Messing about in boats at London’s Canal Cavalcade

One of the sure signs that spring has arrived in London is the annual Canal Cavalcade in Little Venice. On the first weekend in May brightly decorated canal boats from all over the UK gather in the Grand Union Canal basin as they have been doing this since 1983.  I live just round the corner so always make sure I drop in to see what’s going on.

150 boats lined up with flag flying for visitors to enjoy during the 3 day festival but there are prizes at stake too, awarded for ‘best decorated’ boat,  best ‘ boat handling’ and ‘best Boater’s Sunday best costume’! It’s also a time when boaters (as they are called) get together and have a good laugh and catch up with each other.

It’s a wonderful sight, full of colour and packed with families having a great day out as there are loads of stalls selling all kinds of crafts, toys, plants, food and drink as well as the boats to enjoy.

Boats lined up in Little Venice basin

Some boaters love to arrive in style!

Most of the narrow boats are lived in and you get a chance to peek inside to see how they manage to pack all mod cons into the narrowest of spaces:

Overlooking the canal is the Horse Bridge which gave a gives visitors a great vantage point from which to view the boats and canal.  Little Venice is a beautiful area of London with fine houses built around the Grand Union Canal and its branches. It is most famous for the house boats which line the canal making it a very sought after watery address!

The canals were used in the past as a major route for transporting goods as the canal network snakes across the country for over 3,000 miles. Horses pulled the boats behind them as they walked along the towpaths (hence their name), carrying up to 30 tons per horse of cargo such as coal. Diesel power took over from horses so walkers and cyclists took over the towpaths and it’s a great place to do some inner city walks.  Names remind us of older times and the Horse Bridge is one of these.

The Horse Bridge

Someone who used the bridge to good effect was Councillor Angela Harvey, the Lord Mayor of Westminster who stood on the Horse Bridge to welcome visitors and thank the organisers and volunteers who made the festival happen. She was easily recognised by her gold chain and white gloves!

The Mayor of Westminster

The view down the canal from the other side of the Horse Bridge is really pretty and you can see the narrow boats lining the towpaths into the distance. There is a rather nice restaurant just past the trees on the right side called the Summerhouse. You can have a table right over the canal to watch the boats and the birds glide past – a great treat even when the Canal Cavalcade is over.

Boats lined up in Little Venice basin

Bye for now,

2 thoughts on “Messing about in boats at London’s Canal Cavalcade

  1. Hannah. says:

    Hi there! I am a volunteer for Canalway Cavalcade and I saw this lovely little post from 2013 I think? Anyway it would be lovely to see you again for the festival in May, it is getting busier and busier each year and we are providing more and more fun activities for all! I hope to see you there. Kind Regards, Hannah.

  2. LondonSue says:

    Hi Hannah, Thanks for your kind comments. I'm happy to visit the Canal Cavalcade every year and hope you are continuing to volunteer. Best regards, Sue

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