Every year on the Spring Bank Holiday the Berkshire town of Newbury turns into a riot of colour and fun as the annual Crafty Craft race takes place on the Kennet and Avon Canal.
The race has been run since 1974 and is organised together with the other local festivities by the Round Table in order to raise valuable funds for various local charities.
The 2013 event was blessed with perfect weather and large crowds gathered to watch some very interesting craft make their way from Kintbury to Newbury paddled by exotically dressed competitors.
The Crafty Craft was originally a race exclusively for home-made vessels but the entry rules have been relaxed recently to allow the inclusion of pre-fabricated boats as long as the competitors sport fancy dress and decorate their creations.
The boats are paddled from the attractive village of Kintbury down the Kennet and Avon canal to the finishing line close to Newbury town centre.
The race used to be much longer but too many of the home-made craft were failing to last the course!
Entrants must remove their crafts from the water and carry them around the numerous locks en route.
Prizes are awarded for the fastest and slowest teams and for the best creations and costumes.
It can take anything from 1 to 4 hours to complete the course (even longer if technical difficulties ensue) and so teams can substitute paddlers to give them a break from their arduous endeavours!
Those wishing to watch the race line the banks of the canal and throng around the finishing line where they can also enjoy the fairground attractions of Victoria Park including many colourful stalls, games and bouncy castles erected to entertain the crowds.
Many locals and those associated with the competing teams walk the entire length of the course (five miles) on the towpath encouraging the teams as they go.
Those following the 2013 race would have enjoyed the sight of a boat load of colourfully dressed pirates, a team sporting dress shirts and bow ties and the team entered by Intelligent Retail EPOS Software who were all dressed in the red and white striped garb and black rimmed glasses of Where’s Wally!
The walk is a pleasant one on largely flat ground through gorgeous countryside and past old stone bridges and many locks before arriving in Newbury where walkers can pit-stop for a coffee or something stronger on the banks of the canal before joining in with the celebrations at the finish.
Great Day Out
The Crafty Craft race is a great day out for all the family whether they enjoy the walk along the canal or station themselves in Victoria Park to enjoy the attractions there.
The town comes alive with crazy costumes and a sense of silliness and fun and much needed funds are raised for good causes along the way.
It is an original event which deserves to bring in visitors from far and wide. If you are feeling crafty then give next year’s race a go in your own stylish vessel.
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Sally Stacey is a keen blogger who greatly enjoyed a recent trip to watch the Crafty Craft race!