Regrets as Bewdley Duck Race called off in washout

Organisers of Bewdley Duck Race today spoke of their sadness at having to cancel the popular event for the first time in its history following weeks of heavy rain.

The annual event, which sees people race plastic ducks along the River Severn, has been called off because of rising water levels.

It comes as forecasters warned of more heavy wind and rain throughout today and tonight. However, the start of 2013 is expected to bring some much-desired respite, with weeks of almost relentless downpours expected to end tomorrow, replaced by cloud, dull skies and light showers.

But the heavy rain overnight and throughout today means the Environment Agency still has 202 flood alerts and 86 flood warnings in place in areas where the ground is already saturated and rivers and groundwater levels are still high.

Bewdley Duck Race has been running for more than a decade, organised by Kidderminster and District Lions Club. Spokesman Colin Hill said: “It’s very unfortunate but we cannot allow the canoeists to go out.

“And we need them to collect the ducks otherwise we would pollute the river.”

Last year the race attracted more than 800 entrants and thousands of spectators who gathered along Bewdley Bridge and Severnside South.

The Environment Agency said the river level at Bewdley is currently at 3.68 metres, compared to its usual 0.21-3.30m range. Only last week, the agency started to erect the flood barriers on Severnside North as water levels on the Severn began to rise.

Today’s flood warnings follow hundreds of other alerts issued this month, as several days’ worth of rain fell in a few hours at its worst, contributing to a year of bad weather which has left the UK on the brink of its wettest since records began in 1910.