The historic horseboat Ilkeston was taken from Ellesmere Port to London this summer. It was horsedrawn on parts of the journey. The photos on this page show Robert Mackenzie with his horse Joshua, pulling Ilkeston on the Grand Union Canal at Rickmansworth.
On August 4th 2012, Joshua worked with the Rickmansworth Waterways Trust on some trial horseboating, a learning exercise for both crew and the young horse Joshua. His owner Robert Mackenzie was joined by HBS President, Derek Armstrong, and dignitaries like the Mayor of Rickmansworth. The boat Ilkeston is owned by the Canal and River Trust and it has recently been restored at the Heritage Boatyard at the National Waterways Museum (NWM) at Ellesmere Port. The boat was towed by motorboat from the NWM to London with 2 days of horseboating on August 4th and 23rd. Joshua pulled for about two miles on the Grand Union Canal between Croxley Green and Rickmansworth.
See photos and video: www.chilternheavyhorses.co.uk and www.ilkeston.tumblr.com
Hear the Ilkeston Song written and performed by Linda Birmingham, inspired by August 4th.
Note Robert’s harness: Joshua is wearing an American collar, worn with a padding beneath it. Although a British made collar is not usually worn with a separate padding, an American collar is commonly used with the padding with the advantage that it can be removed to dry and changed for another. The cut down brass hames came from Derek Armstrong, President of HBS, who worked 2 boats horse-drawn – the Pamela as a hostelboat and the Hyades as a tripboat. The leatherwork of “the gears” was made by HBS Secretary Glynis Henville for Robert after he had joined Sue Day as a core crew member in 2000 going to London.
Robert displays his boathorse harness on one of his heavy horses at various working horse or canal events. See www.coam.org.uk for info on the Chiltern Open Air Museum where Robert keeps his 3 heavy horses – 2 young Shires (Joshua and Samuel) and a Clydesdale (Harvey).
Saturday 4th August:
Thursday 23rd August:
On August 23rd, Ilkeston was pulled by Buddy on the Regents Canal between Lisson Grove and the London Canal Museum.
Jenny Roberts reported: “Buddy was very good to work, as we knew he would be, and took it all in his stride with all the press and onlookers, the numerous motorbike barriers and the slippery cobble stones. Inside the London Canal Museum he was rewarded by Kate Adie with lots of carrots.”< On August 23rd, Buddy took over the pull of the CRT owned boat Ilkeston which had been towed into London by motorboat. Jenny and Lynne Roberts and Buddy started beyond Lisson Grove to go to the London Canal Museum. The Chairman of the CRT Trustees Tony Hales joined the boat on its final leg as it arrived in London in sunshine celebrating its centenary year, having been built by FMC in 1912. The Lord Mayor of Westminster, Angela Harvey, made appreciative comments about canals and boats and volunteers and Buddy. At the London Canal Museum, Kate Adie remarked that she hoped there would be more boating "with more horses". There is a wealth of information on the London Canal Museum website about the entire project. See www.canalmuseum.org.uk/news.htm and you can find a press pack, journey log, leaflet, Facebook page, and Twitter feed about the boat. Also see the video of the horseboating in London on www.ilkeston.tumblr.com
Note Buddy having to negotiate one of the unsuitable motorbike barriers in a chicane form. His very calm temperament makes it relatively safe to take Buddy in some places where not all horses should tread. Many HBS members will know Buddy as he was previously owned and trained to canal boatwork by HBS member Stephen Rees-Jones who operated horseboat Sian on the Welshpool section of the Montgomery Canal. When Bilbo injured his legs after being shot at by youths with ball bearing guns, Stephen kindly lent Buddy to Sue Day for HBS journeys whilst Bilbo recovered in 2008. Buddy pulled the horseboat Success to the IWA National at Autherley Junction, Wolverhampton as the last project of the HBS Heritage Lottery Fund project entitled “Why Do Canals Have Towpaths?”
The Friends of the Regents Canal were in touch earlier in the year with HBS as they are campaigning to try to prevent planned widening of the towpath which they see as a historic structure (as HBS does), and they fear widening the towpath will lead to even faster cycling rather than making more comfort for all users. Why Do Canals Have Towpaths? They were built for canal horses and the people walking and working with them. A steady pace of often 2 mph with a laden boat, maybe 4 mph with a fast horse with an empty boat. Oh, for that peaceful pace again on our towpaths! Will Buddy’s trip do some good to keep our towpaths for walkers or prevent the towpath being widened? Unfortunately the last decade has seen ever more obstacles appear to horseboating, especially in town locations where cyclists are abundant and motorbike barriers are common.
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