The gathering of historic narrow boats at Audlem Mill on Saturday and Sunday was judged a superb success by both the boaters, and also the large number of visitors.
It attracted 24 boats dating from 1897 to 1936, providing a colourful spectacle by the wharf and in the canal pound below. There had probably never been this many working boats in Audlem at the same time, even in the days of commercial boating.
The boat gathering was organised by Peter and Chris Silvester of Audlem Mill, who had publicised it very widely in the national boating press and on relevant websites. Many hundreds of canal boat enthusiasts came from all over the country, considerably increasing the number of visitors to the separately organised ASET Festival of Transport on the playing field.
Several of the boaters were in fact working on canal boats in the 1940s to the 1960s, when commercial carrying more or less ended, and they said that this was perhaps the best boat gathering they had ever attended – even better than several long-standing much larger events.
The boaters were particularly struck by the informality, the boat event organisation, the camaraderie, the beautiful location, and the friendly reception they got from the people of Audlem – as well as the facilities for boaters and the wide range of local shops and eating places.
And they commented very favourably on Audlem Mill’s free barbeque on Saturday night, given as a thank you for attending – with catering for about 90 people! Malcolm Braine, the most respected boat builder on the canal system, said that this was one of the best boat gatherings he had attended since joining the Inland Waterways Association in 1948.
It looks like the word is spreading fast round the canal community, and next year’s boat gathering is likely to be oversubscribed quickly! Peter and Chris are already working on the plans.
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