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Derwent Water Regatta raises awareness of invasive species

The regatta team show the effect of the invasive New Zealand Pigmyweed on lake users – credit National Trust / Stuart Holmes. L-R: Katy Moore, Derwentwater Independent Hostel; Gareth Field, Outdoor Programme Manager for the Lake District, National Trust; Jessie Binns, Visitor Experience Manager North Lakes, National Trust; Penny Webb, Countryside Manager North Lakes, National Trust.

[K]ing Pocky’s Derwent Water Regatta will take place on Crow Park, Keswick on Saturday 8 and Sunday 9 July offering watersports for beginners and free family activities on the open access parkland, but this year there’s a serious message behind all the fun and splashing about.

The National Trust team behind the event are using the occasion to highlight the problem of invasive species in our lakes and rivers that can threaten our Cumbrian wildlife, and can easily hitch a lift from one lake to another on people’s canoes, wetsuits, rubber dinghies or even dogs.

Penny Webb, Countryside Manager for the North Lakes said: “New Zealand Pigmyweed was first spotted in Derwent Water in the 1990s and has since spread to other lakes in the Lake District. It forms dense mats on the lake bed and can stop our native water plants from thriving, unchecked it could even threaten the survival of the Vendace – the UK’s rarest freshwater fish, which lives in Derwent Water. We’d like everyone to come along and have fun at the regatta and then to check, clean and dry their kit before swimming or paddling elsewhere. Let’s spread the word, not the weed!”

This is particularly key this year as for the first time, swimming races are forming part of the event. Epic Swim are holding a one mile and a 3.8km swimming race, but also for people who are new to open water swimming, there’s a 500m swimming race where people can try the sport for the first time and see if it’s for them.

Jo McWilliams, from Epic Events who are running the swimming races says; “It’s the freedom of open water swimming that I love. You can lie on your back in the middle of the lake and you’re surrounded by mountains. You can’t get that in a pool.”

In keeping with the spirit of the event, inspired by the original regattas of the 1780s that were started by ‘King Pocky’ – the resident of Derwent Island – which included horse swimming races and mock battles on the lake, all the activity providers are looking to encourage complete beginners to discover a love of a new sport.

On the water there will be taster sessions for canoes, kayaks, stand up paddle boards, sailing dinghies, catamaran and Viking longship run by PlattyPlus, Derwent Water Marina and Calvert Trust.

On dry land there will be 5k, 13k and 21k trail races run by High Terrain Events, and a one mile Derwent Water Dash around Crow Park for beginners.

Free family activities to get close views of our native water minibeasts, some of which are threatened by the spread of invasive species, and a twist on a traditional coconut shy where families are encouraged to take aim at some of the invaders threatening our native wildlife, will help communicate the serious message in a light-hearted way.

There will also be traditional fairground rides, live entertainment and a bar and BBQ provided by the National Trust team from Sticklebarn, with acoustic music beside the campfire into the evening.

For more information see www.nationaltrust.org.uk/derwentregatta

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