It was a duck race with a difference at Ewell Court as the water level in the Hogsmill was so low the ducks had to be dragged along in a sandbag.

About 1,500 people turned up at the annual charity duck race on Saturday, organised by the Ewell Court Residents’ Association (ECRA), that raised £1,000 to buy a parent bed at Epsom Hospital’s children’s Casey ward.

While there were a similar number of plastic ducks eager for the off, the drought-stricken river was only inches deep – too shallow for them to move easily.

Pippa Sunderland, ECRA committee member, explained: “The river usually flows quite well this time of year, but with the lack of rain, there was not enough water in the river for the ducks to have made it on their own on.

“As the ducks were being registered, they were all placed into a sandbag.

“When the race started, the sandbag was pulled through the shallow parts of the river.

“The ducks were then released, at the same time, for the last 100 yards of the race – which still took them 30 minutes to complete. But it did not detract from the day at all.

“Before the race started, we all jumped into the river to clear it of any weed, rubbish or obstructions.

“Councillor Dave Mayall was in there with us clearing stones and items out of the way.

“We love holding the duck race because it allows the river to be seen by more people who would not have known it is there, but it is also a good opportunity to clear it out.”

Some of the money raised will go to West Ewell Infant School and the 1st Ewell Court Scouts, who provided refreshments to visitors on the day.

Tommy the Duck kept everyone amused while spectators waited for the mayor of Epsom and Ewell, Councillor Sheila Carson, to start the race.

Les Duplock, ECRA chairman, said: “This event was a big success and everybody pulled together to get round the problem of lack of water.

“We are pleased that we have achieved our aim for the children’s ward and ECRA would like to thank the community for supporting this event.”