A RAFT race that has been running for more than 50 years has been cancelled due to extremly dry weather and low river levels.

The annual Monmouth Raft Race, now in its 56th year and arranged by Rotary Monmouth, raises funds principally for Newport-based St David's Hospice Care.

It was due to take place on the River Wye on Sunday, September 4.

But the dry spell has meant the river is extremely low, which is dangerous for the rafters and the organisers took the difficult decision to cancel the event.

Norman Williams, raft race co-ordinator for Monmouth Rotary Club, said: "As a result of the extreme weather this summer, the River Wye is at a very low level, and after careful consideration we have reluctantly taken the decision to cancel this years’ raft race.

"Several sections of the route can only be navigated by dragging rafts over the stoney riverbed. Approximately 400 yards in total. This would be dangerous for raft crews to undertake.

"An additional factor is that the river is flowing very slowly. So more physical effort would be needed to paddle over the six-mile course.

"Also, the River Wye is an important natural environment, currently under stress due to the low water levels. A raft race would cause damage to the riverbed and the wildlife that the river supports.

"We have held off making the decision to cancel, in the hope that the weather would break and increase the water level. But it hasn’t, and there is negligible rain in the forecast for the next 10 days.

"We appreciate that this cancellation news will be disappointing, but it would be irresponsible for us to continue to run the event this year."

Since 2004 the event has raised a staggering £341,898 for Rotary Monmouth, which has been split between the hospice and local good causes.

Last year, despite the ongoing challenges of the pandemic, an impressive £12,717 was raised, of which St David's Hospice Care received £9,538 - 75 per cent of that total.

Kris Broome, of St David's Hospice Care, said: "I would like to express how very sad we are that the raft race has been cancelled for 2022.

"We totally understand the decision and would like to thank the Rotary Monmouth for all their support.

"We would also like to say thank you and sorry to all the teams who have entered and to the sponsors of this year’s event.

"The raft race has raised many thousands of pounds for the hospice over the years and, of course, we will miss this income this year. We very much hope to see everyone at the event next year.”