The Runnymede Rivers and Waterways Celebration was launched by the Mayor of Runnymede, Cllr Iftikhar Chaudhri at Chertsey Museum on 24th March. During his address the museum curator, Emma Warren, mentioned Chertsey and Shepperton Regatta and Egham Regatta, the two local regattas which both have a long history and to illustrate this fact there was a display of memorabilia from Egham Regatta. Egham Regatta started in 1909 and was first held on the reach above Bell Lock where it is still held today. At the very first Egham Regatta there were races for rowing, punting, canoeing and swimming, entertainment was provided by the Egham and Englefield Green Public Brass Band and large crowds thronged the river bank by Randalls Varnish Works.
Egham Regatta is to this day a very popular regatta that has even attracted crews from overseas. It still takes place over the traditional 650 metre course from upstream of Bell Weir Lock next to the Runnymede On Thames Hotel, to the finish adjacent to Wraysbury Skiff and Punting Club. This year the Egham Regatta starts at 8.30am on Sunday 1st July 2018.
Over the years local companies and other supporters have donated various trophies to be awarded to winning rowers. These days all winners receive a tankard and the handsome Silver Rose Bowl is presented to the Victor Ludorum, the school or club winning the most races on the day.
Howard Lawes, Secretary for the Egham Regatta exhibited a small display of trophies, programmes and documents associated with the regatta and said “These memorabilia provide an interesting insight into the fascinating history and development of Egham Regatta into what is now one of the largest sporting events in the Borough of Runnymede”.
The two world wars stopped the Egham Regatta and it only re-commenced on a regular basis in 1955. By 1978 skiffing and punting was reintroduced as the Egham Regatta Association was now largely formed of members of the nearby Wraysbury Skiff & Punting Club (WSPC) who continue to host the event to this day. Until very recently Egham Regatta has been the only regatta in the country that still provides racing events for rowing, skiffing and punting. However the huge growth in popularity of rowing following British success for both men and women at Olympic Games has meant that this year’s regatta will have rowing races only, but in excess of 200 races on the day. WSPC will continue to host skiffing and punting regattas at other times.
Have you seen TJ Lane’s incredible film about the waterways and rivers of Runnymede yet? You can catch it on the big screen at many of the events being held as part of the celebrations, or watch it right now for free on youtube!
Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936) At Runnymede, at Runnymede, What say the reeds at Runnymede? The lissom reeds that give and take, That bend so far, but never break, They keep the sleepy Thames awake
The River Thames flows along the Northern boundary of the borough of Runnymede. Residents, schools, Royal Holloway University, community groups and charities are organising a programme of river events and activities for people to enjoy during 2018. The programme starts with an exhibition on the rivers in Runnymede at Chertsey Museum from 24th March 2018. The new exhibition, which will run until Autumn 2018,. charts the important role rivers have played in human development since prehistoric times, providing natural defences, means of travel, trade, and social pursuits.
The Runnymede part of the Thames contains an eyot, or small island, named Truss’s Island. The island is a park and has a picnic area, maintained by Runnymede Borough Council. There is a free car park with access to fishing platforms for disabled and able-bodied anglers. Charles Truss worked for the City of London as Clerk of Works to the Worshipful Committee of Navigation. He was appointed in 1774 with the task of improving navigation on the river and improved the locks, banks and dredged the River Thames between London and Staines. Charles Truss retired when he was 82 years old in 1810.
A short film has been produced by T J Lane-Walker showing the seasons during the year on the River Thames, Wey and tributaries, and the people who live, work and base their leisure activities on the waterways. There are still river people who pass on their skills to their children like Michael Dennett who has spent 60 years building boats on the River Thames and is passing on his business to his son Stephen on the 30 year anniversary of the boatyard. Michael started in boat building when he was 15 years old, as a general assistant at Horace Clarke’s Boatyard in Sunbury. Then he was offered an apprenticeship at Walton Yacht works, moving on to 72ft motor torpedo boats for the Royal Navy. His apprenticeship was finally completed at George Wilsons boat yard in Sunbury. When Michael was 22 years old, he became self employed, initially working out of the back of a van. Then as his reputation grew he rented a shed, before launching his own boat yard in 1988 with son Stephen who has inherited his father’s expertise working timber in to boats.
From the riverside yard at Chertsey, the Dennett family care for a wide range of vintage vessels from small crafts such as Slipper and Gibbs launches to much larger vessels, including a number of boats from the Dunkirk Little Ship fleet.
There are other river businesses with a long history with the Thames such as Chertsey Meads Marine boat builders, Bates Wharf, French Brothers boats who ferry passengers along the Thames, Penton Hook Yacht Club, Staines Sailing Club, Bell Weir Boats. New micro businesses are using the river location too, such as Thames Side Brewery producing beer, and using the River Thames as inspiration for their beer names.
Then there are the future Olympians such as the Rowing Team from Sir William Perkins’s School, Chertsey practising for their next competition.
The River Wey in Runnymede is mainly canal to enable transport between London and Guildford by barge. On the River Wey at Addlestone is Cox’s Lock where water mills, were used in the production of iron in 1776, then flour in the 1830s and finally silk weaving. The mill is now homes for residents.
The other tributaries include the River Bourne, which runs through Virginia Water Lake, Wentworth Lake where there are mandarin ducks, as well as indigenous wildlife.
Water safety is extremely important along the rivers and Surrey Fire and Rescue have a special team that operate along the River Thames and the waterways.