A RANGE of boats decorated with flowers and vines took a voyage on the River Thames in Henley to mark the start of an alternative gardening festival.
Passers-by stopped to watch from the banks as kayaks, motor boats and even rowing boats took to the water for the second annual floral flotilla for the Chelsea Fringe Henley on Saturday.
Despite the bad weather, 15 boats turned up for the event, with crews wearing floral headpieces and clothes with a flower theme.
The boats went from Mill Meadows upstream to Marsh Lock before turning around and making their way under Henley Bridge. They turned again at Phyllis Court Club before returning to Mill Meadows.
Henley Mayor Julian Brookes was on the lead boat, Daughter of Elrond, with his wife Gabriele. The boat was taking part on behalf of the Teenage Wilderness Trust.
Deputy Mayor Will Hamilton’s slipper Topsilk became the official Henley in Bloom boat for the day.
The boat had a yellow bee theme and was decorated with potted plants and leaves with help from pub company Brakspear, which sponsors Henley in Bloom.
Nine-year-old Oscar Newton, whose mother Victoria organised the event, was in his kayak, which he had decorated with laurel and cow parsley from the garden of his home in Peppard Common.
The 1st Henley Brownies were on a boat called Magic Maisie which had a red, white and blue theme and the girls waved mini Union flags.
David and Sarah Blomfield, from Shiplake, decorated their motor boat, Cygnet, with more than 50 pots of flowers.
Also on board was daughter Evie and their dog Boris while the boat pulled their other daughters, Amelie and Lucy, and Georgia Newton behind them in a canoe decorated with wisteria.
There was also a boat from Babylon Flowers, of Watlington, while Henley residents Peter and Fiona Jennings decorated their wooden canoe, Dipper.
Cllr Brookes said: “I really enjoyed it. I thought there were some great displays on the boats and lots of young people were there.
“The good thing about the flotilla is that it’s open to everybody, you can just turn up and take part.
“I was doing a lot of waving while we were out and most people waved back! Thankfully, the rain held off, although it was quite windy on the north side of the bridge.”
The flotilla was the first event of this year’s Chelsea Fringe, a three-week festival celebrating gardening to coincide with the Chelsea Flower Show.
During the event, four young musicians from Acoustics@Magoos entertained the spectators in Mill Meadows. Maya Rees, Daisy Willow, Jake Molloy and Lottie Bell performed a set on the bandstand.
Maggie Atkinson, of Acoustics@Magoos, said: “They are all incredible talents and they were stunning on the day.
“I was delighted with how they did and they were too. It’s a really valuable experience for them and they did a fantastic job.”
Organiser Mrs Newton said: “It went really well. I was nervous that the wet weather would put a dampener on things but everybody got there on time and we had a really good turnout.
“We had a couple of rowing boats from Phyllis Court Club. Last year they weren’t able to take part so it was really nice that they could find two boats this time.
“We’ve had really great support from the town council so it was great to see the Mayor and Deputy Mayor. Everybody had a great time and it was a good start to the festival.”
The festival is endorsed by the Royal Horticultural Society and holds events across the region.
For more information, visit www.chelseafringe.com/events/Â category/uk/henley-on-thames