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Trailboat Festival a huge success


The National Trailboat Festival, hosted by the Chesterfield Canal Trust at Staveley Town Basin over the Spring Bank Holiday weekend, was a terrific success. A score of small boats were brought in on trailers to use the slipway at the basin. They made a wonderfully colourful spectacle when moored along the canal. They created great interest from the many walkers and cyclists using the towpath, as did the Trust’s 87 year-old ex-working boat Python, which was sponsored by Brook Garden Centre. Members of the public could take a cruise on one of the Trust’s five tripboats which were in operation. They went through the new lock, which had only been flooded two days earlier, and then up the canal past the moored boats and under three bridges.

The Festival started with the official opening of the new Staveley Town Lock. Cllr Anne Western, the Leader of Derbyshire County Council, which owns this part of the canal, cut the ribbon. She was aboard John Varley II, the Trust’s brand new tripboat, paid for partially by the local Police & Crime Commissioner’s NICE fund.

RibbonCutting (photo©JohnLower)

The new lock was built by volunteers from the Trust, aided by volunteers from the Waterway Recovery Group. Some of the materials were paid for by the Council and other sections like the tailbridge and bywash were done by contractors. The lock gates were bought using a grant from the Veolia Environmental Trust. There was lots of entertainment in the large marquee and down by the lock. The Urban Gypsies belly dancers went down especially well and Captain Jackdaw and the Rumbucket amazed the crowds with their fire eating.

BellyDance FireEaters

Of course there were dozens of stalls of every type, plus food and drink including a bar run by Brampton Brewery featuring their specially brewed festival ale called Brindley Bitter.

Amongst many other attractions were vintage cars, the Armed Forces Bikers, Birds of Prey, canoeing and a children’s area which had lots of rides, a face painter and the chance to stroke a tarantula or cuddle a skunk with Encounter Exotics.

There were queues all day for the chance to Learn to Drive a Digger. Run by volunteers from the Waterway Recovery Group, they used two diggers kindly donated by TCH/JCB. Digger

On the Saturday night, there was a Parade of Illuminated Boats. All the trailboats and the Trust’s tripboats were decked out in lights, many playing music. They cruised up and down the canal to the delight of large crowds, many of whom said that it was the best thing about the whole event.

On the Monday, the Festival itself was over, but the boats went in a flotilla all the way up the canal to Tapton in Chesterfield and back. Several actually reached the River Rother at St Helena’s, where the canal starts. This created great excitement amongst towpath users who usually only catch a glimpse of an occasional canoe or tripboat. It was a fitting finale to an unforgettable weekend, because it demonstrated what could happen when the canal is fully restored.


The Chesterfield Canal Trust is very grateful to the Inland Waterways Association for allowing it to run this year’s National Trailboat Festival.

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