I mentioned in yesterdays post (HERE) that Banbury Canal Day isn’t really a boat rally as such, more of a broad-based festival of food and community associations that happens to be centred on the canal.
However, with that said, it does attract a few heritage boats and one that particularly caught my eye this year was ‘Lepus’. She was built as a GUCCCo. ‘Star’ Class iron composite butty Fleet No. 302 in 1938. Originally intended to be paired with motor ‘Lacerta’. In 1947, she was sold on, to the Bridgewater Department of the Manchester Ship Canal Company where she renamed as Mud Boat No. 5 and used by the engineering department. The original ‘Lepus’ was cut-up and part-used in the construction of this present day ‘Lepus’. The fore-end half is a boat called Lead-Us. The work was carried out by Black Country boat builder David Harris.

Meanwhile, down in Tooley’s Yard all kinds of things were going on… Outside the blacksmith’s shop a pole lathe was in hypnotic operation… If you’ve never seen one in operation, powered solely by the energy released from a green wood branch/pole under tension, take a look HERE  The pole lathe is one of man’s oldest woodworking machines. Powered by the turner’s foot, a cord, and the springiness of the green wood pole, it can be set up virtually anywhere and used to turn green wood products on the spot.
For hundreds of years they were used by bodgers the skilled craftsman who made wooden chairs and other forest products from greenwood using the pole lathe in situ deep in the woods. Wonderful low tech effectiveness.
And, if you venture further into the Aladdin’s Cave that is supposed to be Tooley’s Chandlery  you find all manner of delights, not least a wonderful, informal museum displaying an enviable and eclectic mix of canalia, including examples of stunning painted ware.
Still deeper into the labyrinth of sheds there’s a model railway in the process of being constructed. The boys were utterly fascinated. Is this the next step on from their BRIO wooden railway???
On the walls of the railway room there’s a history of the yard in pictures and newspaper clippings. I took a photo of one of the photos to remind me of the character of Tooley’s Yard when I first knew it, when Eddie Beezley was leasing the dock from Barry Morse, and operating as Equinox Boats, it was here that the first ‘stretch’ of my previous boat ‘Onward’ took place…
The inside of the dry dock. Preserved in it’s modern outer shell there are lingering hints of just what a wonderfully atmospheric place it once was. Today it was looking sparklingly spic-&-span and played host not to boats undergoing repairs, as has happened here for over 200 years, but to a Theatre-in-the-Dock performance based on Sheila Stuart’s wonderful Ramlin Rose and a display of models by the Banbury & District Model Engineering Society.
Here’s just a few of the brilliant models displayed along the sides of the dry dock. ps. I’ve fallen in love with 10¼ gauge railways! After experiencing the railway at Grimsbury Wharf I want one! Little sit-on diesel engine, some sit-on wagons etc. ah if only I had lots of free time, lots of money, oh and a huge garden!
Down at Spiceball Park we sat down to sandwiches and watched this wagon being hauled by two magnificent shire horses. The boys couldn’t believe just how massive, and how gentle, the horses were…
Yep, there was a fair too, and it just wouldn’t be right if the bouncy slide wasn’t tried…
On the way back to the car, just time for another game of ‘plonk!’ All round it was a great ‘boys day out’!

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