MORE than 20 boats took part in a floral flotilla on the Thames in Henley to mark the start of an alternative garden festival.
There were rowing boats, canoes, skiffs, cruisers, a coracle and even an amphibious car ? all decorated with flowers and many with crews wearing floral patterns and headwear made from flowers and foliage.
Hundreds of people on both banks and Henley Bridge watched as the flotilla gathered at Mill Meadows moorings and then went up river to Marsh Lock and then down to Temple Island before returning to the meadows.
Saturday?s event, which was blessed by a sunny afternoon, marked the start of Chelsea Fringe Henley, a three-week festival celebrating every type of gardening to coincide with the Chelsea Flower Show.
Ed and Maggie Atkinson, of Queen Street, Henley, took to the water in a catamaran made from two Canadian canoes. They were joined on board by friends Andrew Marlow, Rhod Chisholm, Sarah Moberley Helma Marlow and Mrs Marlow?s dog Poppy for champagne.
Mr Atkinson, who paddled the vessel with Mr Chisholm, said: ?We built the craft in 1998 and we usually put it together every year for the regatta but we made it up for the flotilla.
?It was a privilege to be part of it and there was a great atmosphere on the water and the riverbank. The event was an example of the fun community events which make life in Henley such a joy.?
Click here to see more photographs of the event.
One of the boats in the flotilla was Old Melody, a traditional wooden boat which took 69-year-old Swiss Farm owner Stephen Borlase 12 years to restore and convert to run on solar power.
His daughter-in-law, Tamsin Borlase, decorated the boat with pink and white clematis, purple wisteria, alexanders and hawthorn. Mrs Borlase, who runs a market garden at Swiss Farm, said: ?It was really lovely see Old Melody all dressed up with somewhere to go ? it looked like she was wearing a crown. Even if people weren?t intending to see the flotilla they stopped and looked. It was a definite talking point.?
Chelsea Fringe is run by Hambleden florist Jane Macfarlane-Duckworth and Victoria Newton, from Peppard Common, who works at the Garden Museum in London.
Mrs Newton, who organised the flotilla, said: ?It was absolutely brilliant ? nothing went wrong, the weather was brilliant and I was blown over by the number of people who were there. There was a really good atmosphere.?
There was entertainment on the bandstand in Mill Meadows with performances from 17-year-old singer Molly Liddell and rock band The Merge. The bandstand was decorated with felt flowers made by children from Watlington and Nettlebed primary schools.
Chelsea Fringe has been held in London for the last three years but has now branched out with events across the country.
Ms Macfarlane-Duckworth said: ?It?s not affiliated to the flower show but it runs with the support of it and is meant to be a bit more inclusive. I feel privileged that people made such a big effort to make their boats look really beautiful. The flowers were local, in season and there for all to see.
?We feel we?re very privileged to live in area with such a fantastic resource as the river. We wanted to highlight that with the flotilla.?
A number of other events will be held before the festival ends on on June 6.
For more information, visit www.facebook.com/chelseafringehenley