Beds, Herts & Bucks

Narrow boaters cross The Wash for Bedford River Festival

Narrow Image copyright Cotswolds Canal Cruisers Club
Image caption The fleet of narrow boats set off from Boston in Lincolnshire on 26 June

A group of narrow boat adventurers have completed a 160-mile (260km) journey which saw them cross The Wash estuary.

Members of the Cotswolds Canal Cruising Club navigated the open sea from Boston, Lincolnshire along River Nene, The Fens and the River Great Ouse.

They reached Bedford on Thursday in time to join the 40th Bedford River Festival.

Hilary Whitby, one of the organisers, said it was one of her "best trips".

Image copyright Cotswold Canal Cruisers Club
Image caption The Wash is a tidal estuary on the Lincolnshire and Norfolk coast
Image copyright Google
Image caption The narrow boats travelled from Lincolnshire across The Wash to the mouth of the River Nene, then through Cambridgeshire to Bedford

Seven narrow boaters started their journey on 26 June and set off from Boston at 08:15 BST on a "misty morning" when the "sea was beautifully calm", said Ms Whitby.

The crossing "went well" and they celebrated with some "Prosecco and nibbles", then as the water was getting "rough", they headed off for calmer waters and the mouth of the River Nene, arriving in Wisbech at about 17:30.

"It really has been so exciting, as well as tranquil and restful," she said.

"It is one of the best trips I have ever done, a really sociable experience."

After navigating 20 locks, they are in place in Bedford ready for the town's free River Festival, which takes place on Saturday and Sunday and is expected to attract more than 250,000 spectators.

Image copyright Hilary Whitby
Image caption Hilary Whitby moored in Bedford on her narrow boat, Clara Grace, ready for the River Festival which takes place 14-15 July
Image copyright Bedford Borough Council
Image caption More than 50 teams are due to take part in river races through the weekend
Image copyright Bedford Borough Council
Image caption The event takes place over a 105 acre site and has many food and shopping stalls

The biannual event started as a raft race in 1976 and merged with other river events to become the River Festival in 1978.

The event, marking its 40th anniversary, will take place along the town's Embankment, Russell Park, and this year it is being extended into St Mary's Gardens, by the new Riverside development.

A spokesman for Bedford Borough Council, which organises the festival, said there will be six stages of live music and entertainment, making it "the biggest one yet".

Image copyright Bedford Borough Council
Image caption Many events take place on the river including dragonboat and raft races, boat parades, a river swim, a canoe river cruise and Jet Boots displays
Image copyright Bedford Borough Council
Image caption The River Festival was last held in 2016
Image copyright Bedford Borough Council
Image caption About 20 tonnes of rubbish are created and cleared on Saturday night in 2016 ready for events to continue on Sunday

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