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A guide to the Thames Traditional Boat Festival

The Thames Traditional Boat Festival, or “The Trad”, will be held over three days from Friday 15th – Sunday 17th July at Fawley Meadows, Henley-on-Thames. 

The festival is a celebration of all that's great in boatbuilding and craftsmanship and is back this year and bigger than ever, with a range of attractions on the water, in the air and on the land. 

The yearly get together is perfect for those who appreciate an older, traditionally built craft. Started 37 years ago, it put an end to these boats slowly rotting from neglect on the river Thames, and is now an event that attracts attention worldwide. 

Not only a day for boat lovers, but for family alike, as it has flourished into a place where many different trades and events are displayed. This year will feature the largest display of traditional boats in Europe – so it’s not an event to be missed! 

What is a traditional boat?

For those unfamiliar, a traditional boat is a specific type of boat that incorporates traditional craft skills and materials in their manufacturing. To be allowed in the festival, a boat’s hull must be made of wood, riveted steel or iron, or canvas - but aside from that, the range of boats on display are nearly endless.

Petrol, steam, human-power, vintage, family cruisers, rowing boats - you name it. There is also a ‘special interest’ class for boats with a special historical or constructional interest, so you are likely to see unique and extraordinary boats.

The event takes place at Henley-on-Thames, voted by The Times as one of the best places to live in the English countryside. The beauty of its surroundings is fitting to the beauty and character of the boats displayed there. A town full of history and personality, it makes for a pleasant day out, and, fingers crossed for the weather, a picnic is well enjoyed alongside the river.

What to expect at the festival

Over the three day event, there will be an abundance of activities to keep you occupied. You will have the opportunity to gaze at the Dunkirk “Little Ships” of WW2, admire traditional wooden boats, or ride “Alaska”, the Victorian passenger steamer. If you’re interested in the boat building process, it will be live in action during the event for you to watch and learn.

Aside from boats, the event offers the opportunity to view vintage motorcycles and cars, and even see the “Amphicar” of the 1960s (a car for the water). A pop up pub and lamb roast will keep you full and ready for everything the day has to offer, and there will also be clothing stools to browse over in between events.  

It’s clear that there is a lot going on during the festival, so click here for an extensive list to plan out your weekend! The event runs from 9am until midnight on the Saturday, and 9am until 6:15 on the Sunday, when it is time to sail off back home. 

It’s ‘aboat’ time you purchased your ticket, so for more details, see the website: www.tradboatfestival.com


Any views or opinions expressed in this briefing are for guidance only and are not intended as a substitute for appropriate professional guidance. We have taken all reasonable steps to ensure the information contained herein is accurate at the time of writing but it should not be regarded as a complete or authoritative statement of law.