Matlock Boxing Day raft race set to return for 60th anniversary after two years high and dry

After two years high and dry, the famous Matlock Bath Boxing Day raft event is returning to the Derwent for its 60th anniversary and businesses up and down the river are getting ready to welcome the crowds.

By Ed Dingwall
Thursday, 23rd December 2021, 9:46 am

The event was cancelled due to flooding in 2019 and Covid in 2020, and despite more choppy conditions in 2021 the volunteers who organise it have managed to keep things afloat.

A flotilla of around 40 rafts is expected to launch near Cawdor quarry in Matlock at 10am.

Event spokesman Terry Radford, who will be navigating his own crew along the river, said: “Everything looked fine in August. We were out of Covid restrictions and our plans all agreed. Then the quarry developer went into receivership and Willersley Castle was sold, suddenly had to renegotiate access to the launch and landing sites.

The raft event has been a Boxing Day tradition in Matlock Bath for 60 years.

“Thankfully it’s all sorted, the weather forecast means the water level should be fine. We know the new variant is in play but we’re not expecting a lockdown before Boxing Day.”

All that will come as good news to shops, pubs and restaurants who will welcome a boost to trade amid new Covid uncertainties.

Terry said: “It’s wonderful to be bringing it back and we’ve had a great response. All the businesses are looking forward to it.

“It usually attracts thousands of spectators all the way down to Cromford. It’s such a unique event and a good family day out.”

He added: “We’ve done risk assessments for our insurance, and everyone taking part will be expected to comply with whatever Covid guidelines are in place.”

Although its the event’s 60th year it will only be the 57th race, but in all that time it has raised around £200,000 for the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) and charity volunteers will again be out on the day collecting for its lifesaving work.

The Derbyshire 4x4 Rescue Group will be serving as martials, and will help people to clean up litter afterwards. There is a tradition of spectators firing water pistols at rafts, but people will once again be asked to refrain from throwing eggs, flower bombs and other objects which would pollute the river.

The awards ceremony will begin at the Fishpond pub at 1.30pm. For all the latest updates, see