Whaley Water Weekend - 2007

Posted On 23/06/2007

Whaley Bridge canal basin, site of the Water Weekend each June.

EVERY summer since 2000, in the main street of Whaley Bridge in the Derbyshire Peak District, a mysterious logo appears on banners - W3.  It puzzles visitors, but local people now know what it means: Whaley Water Weekend. 

Although Whaley Bridge is so near Buxton and its famous bottled water, the weekend is nothing to do with drinking.  It is all about festive fun around the canal basin at Whaley Bridge, the picturesque 'end of the line' of an arm from the Peak Forest Canal.  Boat trips are the main attraction, with music, food and nearby pubs to add to the party mood.

Music is a core part of the W3. Here Goyt Valley Brass at a previous event, with conductor Charles Woodward.

Since the millennium, there has been a  two day festival with events related to water.  In 2006, for example, local children performed a  musical version of Whaley Bridge's successful struggle against the Victorian railway bosses to block access to the main well and water supply.

But most of the events are close to the canal basin, once visited by Princess Diana.  Locals are divided between calling a grassy, wooded area alongside the basin The Mound or The Royal Green.  This is the area where many children's activities take place, such as throwing wet sponges at adults (charity fundraiser) or Nature in Focus.  This gives a unique opportunity for kids to examine the waterlife from the canal, seen through microscopes and TV screens.

The 2007 event is on Saturday 23 June and Sunday 24 June.  There will be curtain raisers on Friday evening 22 June.

Welldressers, part of the W3, at the traditional blessing of their main 'flower picture'.

W3 is the start of two weeks of festivities in Whaley Bridge.  The well dressing - Derbyshire's traditional craft of creating pictures from flower petals and other natural materials - traditionally begins its preparations alongside the Water Weekend. A week later - Saturday 30 June, 2007, the Rose Queen Festival parade takes place in the town's main streets, followed by the well dressing blessing ceremony on Sunday 1 July 2007.  Rose Queen events take place later that week.

Always a popular attraction for the men (and little boys), Eric Hollinrake's stationary engines.

Saturday morning 23 June will see bustling excitement round the canal basin, as volunteers put the finishing touches to the many craft and charity stalls,  the exhibitions - ranging from mountain rescuers to stationary engines - but most of all to the three trip boats awaiting the public. Two will take people on short trips along the canal, under a canopy of fresh green trees.  The third,  Phoenix - introduced in 2005 - goes on the  longer Heritage Trip to Bugsworth Basin, reopened after years of voluntary work restoring this early Industrial Revolution gem. 

Passengers hear a full commentary of how limestone was brought to Bugsworth, processed, then carried further down the canal to places such as Stockport and Manchester, and beyond.  Bugsworth was once the biggest inland port in England.

Happy passengers on the Phoenix at the 2006 W3, setting out on the Heritage Trip.

Phoenix itself has a romantic history.  It was formerly a canal narrowboat , North Star, which was vandalised, burned and partly sunk on the canal near Marple in 2005.  Months of hard work by two young brothers, Paul and Michael Dawson, who run Trafalgar Marine Services at Thornsett  trading estate near New Mills, restored the boat.  It ended up smaller than the original 42ft.  In 2006, Phoenix made its maiden voyage on the Heritage Trip at W3.

Throughout the Saturday and Sunday, there will be music by the canalside - ranging from brass to folk to pop - with a DJ keeping the party going.  Plans for 2007 include

  • a fairground and balloon race
  • Punch and Judy
  • Terry the Paper Wizard
  • canoe display on the canal
  • model railway exhibition, with a reconstruction of the canal basin when it was also a railhead
  • a hogroast for the hungry

Full information from Barrie Walker, chairman, on 01663 719684 or James Middleton, secretary, on 01663 733224.  The programme, supported by local sponsors and advertisers, will be distributed by The Review to every home in Whaley Bridge and Furness Vale ahead of W3. 

By James Middleton