All smiles for the cheque presentation. Picture: Joe Bailey.All smiles for the cheque presentation. Picture: Joe Bailey.
All smiles for the cheque presentation. Picture: Joe Bailey.

Celebration in Braunston sees narrowboats gather for winter fuel in historic tradition

With Covid-19 restrictions being eased, the long-established winter coal-loading of the Narrow Boat Trust’s pair of historic narrowboats returned to the historic wharf at Braunston.

Coal, carried by canal, has been loaded and unloaded by hand in Braunston for more than 200 years.

But last year the quayside had to be fenced off to keep the public away from the staff working area - so the loading had to take place at the wharf above Buckby Top Lock.

To mark the return of the boats - Nuneaton and Brighton - a small celebration took place in the village.

Tim Coghlan, director of Braunston Marina, said: "We had a gathering of narrowboats with close connections to the marina, along with Friends of Raymond’s Nutfield and Raymond moored here, the Canal Museum at Stoke Bruerne’s Sculptor and the now Braunston Marina based Effingham.

"It was enough to make a colourful and festive reminder of the erstwhile Braunston Historic Narrowbot Rallies, though the numbers mustered were small in comparison to the 90 or so boats which had annually attended past annual Braunston Historic Narrowboat Rallies. The rallies had been cancelled for two years in succession because of Covid-19, but hopefully they would be back in full swing from next year in the traditional last weekend in June."

The plan had been for the Nuneaton and Brighton to set off on their six-week challenging coal-run, following the presentation of cheques of £1,000 from Braunston Marina to the Narrow Boat Trust, the Friends of Raymond and the Friends of the Canal Museum – which they had all received for many years from the proceeds of the Braunston Historic Narrowboat Rally.

Tim added: "Whilst there had been no rallies for two years, these historic narrowboats still needed maintaining, and Braunston Marina’s continued support was proving an important lifeline. While the loading and cheque presentations was not publicised in any form, the proverbial ‘towpath telegraph’ had spread the message, and with a fine weekend, there was a good turnout of canal enthusiasts.

"Among them was former working boatman Ron Withey, who was born on a narrowboat on December 31, 1939, and is now in his 82nd year living ‘on the bank’ in Braunston village. When he was born, his parents worked for Fellows, Morton and Clayton. After the company’s nationalisation in 1947, the family went to work for the new British Waterways, which took over the fleet."

Tim is now proudly patron of both the Narrow Boat Trust and the Friends of Raymond. Braunston Marina is the ‘No.1 Member’ of the Friends of the Canal Museum at Stoke Bruerne, which supports and maintains its narrowboat Sculptor.

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