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Shaldon Water Carnival? Shall do!

Some people love carnivals; others never miss a regatta, but only the Shaldon Water Carnival caters to both tastes! This crazy day on the water takes over the small coastal village of Shaldon every year on the first Saturday in August.
Some people love carnivals; others never miss a regatta, but only the Shaldon Water Carnival caters to both tastes! This crazy day on the water takes over the small coastal village of every year on the first Saturday in August.

Organisers have had plenty of practice at making this traditional family fun day a great success; after all, it has been going for over 50 years! It combines all the colour and fun of a carnival complete with floats, music and costumes, but these floats will actually be afloat!

Getting to Shaldon Water Carnival

Shaldon is not on the usual tourist trail. This picturesque waterfront village in right on the banks of the Teign estuary, just across the water from the better-known holiday resort of . A historic ferry service runs between the two places and is the best way to reach Shaldon for this crowded event.

You will find plenty of car parking on the outskirts of Teignmouth, then enjoy a pleasant walk down through the shops to the harbour and back beach neat the Lifeboat House. The ferry provides a continual service from Teignmouth to Shaldon during the carnival. Charges are currently £1.50 for adults, 70p for children, and dogs and bicycles go free.

When you see this delightful passenger ferry boat you will certainly believe it is the oldest operating passenger ferry in Britain. Long may it continue!

Water Carnival Royal Party

It seems like everyone in the community pitches in to help make this carnival one of the highlights of the summer in South Devon. People come from far and wide to enjoy this unique event. One of the highlights is the boat-float carrying the Water Carnival Queen and her attendants which include a king and princesses. They are usually pupils from the local Shaldon Primary School, as the royal party must live in the Parish of Shaldon or Ringmore and be in Year 6 to apply.

Originally the Carnival was ruled by King Neptune who was usually a local fishermen, but it seemed that there were more willing young ladies wanting to fill the role than hardy sea dogs, so after two years Neptune abdicated in favour of his prettier rivals.

Although the royal party are provided with beautiful dresses and crowns, they invariably do get their feet wet at some stage during the event.

Carnival floats at the Shaldon Water Carnival

Crowds gather to see the somewhat unorthodox carnival procession of beautifully decorated boats and floats. They are all made locally during the winter and spring ready to be launched on the big day. The crews represent many different local groups including businesses, schools and social groups.

The floats are always colourful and reflect the huge amount of time and talent that goes into staging the event. I have seen floats apparently built out of Lego, pirate ships, giant yellow ducks that have clearly outgrown any bathtub, cars and a host of other floating novelties.

Once the parade is over, everyone gathers on the beach and waterfront for games, stalls, face painting, rides, food and activities. Some great educational activities are organised for youngsters on a maritime theme such as drawing or identifying a collection of crabs.

It’s hard to describe what makes such a simple event so enjoyable. You’ll just have to visit for yourself – you’ll have a great time!

Calling all Shaldon Water Carnival fans! Have you been part of the floating carnival? We’d like to hear what you think was the most unusual or original boat-float you have ever seen. Do share it with us.

About Gillian Birch

Born in Cheshire, Gillian Birch moved to Cornwall at her earliest opportunity and never looked back. After 20 years, her ongoing discovery of popular attractions, quiet footpaths and local eateries has made her a fount of knowledge as she entertains readers with her informative articles on the hidden gems of Devon & Cornwall from a local point-of-view.

Find Gillian on Google+, and Twitter.

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