Ducks in the mud

Duck races have become a popular fund-raising event, and we have had them at Staines where I live, with ducks released into the River Colne which flows fast onto its final descent into the Thames where the race ends by the Riverside Gardens. Kayakers on the Thames ensure that no ducks escape to add to the plastic pollution on the river. People, groups and families pay for a duck with their number on and the race generates a little excitement (and perhaps some minor gambling) as well as raising money for charity.

The duck race on Bow Creek, organised by people from Cody Dock was rather more ambitious, if not foolhardy. Water flows in with the tide and then out, with the river flow from the Lea being a relatively small component of the total. And approaching slack water, when the ducks were thrown into the river from the bridge at Twelvetrees Crescent, the current is rather slow with just a shallow depth of water with probably deeper mud along its sides.

The plastic ducks moved slowly in the stream, and made considerable sideways movement due to a slight breeze from the west, sitting as they do largely above water, their necks and bodies acting as a sail and with no keel to restrain their leewards drift towards the mud bank below the Leaway along the east side of the creek. Perhaps had there been a strong northerly it could have worked, but the prevailing wind is from the west.

Two canoes had come upriver to supervise the event, and had grounded on a small sandbank a couple of hundred yards downstream. A figure emerged from one of them and began wading up the creek towards the stranded ducks carrying a paddle, and as he became closer I recognised him as Simon from Cody Dock.

Simon began to use the paddle to flick the ducks back into the stream, working from front to back of the line. But by the time he got to the last duck (and there were a great many of them) the first were back on the mud again. I watched for a few minutes as the ducks made slow progress down river but by the time they had made perhaps a hundred yards from the start with around a thousand still to go I had to leave as I wanted to be at other events in the centre of London.

Walking along the Leaway towards Cody Dock I went past several small groups of people waiting for the ducks to arrive, and in front of the dock along the finish line were two catchers standing in the water waiting to declare the winners and to fish them all from the water with a canoe beyond to stop any escaping. It seemed unlikely that any would reach them before the tide turned and took them back up towards Stratford. But I didn’t wait around to see what happened, and although you can read the publicity for the Duck Race on the Cody Dock web site, I don’t think there is any mention of what actually happened – perhaps the next newsletter will tell us.

More pictures: Cody Dock Duck Race .


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.


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