May Day is always a great day for old-fashioned and traditional activities. This year we went to the village of Shoreham in Sevenoaks to watch their annual duck race, it was so much fun and was a very quintessentially English Bank Holiday – made even more so by a downpour of rain!
There aren’t a lot of rules at the Shoreham Duck Race so you can enter any kind of duck that you want or you can go with the easy option and buy a duck there. We decided to buy a duck there and so we picked from a bucket of orphan ducks – rubber ducks from the previous year that had not been collected. Once we had made our selections, we decorated them with marker pens and in my case, a pink ribbon.
We filled in ‘Quick Quack Registration’ forms and took our little duck family to the registration desks to be entered into the race.
While our ducks were warming up, we wandered around Shoreham village.
Our tummies and noses were soon drawn to the smell of a barbecue at the village pub. The outside area was full of excited families having a drink and some food before the race started.
The sun was shining and we sat on a bench outside enjoying the most delicious burgers.
It was soon time for the race so we headed back to the bridge and found a spot to watch the countdown.
Before the race started, awards were handed out for the best duck. As there were no restrictions on the kind of duck entered, there was a huge variety of shapes and sizes on the starting line. My favourite was the duck shaped loaf of bread, although there is something a little cannibalistic about duck bread.
Once the organisers ensured that all of the ducks were laid out and the prizes were given out, it was time for the ‘duckmaster’ to come in and give a quick talk on the history of the race and to remind everyone that all proceeds go into maintaining the river.
It was soon time for the 10 second count down.
Everyone cheered and whistled as the planks of wood were brought up and the ducks set off.
It was precisely this moment that the skies opened and what felt like a month’s worth of rain fell down in the space of 5 minutes.
Everyone walked down by the river to follow the ducks and there were shrieks and giggles from the crowds as people tried to shelter from the rain under trees. It was so funny, the rain made the whole thing feel that bit more eccentric and British. Although I did feel sorry for the families we passed attempting to have picnics, and of course the owner of the bread duck as it became increasingly unlikely it would make it to the end.
Eventually the rain clouds lifted and the sun peeked through the trees on to the assortment of coloured rubber ducks and handmade creations below.
This was a relief for both the now soaked supporters on the sidelines and the duck volunteers who had the task of wading down the river and setting any ducks free that had got caught on sticks or leaves.
Our ducks didn’t win but they didn’t do too badly. We set off back down the river’s edge and I decided that I will come back in the Summer with Betty (my bike) and a picnic.
I absolutely love old English traditions and eccentricities and little villages are perfect for these kind of things. I now have a whole year to design a streamlined duck…I wonder if motor powered ducks are allowed?
I hope that everyone else had a lovely May Day whatever they were doing!