And what a party it was!

Photo credits: Dave Standley, Peter Trimming, Graham Causely and Nadine Duty Photography

On 9th April 1822 there was a cold easterly wind as the community gathered around the canal basin to mark the formal opening of Chichester Canal. Exactly 200 years to the day, there was bright sunshine as the community once again gathered at the canal basin.

Trustee Mark Stoneham said, ‘We welcomed hundreds of people to the canal basin, and there was a real buzz as people enjoyed our Bicentennial Anniversary Celebration Event. We’ve had such great feedback from those attending’.

Invited guests told us they were delighted to be part of the occasion. Dr Neil Hart, High Sheriff for West Sussex, said, ‘It was a wonderful day in celebration of the 200th Anniversary of the Canal’. Councillor Elizabeth Hamilton, Chairman of Chichester District Council, reflected that, ‘This is a big year for Chichester, and the canal is such a lovely place for people’. Paul Rodgers, Chair of the Inland Waterways Association, said, ‘It’s been a wonderful event, it’s great to see a milestone event like this being celebrated. It demonstrates what a jewel in the crown of Chichester this basin can be and the canal is’. Adam Porter, Trust funding patron and BBC Radio 2 Newsreader, took the opportunity to record the 4th episode of the popular ‘Chichester Canalcast’ podcast. Compere Ken Jones from Words Out Loud kept proceedings moving through the day.

Alison Golt from the Project Team said, ‘The event had been months in the planning by our volunteers, and so many different groups were keen to be part of our anniversary celebrations. The gunfire and display of the Fort Cumberland Guard historical re-enactment group certainly started our celebrations with a bang.  The Victorian Strollers brought the era to life, and there was a guest appearance by John Rennie, the engineer behind the canal. Water-based activities included displays by West Sussex Fire and Rescue, the Chichester Canoe Club and the Portsmouth Model Boat Club Display Team.’

The Basin was  decorated with bunting and live music entertained the crowds throughout the day, including the Duck Pond Sailors, South Downs Folk Singers, Ukes of Wallington and the Martlet Sword and Morris.  Younger members of the family were kept busy with children’s activities and Victorian themed games.

Alison continued, ‘We were well supported by a number of organisations who brought displays and stands of their own, including PACSO (Parents and Carers Support Organisation), the Woodland Trust, Portsmouth Water and UK Harvest. We were delighted with their attendance’.

Chichester College students in Graphics and Photography have recently completed a project, bringing the stories of the volunteers to life, on film and in print, and their work was on display in the Heritage Centre.

The day culminated in a floating procession – a flotilla, comprising all the trip boats, tugs, paddleboarders, kayakers, rowing boats and even an inflatable flamingo. The flotilla was welcomed by a water cannon from West Sussex Fire and Rescue and the Mayor and Mayoress of Chichester, Councillors John and Cherry Hughes. And unlike the opening event 200 years ago, none of the boats went aground!

Mark concluded, ‘We are so grateful to the Canal volunteers who have put in so much time to plan and make this event a reality. We’d also like to extend our thanks to all the groups that have supported us in their attendance, and the Rotary Club for their practical support’.

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