Thursday, 18 August 2022

Refurbished boat joins Thames parade

A MAN who spent 12 years rebuilding a sunken boat says he is ?extremely proud? that it will take part in tomorrow?s floral flotilla on the River Thames in Henley.

A MAN who spent 12 years rebuilding a sunken boat says he is ?extremely proud? that it will take part in tomorrow?s floral flotilla on the River Thames in Henley.

Stephen Borlase, 69, of Swiss Farm, Henley, spent hundreds of hours renovating Old Melody, including replacing the engine so that it runs entirely on solar power.

The boat will be one of 20 craft in the flotilla, which is being held to mark the start of Chelsea Fringe Henley, a three-week festival celebrating gardening. It will be decorated with clematis, wisteria and ivy flowers by Mr Borlase?s daughter-in-law Tamsin Borlase. The flotilla will meet at Mill Meadows at 11am before sailing up river to Marsh Lock then back down to Temple Island before returning to Mill Meadows.

Mr Borlase decided to refurbish the boat after handing over control of the Swiss Farm campsite in Marlow Road to his son Joseph when he retired in 1997. He said: ?I was at a loose end when Joseph took over the company so I decided I needed a project. The boat was made in Tewkesbury in 1928 and was a day boat used by a company called Blakes on the Norfolk Broads.

?It sank in the river at Mill Meadows 20 years ago after hitting a concrete block. The former owner asked if he could store it here while he did it up but he never got round to it.

?It needed completely rebuilding so I learnt how to do things like steaming the ribs, which is how they get curved.

?I had three local people I need to thank: Colin Henwood, who told me it could be done, David Craig, who was my guru, taught me a lot and did a few of the difficult bits, and Matt Coyne, who did all the electrical wiring.?

Mr Borlase, who also took a two-week boat building course, moors the boat on the river near Temple Island. He decided to run it using solar power after finding that the old petrol engine needed replacing.

He said: ?The engine had a crack in the cylinder head so I had to think outside the box for a way to power it. I thought if I used a lot of solar panels it could power an electric motor so I bought the panels and an E-TEC motor from America and hoped it would work.

?It?s confounded all expectations, even the electrician who put the motor in for me was amazed I didn?t have to charge the battery any other way.?

The flotilla will be divided into three sections ? specialist craft, powered boats and unpowered vessels.

It is hoped that young people involved in Acoustic at Magoos will perform tomorrow and the bandstand in Mill Meadows will be decorated with flowers made by children.

Other events include a week-long floral art exhibition at the Old Fire Station Gallery, starting on Monday with an open viewing at 7pm. There will also be a Healing Gardeners event at the Friends Meeting House in Northfield End on Wednesday from 2pm to 4pm.

An open gardens and plant sale will be held at Babylon Nurseries in Cuxham on Saturday, May 23 and Sunday, May 31.

A floral couture and cocktails evening, hosted by Floral Circus, will take place at Lovibonds in Henley on June 3 at 7.30pm.

The festival, which is supported by Henley in Bloom, will come to a close with a final event with garden walks and talks at Bosley Patch, a market garden at Swiss Farm, on June 6 from 1pm to 6pm.

Author Clare Foster will talk about her book Painterly Plants and herbalist Sarah Redding will give a talk about how to grow your own medicines. Children will be encouraged to complete a piece of floral artwork and there will be a barbecue and bar.

It is hoped that Tim Richardson, founder and director of Chelsea Fringe, will attend the flotilla event. To register a craft, send an email to

For more information, visit

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