This is a very big posting! It is for us, so if you don’t want to read the whole thing I would not blame you! Skim through to get a general idea. Our conclusion about this festival – it was amazing and well worth the long journey to get here. We had a fantastic weekend and would thoroughly recommend this event to anyone thinking of coming this way in two years time. En route Chris and I were saying we were very unlikely to come all this way again, but there is already talk of a repeat visit in four or six years time!
Friday the 18th saw us setting off for the short trip down the river to Bedford Lock to join the queue to get up to the Festival site.
This was our first sighting that something was going on – please note the big brolly on the back of Cleddau in the distance! We hoped it was not a sign of things to come.
Boats all over the place waiting for the locks – the cruisers had to wait until after 4pm as they drop the river to allow them passage under very low bridges – we only just made it under some of them.
Turn left out of the lock and look for mooring 76 under the big horse chestnut tree – the organiser apologised about the size of the tree, but to be honest it was a definite advantage providing plenty of shade and kept the boats cooler.
with a wonderful view across to the Castle Mound
The first job was to dress the boats
then try out the lights
Friday drew to a close and we all hoped the sky was on our side
Two days of fun and huge crowds with more to see and do than was possible for any one person to complete
We concentrated on the action on the river which we were able to enjoy from our boats away from the crowds. Saturday was a day of Dragon Boat racing – a crew of twelve – ten paddling, one on the drum and the last member steering and counting the beat.
Behind our gazebos a team dressed as ‘Where’s Wally’ set up their base.
There was fierce competition.
Each team did three heats (against the current), the nine quickest took part in three semi finals and the three fastest took part in the grand final.
This boat accompanied each heat – we speculated why and finally found out
There was a roar from the crowds and we swiftly moved onto the boats to see what was up as WWIII broke out across on the mound just to add to the noise!
The raft was moved in
the crew collected
the second safety boat secured the dragon boat and collected the last crew member (was it the captain we wondered?)
and finally the stricken craft was towed back to the finish line
Next was the cruiser parade led by the Harbour Master and then the Mayor. There were far too many to show and very many very clever designs. Among my favourites were
the VW camper van from 1967 – just check out those amazing trousers and waistcoat! I had a skirt and matching jacket in very similar colours many moons ago!
Thomas the Tank Engine
A large pirate ship
This may be small, but it was a wonderful wooden boat just suited to a trip down the river with a picnic on a lazy Saturday afternoon
There were many others including two dressed as the film ‘Frozen’ (if you have not seen this, please do – the music is amazing. Grandchildren will love it, but go even if you have no small people to take!), another smaller pirate ship, the South Pole and many more.
Then it was out turn
We ended up heading the narrow boat parade right behind the Mayor – just one circuit which was enough – not the easiest of turns at each end with so many other boats around
Most narrow boats were moderate with their décor – bunting and flags like Cleddau and ourselves
Artful Dodger (from Danish Camp) was there – who needs bunting when you have an owl as décor! He was quite composed even when passing right beside the Castle Mound with gunfire going off.
Guinness won the prize for the night parade – their décor and lighting was much more effective at night.
Others made a lot more effort – this Swinging Sixties for one
The worthy winner was The Sorren Corren
They were raising money for Great Ormond Street – the twins in Granddad’s arms (Sorren and Corren) were very premature and both ended up in GOSH. I hope they raised a goodly sum – it was a worthy cause (I was in there as a child and it was an amazing place even then).
Monty certainly seemed to enjoy the parade – so many people to look at!
Saturday ended with a night parade which we did not join in – it was a mix of cruisers (many) and just a brave few narrow boats – we felt it was just too risky – too many very small boats and some with no lights at all. The grand finale was an amazing firework display. We thought Monty would hate it, but he seemed to cope very well – he did take cover in the boat (with one of us with him), but the shaking was minimal and he re-appeared very soon after the bangs stopped.
The weather – well it was perfect – almost too hot at times, but it certainly brought out the crowds and they stayed until very late. Was the sky going to be reliable again?
Well yes it was as Sunday started bright, sunny and hot again. Boatwif and The Captain had a succession of local friends, neighbours and colleague visiting throughout the two days. The tables and chairs saw good use and a jug or two of Pimms were consumed. Our space was appreciated by us all along with such a good view of river events.
Sunday started with the raft races – hotly contested, but impossible to say who won.
Some were less buoyant than they should have been.
‘Where’s Wally’ were there again
I especially loved the punks
Followed by yet more pirates
This was probably the most unusual and was very hard to paddle, but they made it,!
One had even brought their local’s parasol!
It was not for the faint hearted – two heats over a half mile course going with the flow and the final was (we assumed) the fastest of the bunch, but this time against the current! Those who did not make the final still had to paddle the half mile back so the rafts could be removed from the river!
Both days we were also entertained by ‘Jet Boots Bob’ – something new to all of us and quite amazing. They were turning somersaults and made it look so easy despite being some 30 feet in the air.
Saturday evening this jet ski ran out of petrol right by our boats. The man on the jet boots swam across and asked if they could leave the jet ski between the boats for the night. Of course all four boats said.
He pulled the jet ski in along with the driver (his wife). of the equipment.
Then began the job of pulling himself out of the water, arranging his boots and the pipe – we were certainly privileged to get such a close up view
Then we discovered that he had a broken ankle sustained in Greece 7 weeks ago whilst parascending! Well the bones have healed, but not the ligaments. Out came the splint and off he went on crutches! We were assured it was all very easy and told we could come along to their base and give it a go! I somehow doubt that any of us will take them up on their kind offer!! It was certainly amazing to watch and we had a grand stand view.
You may wonder if we moved away from the boats, well yes we did every now and then. There was so much to see
More food outlets than you could shake a stick at.
Canoes and kayaks for children to ‘have a go’
Lots of entertainment for the children both
And a little larger
People and a dog trying to keep cool
some not as wise as others - this is quite a fast flowing weir
There were many gazebos, some almost large enough to be marquees
And some very well dressed – we felt a little inadequate!
A carnival parade took place across the river
Bridges were built and these and all the permanent ones had a one way system
There were many stalls selling all sorts from giraffes (wooden – we did see one rather large one being carried away) to scarves to honey and much more besides. Hoop la stalls, ring the bell, fishing for ducks – well you name it I am sure it was there. The atmosphere was incredible.
There were even some fly pasts – did they know we were there? First a Hurricane and a Spitfire (I got some great shots of clouds!) a Lancaster – I did a little better
And finally the Red Arrows did a fly past – I managed to capture the smoke
The weather was perfect until 4pm on Sunday when the heavens opened.
Our gazebos and tree became very popular.
People used all sorts to try and keep the rain off
As the rain eased we started to head off back to Priory Marina. The totally disorganised queue (or more to the point, lack of queue) at the lock was a real trial. Cruisers coming from one way and narrow boats the other. We made it after a couple of hours, but it was very frustrating.
I was also left wondering how long it took and how much it cost to clear this lot up
Once we were through the lock it was a quick nip back to the marina. Well it should have been, but we were suddenly aware of people from the bank trying to catch our attention. ‘Had we seen an orange canoe?’ It transpired that it had been stolen. We did catch up with the canoe and the people chasing it. We hovered and took photos (which I will not publish) of a lengthy altercation, but eventually the two miscreants left the scene – they were both rather unsteady on their feet. I fear the wine was in and the wit was out. Before we knew it we were safely moored back in the marina. I took Monty for his first off lead walk in two days and we then had dinner in the pub. A very satisfactory end to a truly memorable weekend.