Canal Day in Banbury this year was alive with colour and boating traditions as the town celebrated its waterway heritage with a massive get-together of narrowboat enthusiasts and interested visitors.

An estimated 15,000 people packed the towpaths in bright autumn sunshine to explore the canal craft and enjoy the entertainment of the day.

The theme of the event was ‘colours of the rainbow’ and the already brightly-painted barges were complemented by boat owners in imaginative costumes. Towpaths and bridges were decorated in keeping with the theme.

Tooley’s, the country’s oldest surviving boatyard – dating back to 1790, welcomed visitors with demonstrations of ancient and current boat building and repair techniques.

Taxi boats operated throughout the day taking visitors up and down the event site – and bell boat racing was organised by Banbury Canoe Club give children the chance to paddle their own craft.

Charity stalls reported high takings with some boosting their funds by more than £400.

New to the event this year was ‘Music in the Park’ – a programme of live music in Spiceball Park that featured five local bands. Dance displays near the entrance to Sovereign Wharf, off Compton Road, were popular attractions. A funfair, charity stalls, food and drink sellers, and a craft fair added to the atmosphere of the day.

Banbury Town Council organises Canal Day every year to remind residents of days gone by when the canal was a busy transport route.

Mayor Tony Mepham, who opened the event, said: “This was the 12th annual Canal Day in Banbury, and it celebrated a significant period in the town’s history. Nowadays the canal is a well-used leisure facility with holiday craft bringing trade to the town, but when it opened in 1778 it was the equivalent of the arrival of a motorway – a major transport route that brought a great deal of business to the area. The canal brought wealth and prosperity to Banbury as coal and other goods from the industrial Midlands became easily available. Canal Day is a reminder of those early years – and a chance for people of all ages to enjoy the waterside and discover the delights of the canal.”

Cllr Mepham was joined at the opening ceremony by Karen Irvani, founder of Parents Talking Aspergers, who was voted a ‘local hero’ by readers of the Banbury Guardian.