We have to admit when we first saw this advertised we didn't have much of an idea what to expect. Henry VIII certainly knew how to cut it with the ladies, but we reckoned that a re-enactment of His Majesty's finest chat-up lines was unlikely, particularly in the middle of a river. It turns out that the Tudor Pull is run by the Thames Traditional Rowing Association and features crews of six oarsmen rowing historic Thames Cutter vessels in full regalia for a distance only marginally short of that pounded by runners in the London Marathon. Blogger Joe L explains:
Each year Her Majesty’s Watermen complete a marathon row from Hampton Court Palace to the Tower of London, a distance of some 25 miles. They do this to support the apprentices system of the trade of Thames Watermen and Lightermen and to draw attention to London’s greatest under used asset ~ The River Thames. They also commemorate events of 1256 when Queen Eleanor’s royal barge sank under the old London Bridge with the loss of one of her courtiers, the Lady of the Bedchamber.
Crews will arrive early this morning (Sunday 27th May) at Hampton Court Palace ready for the official start of proceedings at 10:20 when Her Majesty's Bargemaster and an escort of Royal Watermen (who incidentally earn a salary of £3.50) will process to the main gate of Hampton Court Palace to receive the ‘Stela’, made of from a slice of mediaeval elm water pipe, which they then take down the river in the Royal Shallop (or pleasure barge), "The Jubilant".
In total, five 34-foot long boats will set off from Hampton Court at 11am, spend fifteen minutes at Teddington Lock an hour later and arrive for a swift lunch at Richmond Boathouse at 1pm where they are joined by a further five cutters. At 1:30pm the flotilla sets off in a 3-1-3-3 formation that is likely to arouse Steve MacLaren's interest as he ponders how to prevent England being thrashed by the Brazilians at Wembley on Friday and, just like the national team boss, the Tudor Pull organisers are particularly concerned that everyone keeps together and plays as a team. The event is clearly billed as "a processional event, not a race".
At 3:30 the crews arrive at Millennium Tower Pier and dismbark. The Yeomen of the Guard meet them at 4pm and lead them inside to the ceremony of giving back to the Tower's governor the thing that he had specifically sent away to Hampton Court so that it could ceremonially be returned to him. Maybe that's what gave MacLaren the inspiration for the David Beckham recall.
We hope they get some half-decent weather for what sounds like a very praiseworthy attempt to keep one of our older traditions alive in a colourful and good-humoured way. Cheer them on if you see them and take advantage of the photo opportunities they're labouring hard to offer.
Photo of Hampton Court from the Thames via sara richards's Flickr stream.