The 200th anniversary of the opening of the Northampton Arm of the River Nene will be celebrated with a major waterways event next year.
The Inland Waterways Association (IWA) has announced that it plans to hold a major waterways event on the River Nene over the August bank holiday Weekend in 2015.
The Northampton Festival of Water will take place on Saturday August 29 to Monday August 31 and will be centred around the waterfront at Becket’s Park.
The festival will follow on from the successful Campaign Festival held in Northampton in 2011.
Sue Cant, Environment Agency Northamptonshire waterways leader, said: “We are delighted that IWA’s Festival is returning to Northamptonshire in 2015. We hope that visitors to the festival will not rush home at the end but take the opportunity to explore the Nene, which is one of the most scenic waterways in the country and a hidden gem of the county.
“The festival will help to secure Northampton as an inland waterway destination and encourage further improvement to the town’s waterfront and river corridor.”
The Northampton Festival of Water is being organised jointly by IWA Events Team and IWA Northampton Branch, with the full support of Northampton Borough Council, the Environment Agency and the Canal & River Trust.
The main aim of the event will be to celebrate the 200th Anniversary of the opening of the Northampton Arm in 1815, which connected the Grand Union Canal (or Grand Junction as it was then known) to the Nene in Northampton, creating a route to the East Anglian waterways and the Wash by water.
The arm replaced an earlier horse drawn railway between Gayton Junction and an unloading point at Far Cotton where a restored historic crane still stands. The arm enabled ironstone and limestone to be carried to local blast furnaces, grain and flour to and from mills along the Nene, coal from North Warwickshire and timber from London’s Surrey Docks to Northampton.
The Festival of Water also aims to promote Northampton’s riverside, to recognise the value of the waterway to the town and its people and to encourage more people to use the river for boating recreation and leisure.
Councillor David Mackintosh, Leader of Northampton Borough Council, said: “For generations the Nene was a source of wealth as our town’s industries imported materials and exported products along the canal network.
“Today our riverside is a wonderful place to relax and the Northampton Festival of Water is set to be a wonderful celebration of our town’s connection with the Nene.
“The festival is set to be a fantastic event with something for all ages, and well worth a visit to Northampton.”
The Festival of Water will have an array of attractions on and off the water providing a fun day out for all the family. Up to 200 boats, including leisure, trade, heritage and working narrowboats, are expected in the marina and along the river front as well as a wealth of smaller craft such as canoes, rowing boats, sailboats, windsurfers and ribs.
There will also be opportunities for visitors to get afloat on board trip boats and water taxis.
Northampton is the gateway to Peterborough, Ely, Cambridge, St. Ives, Huntingdon and Bedford via the Nene, Middle Level and Fenland waterways and the Environment Agency are making special temporary licensing arrangements to encourage boaters to explore these little travelled waterways.
IWA Events Team Chairman John Butler said: “I have been impressed from the start by the level of commitment and enthusiasm for this event locally, and I have no doubt that we can look forward to a weekend to remember.
“As a boater I am always excited by the prospect of visiting new waterways, and I intend to make the most of this opportunity to explore the waterways beyond Northampton. So put it in your diary now and come along to see what Northampton has to offer – you won’t be disappointed.”
There will be no admission charge although visitors will be encouraged to make a donation.
There will be a market and fundraising stalls and the events team would like to hear from boaters, charities and local groups who are interested in having a stall and fundraising for their chosen cause and IWA. More information is available on IWA’s website at www.waterways.org.uk.