[O]nce upon a time a new rowing club in the Lake District decided to enter the Great Tyne Row. It just happened to be the 150th anniversary year of Beatrix Potter.
And so the North East braced itself to welcome a team of Puddle Ducks and Tiggy Winkles from Windermere Rowing Club on Saturday 27th August.
It’s the first time newly-formed Windermere Rowing Club has taken crews to the 25km long-distance race, which is organised by British Rowing.
Fiona Marley Paterson, Chairman of Windermere Rowing Club said: “We’re the only rowing club in South Cumbria, and only the second in the Lake District so we’re extremely proud to be from South Lakeland and hope to bring a little bit of the Lake District wherever we compete. Beatrix Potter is synonymous with Lakeland so the team costumes were an easy choice. What hasn’t been so easy is the hours and hours that Annie has put into making sure our costumes are worthy of Beatrix’s beautiful illustrations!”
As a new club, the rowers will try their best to do the area proud and represent South Cumbria for the first time at the competition but there’s one prize they’re coveting above all others: the prize for best fancy dress.
In recognition of Beatrix Potter’s 150th birthday, one team will sport the garb of Jemima Puddle-Duck, complete with a basket of eggs on the front of the boat, while the other team will be dressed as hedgehogs styled on Mrs Tiggy Winkle, with an iron strapped to the bow.
Annie Rawlinson, who will be one of the rowers competing at the race for Windermere Rowing Club said: “Get out the flags and bunting! What better way for Windermere Rowing Club to celebrate! A crew of Puddle Ducks, complete with beaks and bonnets and in the second boat, Tiggy Winkles with their cute mop caps and sniffling little rodenty snouts. I wonder, will the nine greeny-white duck eggs hatch before we reach the finish line? With a washing basket on board and 25km to the North Shields Fish Quay, perhaps the Tiggys will get chance to finish that ironing after all!”
Windermere Rowing Club is based at Fell Foot Park, a National Trust site and since Beatrix Potter has a close connection with the conservation charity and left her farms and land to the organisation, the club felt it was appropriate to bring a little Potter magic to the Great Tyne Row.
Just as Beatrix donated her land to the charity, Windermere Rowing Club has been helped in its early days starting up as a club. Its latest help comes from the only other Lake District rowing club, Lakeland Rowing Club, which has loaned its trailer so the teams can take their boats to Newcastle.
Liz Ashburn, Captain of Windermere Rowing Club said: “We’re extremely grateful for Lakeland Rowing Club’s support. Without a trailer, we wouldn’t have been able to get to the race so this has made eight rowers very happy! We began as an offshoot of Lakeland Rowing Club and always vowed we’d stay friends – it’s great to see that friendship in action and we hope one day to be able to repay the favour.”
The club hopes this will be the first of many races as South Lakeland District Council has given the club a grant to buy its own trailer. It’s on order and though it couldn’t arrive in time for this race, it will allow the club to compete at more and more races in the future.