Police swoop on Cotsworld village to halt charity rubber duck race

June 22, 2016 | by | 0 Comments

Police swooped on a picturesque Cotswold village after snooty locals complained about charity fundraisers holding a rubber DUCK RACE.

Officers descended on Bourton-on-the-Water, Gloucestershire, to break up the charity event which was raising money for a local branch of Blood Bikes.

The charity is made up of volunteer riders who operate a free blood and medical equipment delivery service to NHS facilities 24 hours a day.

But fundraisers ran into hot water when they held a charity duck race in the village on Sunday (19/6) afternoon.

Minutes after around 100 rubber ducks were launched into the River Windrush, which snakes through the centre of the village, a resident called police.

According to an ancient bylaw, the river and the village green cannot be used on Sundays for fundraising purposes.

Bizarrely, the only group allowed to hold an event on a Sunday is a brass band.

Duck races held in Bourton-on-the-Water (Gloucestershire Echo / SWNS)

Duck races held in Bourton-on-the-Water (Gloucestershire Echo / SWNS)

Officers from Gloucestershire Police ordered the organisers to halt the event or risk arrest.

Stunned onlookers said the dramatic scenes looked “like something out of the film Hot Fuzz.”

Sales manager Jonathan Dixon, 45, from Cheltenham, Glos., took his two young sons to watch the duck race.

He said: “It was bonkers. Everyone was having a great time and the kids were chasing after the ducks as they went down the river.

“Suddenly a police car came along and two officers went over and talked to some chaps who were running the event.

“The event was abandoned after the first few races. Apparently the races broke some old bylaw and the villagers got upset and someone called the police.

“I have to say it soured the whole day. Talk about using a sledgehammer to crack a nut. The officers looked pretty embarrassed about it and I can understand why.

“It was like something out of the film Hot Fuzz. Surely the cops have got better things to do than stop a rubber duck race in the Costwolds.”

Bourton-on-the-Water parish council bye-laws (SWNS)

Bourton-on-the-Water parish council bye-laws (SWNS)

But business owners in the village, nicknamed “Little Venice”, stood by their decision to call police.

Carol Teece, 61, the former chamber of commerce who runs Duttons gift shop in the High Street, said: “The bylaws are in place for a reason and must be respected.

“The parish council is responsible for the upkeep of the river and the village green.

“This means every time a child pulls out the stones from the river or a someone leaves rubbish on the green the parish council pick up the bill.

“This group who wanted to hold the duck race had not asked for permission before they just turned up.

“The bikes were left all over the green and several revved their engines which was extremely upsetting.”

Another local resident, who did not want to be named, added: “Sunday was Father’s Day and there were lots of families enjoying an afternoon in the village.

“Their peace was completely shattered by dozens of bikers in heavy leathers invading the village and chucking a load of rubber ducks in the river.

“It is frankly unfair to expect the villagers to put up with such nonsense from these undesirables who ruin the peace and quiet and then accuse us of being kill-joys.”

Bourton on the Water (SWNS)

Bourton on the Water (SWNS)

Yesterday the village’s Chamber of Commerce defended reporting the group to the police.

A spokesperson said: “It is against village bylaws to park any vehicle on the green however a number of motorcycles were parked on the grass.

“The village green and river bed are under the jurisdiction of the Parish Council and are maintained with the financial support of the business community.

“Use of the green and river for the weekend’s event was not applied for.

“Even when applied for, local organisations are not able to use the village green for fundraising events on a Sunday.

“Lots of charities and organisations use the village green and river for events and are welcome to do so when adhering to the guidelines and obtaining the relevant permissions.”

Despite officers being called and asking organisers to stop running a series of races, £518 was raised for the charity.

A spokesman for Midland Freewheelers Blood Bikes said: “We rely on donations.

“The duck race is an annual event and a lot of money is always raised for us, for which we are very grateful.

“We understand the event did go ahead on Sunday but there were also issues raised by some about the rules on running such events.

“I haven’t heard if they will be able to put on the event next year or not.”

Gloucestershire Constabulary confirmed they were called to the village.

A spokeswoman said: “At about 2.45pm on Sunday 19 June, 2016, police responded to a complaint that a number of motorbikes were parked on the village green, contravening a local bylaw protecting the site.

“An officer asked the riders to move their bikes, which they kindly did.

“Organisers of the duck race were given advice about guidelines and permissions governing the staging of events on the green.”

The bylaw banning groups from using the village green and the River Windrush are covered by section 8 of the Local Government Act 1894.

The rules state: “A person shall not wilfully obstruct, disturb, interrupt, or annoy any other person in the proper use the ground.”

Despite not mentioning ducks – real or not – the bylaw says: “A person shall not except in pursuance of a lawful agreement with the council, or otherwise in the exercise of any lawful right or privilege bring or cause to be brought on to the ground any beast or draught or burden or any cattle, sheep, goat or pigs.”

The rules also threaten to fine anyone “five pounds” for breaching the bylaws.

In 1966, the council added another 15 rules to cover holding events on the village green and river.

It states: “Sunday lettings will only be considered under exceptional circumstances and will be subject to majority council approval.”

A council spokesperson said: “On Sundays the only groups expected to be given permission to use the green are brass bands to enable visitors and residents one day of peace when they can enjoy some music without being bothered by fundraisers.”

The rules also outlaw merry-go-rounds, bouncy castles, fun fair rides, fires and barbecues.

There were 100 numbered ducks which were dropped from Mill Bridge, built in 1654, and then ‘raced’ to Bourton Bridge, built in 1806, which is almost 100m down river.

The winning duck was the first to emerge from under the archway which was picked by children running after the rubber toys in the 1ft-deep water.

Prizes ranged from cakes to motorcycle memorabilia.

The charity duck race has taken place twice before but on previous occasions were held on Saturdays or on Bank Holidays which have more flexible rules for fundraising.

Around 100 bikers in full leathers attended the event but most, including some elderly and disabled riders, who arrived in cars.

Five races took place before the police arrived, understood to be a PCSO in a patrol car.

Steven Flett, who videoed the race for Spitfire MCC motorcycle club who organised the
event, said: “It was a fun, family day with a great atmosphere.

“The organisers managed to get a few races in and race some money before the police arrived.

“It was an unfortunate end to the day because everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves.

“There were about 100 bikers in the village but only really a handful of bikes because a lot of those where came along were disabled or elderly and had been taken in cars.”

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