Tag Archives: River Wye

Another year, another River Carnival on the Wye.

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!
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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.
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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.

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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)

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All the crews did whatever it took – towing, pushing, pulling, wading through the water tmentalHealthogether.shirleysWheelsThe 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!  barrels8Eventually 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!
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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.
barrels5When 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,
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some the opposite bank
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and some coming straight down the middle.
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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.
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It was easy to see that coming downstream is a doddle compared to going up!
castle4 And relax!
cygnet2A cygnet in tow! Cute!
downstreamTime to tip our toes in!
downstream2 This is more like it!  Shame the sun’s not out! Could work on my tan!
swan I’m gonna get there first!
Now, you see that? It’s a stone pillar! Paddle round it! bridgeInSight Okay, boss!
intheWaterNot sure what’s happening here but I bet he’s glad of that wetsuit.
And – under we go……….
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All using the same technique – no collisions – and the end is in sight.
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For the trip back downstream the ‘Fried Egg’ has acquired a sharply dressed captain!underBridge
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.bananaMan
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Hereford River Carnival May 2014

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.

 

It was also nice to see this  float representing my children’s old primary school, St. Francis Xavier’s.

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.

gathering Ready for the off.Local sea cadetsdialaride3Dial-a-Ride

Of course you have to keep the troops entertained! And no electronic gadgets in sight!

hulahoop1 Where do the batteries go then?

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 –

pizzas pizzaOven

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.

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