Saturday saw me at Braunston Marina for the annual Historic Narrow Boat Festival, at the invitation of organiser Tim Coghlan. Braunston is near Daventry, and the same event in 2010 had also been attended by my former MEP colleague Chris Heaton-Harris, now MP for Daventry, Northants. On the way down I texted him to ask if he’d be there this year. But it turned out he was in Athens at that moment with the East Midlands team for the Paralympic Games (and no doubt sorting out the Greek riots single-handedly at the same time!).
In the spirit of the event, and at the request of Tim Coghlan, I was got up in the full canal-boat gear. Brown cord trousers, a white & blue stripe grandfather shirt, donkey jacket, jaunty red neckerchief and nautical cap.
This is a marvellous event bringing together canal folk from around the country, with over 100 boats, including some real antiques. As part of the opening of the event, I travelled round the canal and marina in an old steam-powered narrow boat, burning Welsh coal. There were also early wooden narrow boats. I met a range of fascinating people including Salvation Army Waterways Chaplain Jenny Dibsdall; and the proprietors of a cheesemonger narrow boat supplying a range of Welsh cheeses. The well-attended event featured a good number of trade stands, plus food cakes and ice-cream, and stands for a range of canal and waterway associations.
The 2010 event had been blessed with brilliant weather. Sadly, this year the skies were mostly overcast, though thankfully it stayed dry. The sunshine came on Sunday — ideal timing for the Blaston Hound Show (alongside the Blaston Agricultural Show) in Leicestershire. Again, as last year, a man with a watering-can had to come out every ten minutes to splash down the paved square in the centre of the show-ring, or it would have been too hot for the hounds. I was one of the co-sponsors of the event, which brought hounds from hunts up and down the country, and this year for the first time included classes for Old English Foxhounds as well as the regular variety.
It is of course a tribute to the hunting fraternity (and a condemnation of the farcical Hunting Act) that not only is hunting in England in excellent shape, but events like the Blaston Show go from strength to strength. I am grateful to the organisers for their hard work, and delighted to have the opportunity to be involved.