This year’s Great Knaresborough Bed Race will be held Saturday 10 June 2023
A full race field of 90 teams are lining up for this year’s Great Knaresborough Bed Race, which will be held on Saturday 10 June. The 2023 theme is ‘That’s Entertainment’ and the event promises to be at its entertaining best.
The days starts in the morning at Knaresborough Castle where the teams gather, decorate their beds and don their fancy dress. Judging of the Best Dressed Bed starts at 10.30 am and will be announced at around 12.30.
From 1.00 they parade through the town led by the winner of the Best Dressed Award and follow the route to Conyngham Hall field. There, the decorations come off and the teams strip down to racing trim for the Race itself which sets off at 3.00 pm.
Teams set off from the start line at roughly 10-second intervals and embark on the arduous course. This takes them up the grassy bank, through Conyngham parkland, across Bond End and onto Waterside.
They progress through the Nidd Gorge before ascending the very steep Castle Ings. They do a circuit of the market place before descending High Street and the quickest stretch of the course down Bond End.
This time they cross High Bridge to the Mother Shipton side and enjoy the rustic charms of McIntosh Park. After a few hundred yards they arrive at the river, but on the far side to where they started the race.
The final act is to swim the 40 yards to the Conyngham bank – runners, passengers, beds and all. The River Nidd has steep banks and one thing is certain that it is always icy for Bed Race Day!
The fastest teams complete the course in under 13 minutes as a rule, with the slowest coming in at about twice that time. Course conditions and the depth of water in the river will have a bearing on the final outcome, but fitness and competitiveness will win out on the day.
Speak to anyone who has taken part and they will assure you that this is one of the most gruelling athletic challenges they will have faced. Despite and probably because of this, many regulars have competed in Bed Race for years and years. Some for decades.
How it Began
The Great Knaresborough Bed Race was started in 1966 by the Knaresborough Round Table. The idea was to raise money for charity while putting on a great event for participants and a superb spectacle for the crowds of people who came to watch.
It has maintained its popularity over the years and has spawned other bed races in the UK, Europe, the USA, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. And that’s just the ones we know about. Media coverage of what is a thoroughly picturesque event spans the globe. China TV aired footage of last year’s race.
The Round Table had hit on a winning formula from the start. The town of Knaresborough, with its medieval cobbled streets, scenic views, heights and depths, and with a river running through it, is the ideal venue.
Four teams entered that first year, all by invitation and all military. By 1970, the race field each year had grown to 50 and more. And so it continued. Reflecting the times, the teams at first were all male and the passengers were female. But by 1990 all-female teams were entering and young males were on board. Entries by female and mixed teams have increased every year since.
Today, we have 90 teams competing on the day and often many more enter. The final race field is usually selected by lottery.
The Round Table struggled to attract sufficient members so brought in the Knaresborough Lions Club to organise the event alongside them. By the end of the 1990s and ever since, the Lions have been the sole manager of Bed Race, but rely on large numbers of volunteers to help.
Lions are a charity, number 1177970, and are comprised of volunteers who give up their time to organise fund raising events and make donations to charities and worthy causes, mostly local.
On Bed Race Day, more than 250 other people come along to help. They marshal the race route, judge the Best Dressed beds, man the entry gates, help prepare the course and clean up afterwards.
With 90 teams, there are 630 runners and passengers. Dance groups and marching bands add spice to the Parade, and many helpers and children join their teams too in marching to Conyngham Hall. Altogether with those who build and decorate the beds, and stich and sew the costumes, it is believed that more than 2,000 are directly involved.
Over many years going back to the 1960s, huge crowds turn up to watch, numbering anything up to and beyond 30,000 people. This represents a big boost to Knaresborough and many town centre businesses on Bed Race Day and through repeat visits as people realise just what a special place it is that hosts the event.
Costs and Amenities
Access to Conyngham Hall field where the race starts and finishes, and from where the river crossing can be viewed on the Big Screen or live is £3.00 per adult. Children 16 and under enter free. Like other revenues, all proceeds go to pay expenses in putting on the event. Surplus funds go to local charities and good causes.
Bed Race is organised by volunteers from the Knaresborough Lions Club and provides a vehicle for money to be raised for charity and good causes. It costs about £30,000 for the event to be staged, which involves road closures, traffic management, crowd barriers, licenses, printing, signage, hire of equipment and materials.
Lions look to cover these costs through sponsorship, advertising in and sale of a printed event Programme, team entry fees, and income from spectators entering Conyngham Hall field, plus other charitable contributions.
In Conyngham Hall there are bars, food stalls and attractions for children. The Big Screen shows live footage from the day, especially the iconic river crossing, plus results and footage from previous years.
Your Harrogate DB radio station is Bed Race’s media partner and will count down to the start of the race. Their DJs will commentate on the day and will relay important community and safety news. Music will be played for the entertainment of fans from the stage, and the trophies will be presented on the stage.
Getting to Knaresborough and Road Closures
Free park-and-ride services will run on the day of Bed Race between Knaresborough Technology Park on Manse Lane and just around the corner at ALM Manufacturing on Grimbald Crag Close. Bus stops will be marked.
The parking premises will open in the morning and will close at 6.30 pm in the evening. It is important that people move their cars before this time as the premises will be locked. Like the bus service, parking is free.
King James School will offer all-day parking for £5.00.
Roads in and around Knaresborough are closed to traffic from 12.30 pm until around 6.00 pm. The Market, Castlegate and Silver Street, are closed from 10.30 am, and the main roads of the High Street, Bond End, part of Boroughbridge Road and Harrogate Road from 12.30. There are closures, too, affecting Cheapside, Castlegate, part of Brewerton Street, Fisher Street, High Bond End, Castle Ings and Waterside from Castle Mills to High Bridge.
Parking is suspended all around the course on waterside, Castle Ings, Market Place, High Street and Bond End. Conyngham Hall field parking is closed for the day.
Last Year’s Results
Continuity is king when it comes to Bed Race and the route has hardly changed since it was first held in 1966. Lists of winning teams are on the Bed Race website going back twenty years.
It being Yorkshire, both the athletic challenge of the Race and the pageant of the Best Dressed Bed competition are fiercely contested. Last year’s fastest team were G H Brooks, followed by Ripon Runners Men, Knaresborough Striders Men, Nidd Valley Men A and Flying Pullman, who were also the fastest mixed team.
The quickest female team were Welly Wheelies; the fastest new team were Harrogate Early Bird Run Crew; the winners of the junior section were Nidd Valley Juniors and the fastest female junior team were Welly Wheelies.
When it came to the keen rivalry of the Best Dressed Bed competition the victorious team were the Rocket Men. Second was 1st Scriven Scouts and Techbuyer were third. There were special high commendations for the designs of HENCHshaws, Aspin Avengers, the SFC, Harrogate Symphony Orchestra and It’s a COP-out.
Further details are available on www.bedrace.co.uk
The Knaresborough Lions are part of Lions Club International, a volunteer organisation that exists in 180 countries across the world with about 1.5 million members. Lions stage events to raise funds for good causes, provide help to community groups most in need and support disadvantaged people from all backgrounds. More information on Lions is available on www.lionsmd105.org/