It is often said that we Herefordians don’t make enough use of the River Wye. The advent of the railways meant that rivers generally were no longer used by factories and businesses as a means of transporting their goods, and the Wye was no exception. Nowadays, its waters are exploited more by the tourism and leisure industries, although different sectors don’t always see eye to eye – anglers don’t approve of canoeists disturbing the fish – the Wye is, after all, renowned for its salmon. The canoeists argue that the water is there for everyone’s enjoyment – that is, theirs! Hay, as well as being famous for its second hand book shops and annual Literary Festival, is a mecca for walkers and canoeists alike – they all enjoy the stunning scenery along the Wye Valley – which we locals take a bit for granted. Hereford Rowing Club, which is based close to the city centre and was established as far back as 1861, caters for local sportsmen and women as well as some schools. Their annual Regatta in August attracts a good crowd, as does Ross Regatta.
Lots of other towns along its meandering course count on the natural beauty of the river to attract visitors – places like Builth Wells, which hosts the Royal Welsh Agricultural Show, Tintern with its historic abbey and Symonds Yat Rock, which boasts one of the most majestic views of the Wye, and where the water is deep enough for pleasure boats to run cruises.
This year, thanks to some very determined individuals, the Hereford River Carnival was re-established and celebrated on May Day after an absence of 41 years. Of course, no amount of enthusiasm can control the weather, but our luck was in! – it was a beautiful spring day and hordes of people turned up to enjoy it.
Along the banks of the river and on the Castle Green which overlooks it all manner of entertainment was laid on: the programme included things as diverse as an aerial dance show performed in the trees, green wood working, guided walks, belly dancing and learning circus skills. A procession of floats was due to set sail from the Rowing Club at 2.30 pm and by 1.30 pm a veritable flotilla of young canoeists was gathering to escort the floats from the Rowing Club downstream to just beyond the Victoria footbridge. I have never tried to manoeuver a canoe but I have watched as the local club members line up under the Old Bridge to practise turning and paddling against the current – it looks tricky when the river is up but today the water was very shallow and relatively calm (easy for me to say, yes!) ……well, these youngsters made it look easy, anyway.
Unfortunately, the same couldn’t be said for some of those in charge of floats. Luckily, help was on hand – they were accompanied through the arches of the two bridges by teams of four rafters (or maybe it was the same four – in which case they must have been absolutely knackered at the end of the afternoon – anyway, up and down they went, sometimes towing floats into position against the current and sometimes guiding them down towards the finish line.
I don’t know if the floats were judged but Noah’s Ark would have got my vote.
But the star attraction was this trow – named Hereford Bull – what else?! and built to represent the city of Hereford in the Thames River Pageant which was organised in June 2012 as part of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations. These traditional craft plied the river back in the 19th century – some 140 years ago.
Ready for the off.Local sea cadetsDial-a-Ride
Of course you have to keep the troops entertained! And no electronic gadgets in sight!
There were stilts and pogo sticks to master, hula hoops to get to grips with, painting and drawing, clay pots to make and of course food to eat –
One event that I didn’t manage to capture was the First Underwater Bicycle Race In the River Wye. And I missed it!! I know it happened – there was irrefutable evidence in the form of several deflated inflatable plastic ducks attached to helmets and left by the river bank – apparently, these had been used by the competitors so that the spectators could follow their progress. There were also two hapless Sub Aquers (Aquamariners? – whatever!) who popped up unexpectedly way up river – ‘lost their way in all that mud’ – not surprisingly!
I will leave you with one last picture of the day.