A ‘chugity, chugity’ sound of a narrow boat marine diesel engine, the smell of burning coal and food being cooking. That was the welcome on this hot summer day once we crossed the bridge from the carpark to the festival. My first impressions were good, it was bigger than I expected and although we were early the site had already got a happy atmosphere. Too many local festivals we have had a day trip out for of late have been a disappointment, this change was more than welcome.
Amongst the usual stalls of food related items were the even more familiar Tombolla style stalls, charities raising money for their cause. Lucky dip bins for the children were aplenty, complete with Christmas wrapping, Leo got a small water pistol, so his prize at least was the correct season. The children had plenty to do, a good size dedicated play area and crafty projects for tiny hands. Face painting, Spider man as usual, and a Henna tattoo were had by Leo; a tie dyed T-shirt for me, bright orange, much to my sisters dismay. Story tellers told tale of how these canals got built and one went about his story telling in a tricycle mini gypsy caravan. It just goes to show what diversity the canals draw in these days.
Birds of prey were also on show, owls to be stroked, one of which decided my nieces’ wheelchair would be a good place to roost. One owl was tiny, pocket size, but I cannot recall its breed. They to, were there for donations as they take in all the birds of prey that get handed in to vets. These would normally be put down as the cost, and time, of rehabilitation is too much for the vets to cover. These birds may never be able to be returned to the wild but they do bring the wild into contact with children who otherwise may never get to see them. Any positive interaction has got to build respect for nature as a whole, which can only be a good thing.
A friendly Jack Russell greeted us on the return route through the stalls, its owner selling flags and the poles to fly them atop, she wanted plenty of fuss and I was happy to provide it, until the slobber toy came into play, then it was time to carry on walking. One of the old working narrowboats was open for viewing, the huge cargo section making the living quarters look even smaller. We sat as a lady told us what each section of the living quarters was for, now, in a space that is about six foot by ten foot, they had to get creative, especially as it could hold a family of four. A drawer became babies bed, a cupboard door became the dining table another the main bed. Heating and cooking were from a tiny arguer type cooker that apparently was always running. It was not today, thankfully, as I didn’t particularly fancy sitting within arms reach of it burning wood or coal when it was at least 20 degrees to begin with. I was told that if I was to sleep on the bed, it would only be me on it. I am aware I am fat but you just don’t want to hear you take the space of two. Their life was hard and even if I was half the size I cannot imagine living in such confined space on my own let alone with a family.
I will be going to the 2017 festival that much I am sure of. I may even wear the orange tie dyed t-shirt, just for my sister.