Whaley Bridge’s Water Weekend lives and dies by the weather. Over the years, there has been everything, even early June morning frost one year. The 15th anniversary event last weekend proved to be a ‘sunshine sandwich’.
Friday, launch day, was pure summer. As the festival opened with youngsters’ disco music on the canalside stage and an evening of acoustic music in the Mechanics’ Institute, temperatures stayed high and the sun shone late. All over Whaley Bridge, it was pavement party time, with people eating and drinking out of doors.
Saturday dawned fair, but people had heard the forecasts: thunder and heavy rain. It duly arrived as the main events began, boat trips, market stalls, all the fun of the fair. It was a morning washout, the meat in the sunshine sandwich. Saturday ended up brighter, and Sunday was another warm sunny day. Queues for free boat trips, which disappeared on Saturday morning, grew throughout Sunday as family crowds flocked to the canal m basin. The committee’s verdict: one of the very best days in the 15 year history.
More than 1,000 people took a free boat trip, down on last year’s record number. During Saturday’s downpour, almost no-one wanted a boat trip. But business was brisk on Sunday, with long queues and no complaints. Said Rick Heys, boatmaster: “1,064 people on the boats – that’s terrific, considering the weather and the fact that we had a smaller flotilla this year.”
Calling Rick: your W3 crocodile is returning to base
AS headmaster of Whaley Bridge primary school, Rick Heyes was meticulous in everything he planned. Now retired, and acting as boatmaster for the Whaley Water Weekend (W3), he thought he was equally meticulous with an idea for youngsters visiting W3.
Rick organises the free boat trips at W3, which take families from the canal basin to the junction of the Buxworth arm of the canal. He had bought a blow up, 5ft crocodile, made a cement anchor strong enough to hold it in the water, and asked the first boat to leave last Saturday to place the crocodile in a corner of the canal junction. Rick’s idea was that skippers of later trips would point out the crocodile to younger passengers and urge them to keep their hands inside the boat so that the croc couldn’t bite them!
Unfortunately, the crew on the next boat out hadn’t heard the plan. When they spotted the green giant, lying in the water, they hauled it in and took it straight back to Rick’s tent HQ. By now, it was raining cats and dogs. Paul Taylor, who had originally dropped the croc in the water, was asked to repeat the process. Youngsters on his boat were fascinated to see croc drop, take two.
The Crocodile Whaley incident wasn’t the only diversion for visitors. Two gazebos, being erected near the canal bank, took off in a strong wind and landed in the water. A member of the Peak Paddlers, whose kayaks were providing trips for visitors in the basin, raced to the scene. Like an aquatic version of the AA, he managed to push and pull the gazebos towards people on the quayside who eventually got all the parts back on dry land.
The heavy rain – long forecast – hit attendances in the morning, although more people arrived as the afternoon brightened up. By the evening, there was even sunshine for one of the top events on the canalside stage, the Buxton-based Pink Floyd tribute band, Rogers Floyd.
Friday night at W3 goes from strength to strength. The Acoustic Evening in the Mechanics’ Institute, complete with bar and café table layout, was well supported. Linda Simpson, founder of the evening, returned as did compere Tony Boden. Glossop singer Dave Wilson linked the mood of the day, with a tribute song to the D Day veterans.
Singer Nancy Brookes from Buxton, as well as entertainer Jolly Jock from Dove Holes – a ‘shock doc’ with his sunburst tee shirt – were highlights. Down at the canal basin, young DJs and fans celebrated with the Audiosphere Project, Joe Colligan’s unique disco. There were Whaleyburgers to keep the dancers’ strength up.