Parkhead Boat Gathering
After my last post about Banbury Canal Day I am now jumping back in time to the Parkhead Boat Gathering which took place two weeks previously.
Parkhead takes place every two years, following two weeks after the Black Country Boating Festival which takes place a few miles along the Dudley No2 at Netherton. Given the proximity of the two events we decided against taking the boats back to Calf Heath so we accepted the kind offer of the guys at Hawne Basin and left both boats in their tender care.
Work commitments meant that I had to be in the office on Friday morning and we finally made it to Halesowen for a 1.30pm departure, arriving at a crowded Parkhead at about 4.00pm and was helped into the lock by the crew of All Things Spanish and Charlie from Felonious Mongoose. The festival team had a good crew on the locks and I had little to do apart from steer the boats and answer questions about the butty.
The basin at the top of the locks was interesting. Most of the working boats had arrived and my challenge was to wind immediately above the top lock and then reverse up the arm towards the tunnel portal and our mooring, three boats back next to The Home Brew Boat.
Winding the butty is a challenge at any time but reversing the two boats is pretty much an impossibility and this maneuver was conducted under the watchful scrutiny of a whole host of working boat experts. In the event the wind went well and both boats ended up in the right position and the move back was achieved with the aid of another boater who took the stern rope from the butty and bow (or stern) hauled us in.
Parkhead is a compact site and boats were always three abreast and at times the congestion was such that boats spent the night rafted up from one side to the other.
The BCBF and Parkhead may only be 4 miles apart but the nature of the events couldnt be more different. BCBF is one huge community event attracting tens of thousands of visitors whilst Parkhead is lower key and is primarily an event for boaters and particularly for historic boat enthusiasts. As well as boat movements we had butty legging in the tunnel and perhaps the highlight for me was horse boating a BCN day boat up and down the locks.
With President fired up, a steam showman's engine fired up and plenty of boat chimneys smoking away the site was shrouded on smoke which offered an extra dimension of authenticity to life in the Black Country 150 year ago.
For all its attractions, the event is not so well known in the local community. Its a very porous site with many entrances but my guess it that it attracted perhaps 5,000 plus external visitors over the two days. But size isn't everything and all four trade boats did steady business and provided scope to get ashore and enjoy the attractions more than usual.
All in all a special boating event put on by boaters for boaters.