Swanage celebrates brand new boathouse

Swanage Sea Rowing Club’s new boathouse was opened on Saturday 7th December, after years of talking about the need for and planning a permanent home.

The club was founded in 2001 in the time-honoured way; a few guys sitting in the pub thinking it would be a good idea to have a rowing club in the town. With some endeavour and good fortune, the Club bought its first gig, Old Harry, and another great community tradition was born.

A couple of years later, a second-hand polytunnel with limited life expectancy became the home of the Club on borrowed land under the threat of redevelopment. Despite this, the club went from strength to strength – building knowledge and experience as its membership grew and the first rowing successes came home.

However, with two wooden and one GRP training gig filling the tunnel in 2008, a concerted effort was started to work towards a more suitable home. The prospects weren’t good, with almost no land available near the sea, but by 2010 redevelopment was on the horizon and serious planning had to get underway.  

The club was fortunate to have a range of professional skills to draw on from its membership, making the complex process of funding applications and planning requirements as professional as possible. This, along with a huge amount of work, was the key to success – land was secured and funds were growing steadily through 2012, with the last grant coming in December.

A total of over £300,000 had been raised which was a huge achievement in the current economic climate as the sum reflected the need to landscape the boathouse into the hillside with the commensurate planning and construction complications.

Once contracts were agreed, building began in April and the project culminated in the Club taking possession of the boathouse in December, just over the road from the polytunnel. The club now has a training area with six indoor rowing machines linked to a computer and space for four of the Club’s five gigs inside and more on the apron outside.

British Rowing’s Katherine Morris joined Chairman Martin Steeden at the opening ceremony, speaking about the recognition and support the club has had during the project, and the professionalism and efficiency of the Committee members who made the construction go so smoothly. “The boathouse is an investment in the Club’s future, its members and its expectations,” said Steeden. “It is also an investment in the local community, who will benefit from such a positive asset. We’re really looking forward to the future of the club’.

Amongst those recognised for their contributions at the ceremony, special appreciation was given to Lindy Phillips whose generous personal donation started the fundraising and encouraged others to contribute. In recognition of her support, she walked to the doors under an arch of oars held by club members in salute and cut the ribbon to open the boathouse to the applause of the crowd.

Barnaby Quaddy

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