The stretch of river that runs between Hereford Rowing Club and the Victoria Footbridge was once again the setting for the main attraction of the Hereford River Carnival – the parade of a dozen or so colourful floats. For reasons I am not privy to – but probably to do with access points along the bank – the floats first have to be towed upstream along the same stretch of river before they set off downstream again. There was nothing for it! The crews had to brave the water and it looked pretty cold!! Then it was a case of just pulling against the current – and let’s face it – carnival floats aren’t usually built with good handling in mind! The more unwieldy the craft the more resistance it put up, but the crews were having none of it! The river was not particularly high, but weather conditions weren’t ideal – a wind had got up and rain clouds were gathering – again.
Amongst those organisations represented were the Alzameimers Society (I’ve forgotten how to spell that) , Aspire, Harrison Clark Rickerbys, Hereford Food Bank, Hereford MIND, Newton Farm Community Association, the Sea Cadets, Strong Young Minds, Horizon Training, local health food shop, Fodders, Sheila’s Wheels, and two local pubs, the Barrels (representing aforementioned Wye Valley Brewery) and the Vaga Tavern.
I positioned myself on the footbridge and watched as our water babies slogged slowly upstream to take their starting positions. It looked like hard work!
The support dinghies and canoes were manned by members of CHAR (the River Wye Charity Raft Race organization) and local sea cadets (always seems strange to me that a landlocked Midlands county, as far away from the sea as you can get in the UK, should have a unit of the sea cadets, but we do – I suppose water is water!) Anyway, they were out in force, expertly manoeuvering their kayaks and dinghies to escort, aid, and lend support and encouragement where needed.
Ever get that sinking feeling? A few sticky moments here for the castle.
The green and yellow craft below looked tiny in comparison with some, but maybe small is beautiful in these conditions.
She hugged the bank and made her way quietly up to the start.
Then came ‘the Fried Egg (I’m assuming this was Hereford Food Bank)
All the crews did whatever it took – towing, pushing, pulling, wading through the water together.The efforts of the Wye Valley Brewery crew were nothing short of heroic – I have to say the design of their float didn’t exactly help – It looked heavy with 4 barrels on a square platform – it was always going to be a handful! Eventually they towed it under the footbridge on the first part of its journey upstream – our hero had hold of the rope attached to the support boat and manfully hung on!
Only a mile to go!
Eventually he could hold on no longer and decided to attach the rope under the raft. Success! And applause from the crowd above! Away they went. Further upstream another snag – the brolly started to catch the breeze so they jettisoned that and at last disappeared into the distance.
When the floats finally started to reappear on their way back, as I looked down the length of the river it struck me that they were bunched a bit like horses in a race – some hugging the near bank,
some the opposite bank
and some coming straight down the middle.
Whether they were following instructions, or just being carried along by the current I don’t know. As they moved falteringly along, the escorts were still doing a grand job, weaving through the water, ever watchful, ever ready to move in , and giving much needed reassurance to our wobbly wayfarers.
It was easy to see that coming downstream is a doddle compared to going up!
A cygnet in tow! Cute!
Time to tip our toes in!
This is more like it! Shame the sun’s not out! Could work on my tan!
I’m gonna get there first!
Now, you see that? It’s a stone pillar! Paddle round it! Okay, boss!
Not sure what’s happening here but I bet he’s glad of that wetsuit.
And – under we go……….
All using the same technique – no collisions – and the end is in sight.
For the trip back downstream the ‘Fried Egg’ has acquired a sharply dressed captain!
This wasn’t a race, but I believe there was a prize for the best float. I don’t know who won. You be the judge. Here’s a reminder of the gallant participants in the 2016 Hereford River Carnival Parade.