Thursday, 28 October 2021

Work on new boathouse continues during lockdown

Work on new boathouse continues during lockdown

GORING Gap Boat Club is still improving its boathouse despite the coronavirus pandemic.

The volunteers have dug out and concreted a new slipway in the grounds of the £350,000 building on the River Thames, which opened in 2019.

They were installing a mezzanine when the third lockdown began last month. This work is now continuing at a slower pace and with fewer people, which is allowed provided that social distancing and hygiene measures are observed.

Once the new floor is finished the club will campaign to raise another £13,000 for a disabled toilet.

This will support its partnership with Floatability, a new Goring charity offering river cruises and fishing trips to people with physical disabilities or mental illness.

Some journeys will start and finish at the site, just upstream from the Berkshire side of Gatehampton railway bridge, while others could run from Goring lock. The club then hopes to raise £11,000 to resurface its approach road and car park.

Volunteers Ken Houston, Roger Moore, Heather Rudge, Brian Barnes, Andrew Hyde, Stuart Hunt, Don Gray, Doug Hamilton and Belinda Drew, some of whom have groundworks experience, built the slipway between July and October.

They bought a second-hand digger to excavate a channel to the river, reinforced the sides with metal sheeting and then poured and shaped the slope after damming off the water. Concrete was provided by Manor Mix, of Peppard.

The team have since installed support slats and a linoleum floor in the new mezzanine and are now putting up a spiral staircase.

Once the area is finished, it will be filled with rowing machines and seats for people to rest after training sessions. An outside toilet has also been added.

Iain Cheyne, chairman of the recreational rowing club, said: “They found some generic slipway plans which they could easily adapt for our site, then just got on with it.

“They knew what they were doing and had to maintain and repair the digger themselves as it had a number of previous owners and was pretty clapped out. They chipped away a couple of days a week and did an incredible job, which we’re incredibly grateful for.

“Everything has slowed down significantly over the lockdown but we’re making careful progress and are still really pleased with how things are going, particularly as we’ve done it on a shoestring and with minimal funding.”

The club has increased subscription fees to fund future works and hopes to stage “learn to row” courses and the biennial Goring and Streatley Regatta in the summer to raise money.

It is currently in talks with the Good Exchange, a national initiative matching community causes with donors, and previous supporters including Sport England and the Gatehampton Trust in Goring.

Mr Cheyne said: “We got some Government funding to see us through the winter lockdown but we’ve pretty much spent our money on the latest improvements and we’ve got to find ways of raising more.

“Our main priority is the disabled toilet because we can’t wait to get Floatability on board. It’s a brilliant charity that fits perfectly with our ethos of getting more people out on the water.

“We’re a very inclusive club and while there’s nothing wrong with being competitive and focusing on racing, our approach is different.

“After a year of the pandemic, we’ve become used to dealing with different levels of lockdown.

“I hope single sculls will be allowed on the water soon as they pose a minimal risk of spreading coronavirus and will hopefully be followed in due time by doubles and fours from the same household or bubble, then the full club.

“We’re very optimistic about the future as membership has risen by about 50 per cent and we’re now running out of racking space for boats. People are joining because we’ve got a fantastic facility and offer value for money. You might pay more than £400 a year at another club but if you don’t enjoy racing, you can just pay us £100 and make the most of some leisurely rowing on a beautiful stretch of the Thames.”

The new building on the Yattendon estate was paid for with £100,000 from club funds plus donations and grants. Previously the club was based at the Oratory School at Woodcote and then the Hardwick Estate at Whitchurch.

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