It’s one of my marker-days of Summer, an annual pilgrimage, to Braunston to watch the amiable chaos of the twice daily parade of historic boats, a heritage traffic jam and a perfect place to contentedly gongozzle…

After a showery Saturday I decided to risk delaying our visit until Sunday. The Boys and I finally set off from London at about 9.00am, armed with a picnic, and determined to have a bit of a Boys-Own Day Out.

It was one of those ‘coat on – coat off’ Summer days, by turns sweltering then chilly.

The Boys are now at an age (they’ll be six in September) where they’re pretty happy to sit a while and watch the old boats bluster past, particularly if they have the thunder-clap percussion of a Bolinder engine or blow impressive smoke rings into the tree canopy!

We talked of bringing our Eileen to the rally, and again I thought perhaps next year, perhaps?

After the noughties where the number of historic boats visiting Braunston rocketed, this year felt to be yet another year of numeric decline. Is the decline due to Braunston’s previous years of success? With alternative heritage rallies springing up over the Boating Season perhaps Braunston just isn’t the ‘draw’ it used to be?

It’s a shame though, because the crowds and the general chaos once gave it a unique character, and the location – at the crossroads of the the waterways – always seemed so fitting.

With lower numbers today’s rally proved to be a quieter and really rather pleasant affair, with space to picnic or sit and stare, with room to ‘plop’ stones into the Cut, and wave at familiar faces.

We had a good day, we saw amazing boats, and amazing characters too. It remains, for me, a very special waterways event.

As this selection of photographs hopefully illustrates?

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