Monday, 27 June 2016

Bostin in Brownhills

Bostin in Brownhills
June 2016

I spent last weekend on the waterfront in Brownhills, taking nearly three hours to get there along the shallow and narrow Daw End Branch of the Wyrley and Essington canal on Saturday. I arrived in time to set the butty up ready for the Brownhills Canalside Festival and to go and chat the a couple of the other boaters for an hour or so, putting the issues of the EU to rights in the process.

Brownhills Canalside Festival 2016

This event is really a canal side fete put on by the local residents (The Brownhills Peoples Association to be accurate) and whilst a smattering of boats was needed to bring the water to life, it is not a boating festival by any stretch of the imagination. There was the Ikon art boat, the BCNS workboat Phoenix offering trips, two local boats in for the day, two permanent moorers who simply sat it out and then there was me, the first trading boat to appear at the event and a novel addition which went down well with the attendees.

The Jam Butty in action

The organisation is a bit hit and miss with limited direction and supervision, but there is a team spirit about the while thing and everyone just seems to muck in an it all comes together. There was no booking system for boats and no harbour master, so we all discussed the options and then made it happen. The limited number of boats should not come as a surprise when you remember that  Brownhills is at least a full days cruising on remaindered canals from any main waterways.

Lots of canoeing

There is something rather special about these small local events, organised by local community activists for the local community. From a trading perspective I never have high expectations but am so often pleasantly surprised, and Brownhills was no exception. I was trading solo with Helen staying at home with a friend so I scaled back the operations a bit, dropping the cordials and offering a more limited range which I can manage on my own.

Local musical acts

I woke to the sound of rain hammering down in the night but it had moved on my the morning and instead we had an unseasonal northerly breeze with a forecast of rail for late afternoon. These conditions called for the gazebo plus a couple of sides but come 10.00 am I was set up and by 10.10 I had covered my stall fee - not a bad start! The day continued in a steady fashion, never overrun but rarely quiet. I had some company over the lunch period but in the main I served alone and it surprised my just how many people I know, both locals and visitors. And so the day passed in a very sociable manner and by the time the rail arrived at 3.30 the table was looking a bit light on stock. In the end we have a good day with takings which would not have disgraced a big event like Droitwich.

But, as we have seen before, a late rain shower is the final curtain for outside events and the crowds just melted away and the stallholders trying to set gazebo dismantling records. I plodded on steadily and just after 5.00pm all was packed away and the Jam Butty was both weatherproof and ready to move.

And then a dilemma - do I stay or do I go? Well, I was already more than a bit damp so I pulled on my waterproofs and made a start on the return journey. The temperature plummeted and as I passed through Walsall Wood my breath was coming out as steam - great for the end of June! My destination was to stop at the offside mooring next to Aldridge Marina, only half a mile from home but a full two hours cruising from or mooring so with no plans for Monday morning I stopped for the night and was rewarded with a bright and dry end to my short trip out.

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