Big turn out for annual river battle

Ayton Tug of war'Ayton Sports v Ye Olde Forge Valley Inn'The Forge team take the strain'Picture by Neil Silk  130101b'01/01/13
Ayton Tug of war'Ayton Sports v Ye Olde Forge Valley Inn'The Forge team take the strain'Picture by Neil Silk 130101b'01/01/13
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For most people, the first morning of the year is usually spent nursing a rather bad hangover.

And for around a dozen foolhardy souls in Ayton, it’s no different. However, rather than reaching for the paracetamol or cooking a fry-up, they try and ease their headaches by pulling each other into the freezing River Derwent.

The reason? The annual charity tug of war competition, a traditional battle that has, according to locals, been fought out between two rival teams in the village since the 1970s.

Hundreds of spectators pack the river banks to watch the spectacle, with the crowd spilling onto the footbridge, all eager to catch a glimpse of the event.

Regulars from the Ye Old Forge Valley Inn and the Ayton Sports Association tangle in the test of strength, and the rules are simple - best out of three, with the losers taking a trip into the drink, and the winners enjoying bragging rights over their rivals for the next 12 months.

For the last four years, the Ye Old Forge Valley side have claimed victory. However, despite their poor form, captain Andy Holden insisted this year would be their year.

“We are going to stuff the pants off them!’ boasted Mr Holden before the tug.

“We’ve lost for the last four years, so this really is retribution time.”

He added that they had brought in several “young guns” to try and bolster their ranks, with the event stalwart adding that this could be his last year competing.

Many others taking part think that it could be time to hand over the rope to a younger generation.

Resident Paul Coole is a 15-year veteran of the event. He arrived at the river with his kit “just in case they need me”.

But despite the contest being fought in good spirits, he added everybody taking part still wants to avoid a plunge in the icy water.

“At the end of the day, a win is a win whatever it’s in. There’s pride at stake.”

“But we all really enjoy it. It’s a good laugh and it’s something to get us up and out of bed in the morning after a heavy night, plus everybody in the community comes out for it.”

The event, which helps raise funds for St Catherine’s Hospice, is refereed by Forge Valley Inn landlord Michael Jay-Hanmer, who also helped make up the numbers to pull his side to a 2-0 victory, sending their opponents into the river for their now customary dip.

It was the fifth victory in a row for the pub, and captain Pete Taylor praised his team for their efforts.

He said: “We had a good side this year, and they did well, but really it’s just a big laugh.”

Afterwards, his opposite number blamed flooding on his teams side of the river earlier in the year for their loss, adding that it was impossible to get their footing, and that he was making this year event his swan song.

“It really is time to hand it over to younger hands’, he added, before drying off and joining the rest of the participants in the pub.

But with the old guard seemingly retiring, Mr Jay-Hanmer feels that the future of the event, which attracts spectators from all over Scarborough and beyond, is safe.

“It will always go on. It’s a real tradition in this village and it’s not going away.

“I just hope that it’s carried on the way that it is now.”

For further coverage and pictures of the event, pick up The Scarborough News on Thursday.