Thursday, 24 June 2021

Village party on the river with spirit of Dunkirk

A VILLAGE party including a flotilla on the River Thames will be held in Wargrave over the summer.

Resident Geoff Knight is appealing to boat owners to donate their vessels and an hour of their time so that other residents have a chance to go out on the water.

The celebration on Thursday, July 17 will be called the Dunkirk Spirit of Wargrave Village Party, in reference to the “Little Ships” which rescued thousands of soldiers from Dunkirk during the Second World War.

It is being organised with help from Jayne Worrall, who runs the Bull pub in High Street, and the nearby St George & Dragon.

Mr Knight, a boat owner who lives in Victoria Road, hopes to attract up to 50 boats for the flotilla and has already signed up 12 volunteers to help on the day.

He would like as many helpers as possible to ensure things go smoothly.

He said: “I think people are ready for a bit of fun and I just thought it would be a nice idea. We hope it will raise spirits after this very unpleasant and unusual year. Although many locals have boats, a great many do not and therefore don’t get the full pleasure of this beautiful reach of the Thames, as seen and enjoyed from the water.

“We want owners to make themselves and their boats available from midday and offer as many locals as they wish a one-hour cruise between the locks.

“We are expecting a good turnout of potential passengers, so the more boats the better.

“I think this will be a real treat for a lot of people, especially children.”

The pick-up and drop-off points will be the George & Dragon and the Ferry Lane landing stage.

An all-day barbecue and outdoor bar will be running at the pub with a Dunkirk-themed cabaret on the terrace during the afternoon.

There will be paddleboard races from 3pm, starting under the footbridge at Camps Pool and finishing at the George & Dragon. These will be divided into age groups and, depending on timings, the pub could serve food to parents on the terrace whilr their children are on the water.

Mr Knight said: “We anticipate quite a bit of interest as paddleboarding is now so popular.

“Even out of season, lots of people appear so we’re hoping for plenty of entries. If they are very substantial, we may have to run heats in the morning.

“If you would like to take part, please get in touch as knowing approximate numbers in advance will be really helpful in running the event smoothly.”

Meanwhile, the Bull will offer special dishes in addition to its regular menu between midday and 3.30pm and will also host a cabaret performance that evening.

Miss Worrall, who has worked at the Brakspear pub on and off since the Eighties, said she was looking forward to the party as this summer’s village festival had been postponed by the pandemic.

She said: “Geoff is very much the instigator of all of this. It is largely a water-based event, so much of the activity will be happening down at the George & Dragon but I’m hoping people will want to come down to the Bull in the evening.

“I know Geoff has put a lot of hard work into this and has a lot of irons in the fire. The important thing is to get people in the village together for a party and some fun after all that we’ve been through.”

Although the party is not a fund-
raising event, volunteers from Sue Ryder will be at the Bull and the George & Dragon with collection buckets.

Mr Knight has previously supported the charity, which operates the South Oxfordshire palliative care hub at Crowmarsh Gifford, by organising charity golf days.

He is a supporter because Sue Ryder cared for two of his friends, Bill Hickman and David Rixon, in their final days.

Last year was the 80th anniversary of the mass evacuation of Allied troops and a selection of Little Ships would have paraded at the Thames Traditional Boat Festival in Henley, but this was cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic.

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