Issue date:18 May 2011
Brilliant sunshine throughout, albeit tempered by a lively easterly wind, ensured the success of the Inland Waterways Association’s National Waterways Campaign Festival on Northampton’s waterfront over the May Day Bank Holiday weekend which was opened by Tim Coghlan, owner of Braunston Marina. Over 70 canal and river craft congregated on the River Nene at the town’s Becket’s Park, with public entertainment and other attractions in the adjacent park – all only a quarter of a mile from the town centre.
Attendance was good with most people receiving a colourful promotional leaflet telling what the Festival was all about, in particular tracing the history of the Nene which, in August, celebrates its 250th anniversary of full navigation over its 91 miles length from the Wash to Northampton – a notable milestone being marked with a series of special riverside events throughout the summer under the banner Nene 250.
Organised by the Northampton Branch of the Inland Waterways Association, the Festival highlighted the river’s potential for much greater recreational use, supported by better facilities, as well as encouraging the continuing process of reconnecting Northampton with its waterfront. This is presently being emphasised by the Environment Agency’s nearly completed 80-berth marina at Becket’s Park, part of which was brought into early use to accommodate the overflow of visiting craft.
The Festival also incorporated the annual IWA Northampton Boat Gathering which attracted a bigger attendance than usual of river craft, including several from the Middle Nene Cruising Club and Northampton Boat Club.
Festival Chairman John Pomfret said: “I believe we got our message over loud and clear, aided by good local media support. The Mayor Cllr. Marianne Taylor, local MPs Michael Ellis (Northampton North) and Christopher Heaton-Harris (Daventry) as well as IWA National Chairman Clive Henderson were among our guests on a boat trip and there is no doubt that awareness of the importance of the Nene and all that it offers is at a high level as a result of constant prompting over the years by our IWA Northampton Branch.
“To my mind the real challenge now, as we come out of recession, is to continue to raise the profile of the River Nene for recreational use and to build on the new marina as a first step towards revitalising Northampton’s riverside and raising awareness of the potential of the river among its inhabitants. We also need to work with British Waterways and its successor body to ensure the continued maintenance in navigable order of the five-mile canal and its 17 locks from the main line of the Grand Union Canal at Gayton Junction to Northampton. Currently, volunteers from Barclaycard are assisting British Waterways with maintenance tasks on this canal arm.”
The principal recipient of surplus funds from the Festival, will be the IWA’s Inglesham Lock appeal.