Pictures From a Trip to the Trad

Motor-powered boats were in the majority at the 45th Thames Traditional Boat Festival (the TTBF or “The Trad”) held at Fawley Meadows, Henley-on-Thames on 15-17 July, but HTBS Types would have also found an eclectic collection of human-powered craft.

26 July 2022

By Tim Koch

Tim Koch makes the move from Berks to Bucks.

In 1993, the then Conservative Prime Minister, John Major, sought to reassure Eurosceptics in his party by saying that, despite European Union membership, “Fifty years on from now, Britain will still be the country of long shadows on county (cricket) grounds, warm beer, invincible green suburbs, dog lovers, and… old maids bicycling to Holy Communion through the morning mist.” 

Had Major wished to evoke “Britishness” in fewer words, he could have simply said that, “Fifty years from now, Britain will still hold the Thames Traditional Boat Festival.” On 16 July, I made my first visit to the “Trad” and found an event that was partly a village fete, partly a gathering of eccentrics and enthusiasts, and partly a summer picnic by the Thames. It could not have been more British had it been organised by the Queen, P.G. Wodehouse and Mary Poppins as they enjoyed afternoon tea while on a London bus. 

The three-day programme. The original boat-centred festival has expanded to include other non-aquatic British fascinations including dogs, veteran cars and militaria.
The skiff dock was the base for oar-powered craft.
As this extract from the programme explains, the TTBF is a labour of love by a small group of enthusiastic amateurs (“all with day-jobs”) who are motivated by altruism, not profit.

Propelled by sculls, paddles and poles

Hewers of wood

Michael Dougherty is typical of the many enthusiasts at the TTBF. The picture that he is holding shows his boat, Willow, in the state that he originally found it in. He paid £50 for the mahogany “Half Outrigged Whiff Gig” and restored it himself. Willow was originally built by Salters of Oxford in 1892.
Michael and Willow
The stand belonging to the International Boatbuilding Training College, Lowestoft, Suffolk. It offers a wide range of traditional boatbuilding and joinery courses together with shorter courses on woodworking skills and other maritime crafts.
Marcus Lewis is a traditional boat builder from Fowey in Cornwall who builds, restores, repairs and maintains wooden boats.
Do not go up certain creeks without one of these.

Motor Power

At the Trad…

Not all boats were made of wood.
Not all boats were just boats.
Not everything on display floated.
Finally, on a hot day there was no morning mist, but I would not be surprised if these bikes were waiting to take old maids to Holy Communion.


  1. Yes, a fabulous event & your great report emphasises the wonderful day I too had there.
    A must for 2023 for anyone interested in boats & the Thames at its best.

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