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Town gears up for river festival
BOATS of all shapes, sizes and ages are making their way to Northwich for a weekend of water-based fun.
The Northwich River Weaver Festival will start on Friday evening and run until Sunday, showcasing all the river could do for Northwich.
Visitors to the town have already been enjoying an art trial, literary festival and history talks in the run-up to this weekend’s event, which will be centred at the site of the former Floatel, in Dane Street.
Most of the boats will arrive in time for a Great Folk Night on Friday, featuring music from Tom Kitching and Gren Bartley, The Weavils and Ceolta.
Festival fun will start up at 10am on Saturday, with stalls, games, river-based activities and boat trips.
A variety of live music will be played on the festival stage from noon until 5pm, breaking off for a grand boat procession on the water from 1.30pm to 2pm and official opening ceremony until 2.30.
More music will entertain the crowds from 7pm to 10.30pm.
Sunday will see a car boot sale, organised by Northwich Rugby Club, from 8am to noon, and more stalls, river activities and boat trips.
There will also be a fun dog show, auction, a duck race on the River Dane, circus workshops and even more music.
The festival has been organised by the Inland Waterways Association, River Weaver Navigation Society, Broken Cross Boat Club and Development of the Arts in Northwich.
John Tackley, festival chairman, said he had high hopes for the festival’s impact on the future development of Northwich.
“It would be wonderful, in 10 years time, to walk along a beautifully laid out Northwich river frontage, with a multiplicity of boats both private and for public use, with a local resident and ask for comments,” he said.
“As we strolled past the bankside hotel, with its conference facilities and associated cinema, theatre, riverside restaurant, sauna, gym, swimming pool and children’s play area, all brilliantly and imaginatively lit, the comment would be ‘I first realised what a wonderful town this could be when the 2012 Jubilee Festival was held. I am so glad we found a civic pride from this, which has now given us the best town to live in, in the entire northwest’.”
Northwich will host its own Jubilee pageant when more than 100 historic craft arrive on the River Weaver this weekend.
Grand pageants of historic boats, including traditional, commercial and pleasure vessels, will take place throughout the weekend with expert commentary.
These taking part will include vintage canal narrow boats including ‘butties’ (unpowered towed craft), Dukers and ex working boats from Yarwoods of Northwich.
W J Yarwoods & Sons were shipbuilders, engineers and ironfounders who were established in 1840 at The Dock in Northwich.
Swallow, Skylark and Stork were built by Yarwoods as a fleet of eight for W H Cowburn & Cowpar Ltd of Manchester.
They all carried cargoes of industrial chemicals, oils, lime and salt from Manchester to Wolverhampton and Coventry.
Other Yarwoods built craft attending the festival include Dove, Thea, Shad, Cactus, North, Python, Warbler and Lindsay.
The last horse-drawn Shropshire Union Railway and Canal Carrying Co fly-boat in the world, Saturn, will also be at the festival, as well as Worcester, an iron tunnel tug built in 1912 to tow horse-drawn boats through canal tunnels while their crews walked the horse over the top.
Grain barge James Jackson Grundy, loaded with 200 tons of Canadian wheat destined for Roberts Bakery, will dock at Baron’s Quay during the weekend and one of the working boats will also transport 200 limited edition Diamond Jubilee mugs from a pottery in Stoke-on-Trent.
This will be the first cargo to be carried down the Anderton Boat Lift since the lift re-opened.
THE River Weaver has played a massive part in shaping the industrial history of Northwich.
It was used as the main transport link for Brunner Mond and ICI for more than 100 years, and is still important to Tata Chemicals Europe, one of the festival sponsors, today.
Work was carried out along the length of the river in the 1950s to remove bends, widen narrow lengths and make it fully navigable.
This work meant that the Weaver Navigation extended from its junction with the Mersey at Weston Point, near Runcorn, to Winsford.
It also meant that vessels able to use the waterway increased from 200-ton coasters and 250-ton barges to 400-ton coastal vessels and 450-ton barges.
The river was last used to transport soda ash in the early 1990s when water draft and beam restrictions prevented the use of larger vessels.
Tata Chemicals Europe now uses the river by taking water from it to use as coolant in its manufacturing processes.