Cumbria Crack

National Trust Derwent Water Regatta brings quirky local history to life

Couple enjoying a canoe trip on Derwent water c. Rob Grange

[O]ffering a weekend of watersports, free family activities on land and live music, the Derwent water regatta, hosted by the National Trust, will return to Crow Park in Keswick on Saturday 7 and Sunday 8 July.

The first regatta on Derwent water was held in 1781 by the eccentric and wealthy landowner, Joseph Pocklington, who then invited locals to a rowing race round all four islands with a prize of seven guineas (over £1,000 today). The highlight was an armed fleet, complete with swivel guns and gunpowder but no shot, attacking Pocklington’s island.

In keeping with the spirit of the event, inspired by the original regattas of the 1780s that were started by ‘King Pocky’, all the activity providers are looking to encourage complete beginners to discover a love of a new sport.

Paddle boarding on Derwent water c. Paul Delaney

It gives everyone a chance to try something that they have never done before, or tick off a ‘bucket list’ experience, as Tom Burditt, the trust’s North Lakes General Manager explains: “Last year I booked one of the Calvert Trust’s sailing sessions with my family on board their accessible catamaran. Joining us, along with the skipper, was a woman and her elderly parents – it later turned out they were in their 80’s. As we were out on the water the woman revealed to us that she had bought the experience for her parents because they had always wanted to go sailing and had somehow never got round to doing it. This was a ‘bucket list’ experience for them, and the National Trust’s regatta had enabled them to get out onto the water under sail.’

“The couple didn’t say much, they just smiled for the entire hour that we were on the water, and followed the instructions of the skipper to pull on ropes to bring in sails, or to steer the boat. On a couple of occasions the wind picked up and the catamaran came alive with a jerk and a snap of the sail, bouncing over the waves and spray getting in all our faces, the wind in our hair. I remember in particular the twinkle that came into the man’s eyes when that happened. It was quite an afternoon!”

The Calvert Trust, Derwentwater Marina and PlattyPlus will be running low-cost taster sessions on the water for canoes, kayaks, stand up paddle boards, sailing dinghies, a catamaran and viking longship. Epic Swim will be running open water swimming activities and there is an evening canoe safari with a National Trust Ranger around the lake, discovering secret hidden areas.

On dry land there will be 5k, 13k and 21k trail races run by High Terrain Events. There will also be a live demonstration canon fire at midday in the spirit of the original regattas.

Free family activities include badminton, volleyball, frisbee golf and strider-bike races alongside live music and drama from local community choirs, a craft fair and living history demonstrations where children can become a ‘powder monkey’ in King George III’s navy and have a go at loading and firing a mock ship’s gun.

The National Trust team from Sticklebarn in Langdale will provide live entertainment and a bar and BBQ, with live acoustic music beside the campfire into Saturday evening.

For more information and to book onto the watersports and canoe safari, go to the National Trust website page at

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