canal Partnership Development Manager Geraint Coles reckons he can demonstrate that every pound invested in the project brings eight pounds into the region, in terms of visitors, investment and so on.  That’s not a bad return.  The Canal Partnership is well supported by a number of local councils on the route, plus British Waterways, English Heritage and a host of other organisations.

The route actually crosses the northern border of the East Midlands into Yorkshire at one point, and the Mayor of Rotherham Mrs. Rose McNeely was at the event.  I told her that in 1966 (a mere 44 years ago!) I was in Rotherham for six months, doing my Sales Training with Procter & Gamble.  I recalled that I lived at #1 Alma Road – which, it turned out, was in the Mayor’s Ward!

At the Worksop Festival we visited the “Python” Narrowboat, http://www.canalcuttings.co.uk/chesterfield-canal-narrowboat-python-learning-boat.html.  This is an “educational resource” (in the jargon), used to teach children about the story of our canals.  I couldn’t resist asking if it was called “The Full Monty” for short.  (Full Monty …. Monty Python …. !).

There was all the fun of the fair at the Festival, including a performance of “Tales from the Riverbank”, which explains the curious costumes in the picture above.  Politicians are attracted to photo-ops like moths to a flame, so I couldn’t resist stopping for a picture.

The restoration of the Chesterfield Canal is an excellent project, and I wish it every success.

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