Friday, December 26, 2008
After the starbright evening of a Christ Mass most decidedly not filled with snow – or even frost – this morning was delightful in the extreme. A little chilly still, but the sun shone warmly from a startling blue sky.
Laverstone’s traditional Boxing Day raft race usually draws a decent crowd but today’s sunshine brought the people out in droves, along with assorted burger vans and tea stands. Even the two chippies were open and doing a roaring trade.
The challenge, for those foolish enough to take it, is to build a raft that will survive the vagaries of the river Lavers from Laverstone Woods to Pennscombe Weir – a distance of around four miles. The first mile or so is relatively calm if the river is more than three feet deep but as the boaters approach the town the river drops forty feet in a series of rapids, goes through the town and then finishes the race another mile downstream, on the other side of the weir.
If the river is high, swelled with rain or snowmelt, the rapids are east to traverse but the bridge under Low Pavement becomes starved of headroom. If the river is too low, the viaduct is easy to navigate but the rapids are full of rocks. Add to that the danger of the weir and the public – who are generally armed with flour bombs, water pistols and eggs – and the race become a losing battle for anyone of a sensitive nature.
Today, the river was at a perfect height, making the race perfectly manageable. The people were another problem but then, they always are.