The Wokingham Paper

Love a duck! Giant inflatable from Wargrave helps raise almost £9,000 for lifeboat charity RNLI

Lily the Duck on the River Thames, raising funds for the RNLI
Ros Fernley with Lily the duck

THE STEREOTYPE of a librarian is a fusty madam, with index finger constantly raised to sssssh! anyone who dares to whisper in their hallowed hall of books, but one Wargrave woman couldn’t be further from that – she owns a giant rubber duck and she’s not afraid to show it.

Ros Fernley, who has worked for Wokingham Borough Council for more than a decade, has been touring the River Thames with her yellow friend in a bid to raise funds for the lifeboat charity, the RNLI.

Working with friend Timothy Dodd-Wilson, they used a 30-year-old homemade raft and cabin (also referred to as a shed), powered by a small engine to take the 14ft tall inflatable on its river cruise.

The chose the RNLI to support because Timothy was in the coastal Cornwall town of Penlee when a disaster happened in 1981. The tragedy saw 16 people die when a lifeboat and its crew attempted to save the people on board a stranded boat during extreme weather. No-one on either vessel survived.

Ros, Timothy and ‘Big Duck’ (now known as Lily) began their journey in Wargrave, on Saturday, June 15, and went upstream to Lechlade before travelling back downstream to Teddington RNLI Lifeboat Station.

By the time they completed their challenge, ‘Big Duck’ had been under 43 different bridges, including 23 where it had to be deflated to fit underneath.

And they also visited Henley Royal Regatta and Henley Festival, which both take place on the banks of the river at Remenham in Wokingham borough.

They raised a staggering £8,824.51 for the RNLI, including £70 raised from a collection at Wargrave and Woodley libraries.

“Big Duck has been a regular at both Henley Regatta and Festival for the past three years and it always gets a lot of attention. This was a journey to make people smile and raise money at the same time,” Ros said. “Not many people would have seen a 14ft-tall duck before so people always want to take pictures or stop to look!

“I just loved seeing how much people smiled when they saw ‘Big Duck’! If other boats saw us on the river the skipper would go below and three people would ‘pop up’ to take pictures.

“We’ve had so many donations and so many people offering kindness in terms of giving us lifts to get petrol as well as monetary donations, including my colleagues at the libraries. The kindness and generosity we have experienced have really restored my faith in people.

“Many riverside dwellers and river users are already big supporters of the RNLI and they have also been very generous with donations. It also feels fantastic to see the public so willing to support a great cause. All the money raised will go towards helping people across the country and keeping them safe on our inland waterways and at sea.”

Donations are still welcomed by the team, visit

To see photos from the adventure, visit

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