WHEN the Assendon spring flowed for the first time in nearly 15 years, residents in the surrounding villages wanted to organise something special to mark the occasion.
So hot on the heels of this year’s Cheltenham Festival, a group of regulars at the Rainbow Inn in Middle Assendon decided to stage their own gold cup race using rubber ducks.
Thanks to the warm and sunny weather on Sunday, about 150 people took part in the competition.
The course covered a 400m stretch of the spring, which runs alongside the B480 from Upper Assendon to the Thames in Henley.
Chris Chantry, a former parish councillor for Middle Assendon, organised the races with his wife Ina, villagers Lisbeth Thiesen and Rick Battersby and Rainbow landlords Curly and Jean Chandler.
He said: “It started when some of the regulars at the Rainbow met while the Cheltenham Gold Cup was on. We had a conversation about having our own gold cup. It was just a bit of fun but it seems to have brought out the inner child in everyone.”
Participants met at the pub to register for their yellow rubber ducks, which cost £1 each for adults and 50p for children.
About £150 was raised which will be donated to the Bix branch of the Royal British Legion.
Half an hour later the race began with the first of 14 heats — 10 for adults and four for children.
Organisers had planned to have six ducks per heat but so many people registered that they had to double the number.
Robert Treharne Jones, an award-winning rowing commentator who lives in Middle Assendon, was invited to lend his skills to the event.
He said: “I thought it was great fun and all for a very worthy cause. It was brilliant in the way that it brought the whole community together because in the villages we have no shop or village hall.
“It was great fun and everyone seemed to enjoy it.”
Dr Treharne Jones, press and publicity officer for the Leander Club in Henley, commentated on all the heats and both grand finals, running back and forth from the start line to the finish.
He said: “Normally when I commentate on rowing I am driven up and down in a car. I think if I had to run up and down a 2,000m course doing the commentary I might not last long but as this was a short distance it wasn’t too bad.”
The winners of each race competed in the finals, one for the adults and one for the children.
The winning adult was Johnny Batty, of Mill Close, Middle Assendon, who took home £20, while six-year-old Jack Brooksweaver won the children’s final and a prize of £10. Both were awarded a golden rubber duck.
In the adults’ final Alice Towey was second and Jane Franks third, winning £10 and £5 respectively, while in the children’s race 14-year-old Eve Poulter was second and James Wingfield was third and they won £5 each.
Mr Chantry said: “It was slightly manic but people seemed to enjoy it. The sunny weather definitely helped. We thought there might be about 50 people but we have had more than double that.”
There have been only a handful of recorded occurences of the Assendon spring.
One of the most recent was in the winter of 2000/2001, when the water caused flooding and road closures in Lower Assendon and Fair Mile, Henley.
The stream starts to flow when groundwater levels in the aquifers are filled to above 85.5m. This is measured using the borehole at Stonor Park.
It only happens following heavy rain over a long period, as happened earlier this year.