Not all outdoor activities are included in the Olympic Games so the Horseboating Society (HBS) decided to mark the special year of the Olympics and Diamond Jubilee with a special journey of their own making. Hot on the heels, chasing after the last Olympic events, the horse-drawn boat which set out from Leeds is due to arrive in Liverpool on Tuesday August 14.
The project is well on track, having arrived on time to attend events en route. The start date was World Heritage Day on April 18. The first port of call was at the World Heritage Site celebrations at Saltaire. Working up the Bingley Five Rise locks, the boat was negotiating one of the Seven Wonders of the Waterways. On next to the canal festival at Skipton. Crowds turned out to see the horse-drawn boat pass over the Burnley Embankment, another of the Seven Wonders of the Waterways.
Then to Burscough for the Canal Heritage Weekend. By this point the journey had passed the 100 mile mile-post. Still the rough length of a marathon to complete, to achieve the goal of Liverpool with its World Heritage Site at Pier Head. If the journey is completed, it will be a Diamond Jubilee triumph, as the horse-drawn boat will be the first to arrive in Liverpool from Leeds during the reign of our Queen.
No bronze, silver or gold medals await the horse-drawn boat. So instead the Horseboating Society is celebrating with the shine of horse brasses and boat brasses! The boathorse harness is decorated with Diamond Jubilee and Olympic Games brasses commissioned for this year. The boat chimney chain is adorned with brass diamonds. The red, white and blue paintwork on the horse harness matches the livery of the blue boat. Textile bunting of wool and cotton in red, white and blue is a reminder of the importance of textile trade on the Leeds and Liverpool canal.
The World Heritage Officer of Liverpool wrote to the Horseboating Society –
One of the horse brasses shows the logo of the 5 rings of the Olympic Games. It is so appropriate that the horse making this journey from Leeds is called Bilbo Baggins, of The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. He deserves his medals of his brasses! At Pier Head, Liverpool, there is no towpath as such but Bilbo will attempt a horse pull of the boat here – the first ever. Then he will go to meet the Carters’ Horse, a statue erected in honour of the horses which worked to and from the Liverpool docks.
Team GB won gold medals on the water and with horses. Let the HBS win their goal!