CAMPAIGNERS hope the cancellation of a popular raft race because of pollution in the River Windrush will raise awareness of the waterway's plight.

Organisers of the Swinbrook and Asthall River Day decided not to run the much-loved competition at this year's event as the river is not of bathing quality.

The raft race is the star attraction of the biennial festivities, with participants often ending up in the water as they attempt to captain their bizarre crafts downstream.

The event's committee has targeted a return for the raft race in 2021 and have pledged to support the Windrush Against Sewage Pollution (WASP) campaign group's bid to clean up the river.

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WASP member, Ashley Smith, said: "We don’t want to ruin anybody’s fun, but we feel people shouldn’t be standing on the side of the river and asking if it’s safe for their kids to go in.

“I sense the water industry is changing and we know they can respond. Two years is plenty of time to get it sorted out."

He added: “Ordinary people have enjoyed that river for years, so it's good the information about its decline is out there so they can start to put the pressure on.”

The majority of Oxfordshire's eight major rivers, of which the Windrush is one, were classed in moderate or poor condition in 2016.

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WASP has previously posted photos comparing the 'healthy' river of just 20 years ago to the 'grey and dirty' Windrush today, with the decline caused by several factors.

The group has blamed Thames Water for allegedly overusing Combined Sewer Overflows (CSOs), which stop sewage backing up into homes in heavy rainfall, and is pushing for change.

Thames Water spoke to the River Day organisers before the raft race, but a spokesperson for the water giant confirmed it did not have the final say.

He said: “We take our responsibility to protect the environment very seriously.

"Discharge into the River Windrush comes from many sources and so, like many watercourses, it is not of bathing quality.

"However, the decision whether to hold an event on the river is down to the organiser.”

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The River Day took place on the banks of the Windrush on June 30 and raised money for Oxford children's hospice Helen & Douglas House.

Organisers replaced the raft race with water zorbing challenges, but the event's other main attraction, the duck race, went ahead.

Other traditional games, including Aunt Sally and Welly Wanging, also took place, while live music and food and drink was on offer throughout the day.