New Marlow schools boathouse project launches urgent appeal for funds

The project will provide a permanent home for Great Marlow School and Sir William Borlase’s Grammar School boat clubs and enable rowing at other schools in the area


Great Marlow School and Sir William Borlase’s Grammar School – both highly successful state school rowing programmes – have been ‘homeless’ for a long time, and have operated from outdoor racks at Longridge Outdoor Activity Centre for the last decade. But after searching for nearly 20 years and having explored more than 15 locations, a site has finally been secured! This is on Gossmore Lane, close to Marlow Rugby Club. Importantly, planning permission for a new, sustainably-built boathouse has now been granted.

Map showing location of new Marlow and District Schools Boathouse The location of the planned Marlow and District Schools Boathouse next to the A404 bridge.

While the two schools are extremely grateful to Longridge for hosting them, the Marlow and District Schools Boathouse will give them control over river time, self-determination in terms of who can use the facility, and essential covered boat storage, significantly prolonging the life of the boating stock – and securing the future of junior rowing there for the next century.

The aims of the Marlow and District Schools Boathouse Trust (MDSBT) also include facilitating access to rowing in the wider area. This will specifically target secondary schools in High Wycombe, where students would otherwise have very limited or no access to rowing.

The timeline

Phase 1: Secure the site (now until 30 September 2023)

Fundraising target: £400,000

Although the MDSBT has secured access to the land, the schools want to start rowing from there this Autumn term. This will allow them to make immediate savings on their current costs at Longridge with planning permission. However, to make the site ready for safe junior rowing, they urgently need additional donations to make it ready for safe junior rowing in just a few weeks’ time. The key tasks are security fencing, pontoons and utilities.

Can you help?

Both schools are asking the current parent and alumni community to fund the majority of this phase, but they are also appealing to the wider local and rowing community for help. Small donations are very welcome – everything adds up – as can be seen on the Trust’s GoFundMe page, which is gathering pace but still has a long way to go.

Donate Now

Phase 2: Build the boathouse (1 October 2023-31 December 2025)

Target: Minimum £1 million.

The new boathouse’s design has been drawn up by architect Tony Compton, who rowed for Borlase in the 1970s.

After relying on the community for Phase 1, for Phase 2 the team are seeking to raise funds from large institutions including trusts, sporting bodies and corporates.

Find out more at the Marlow and District Schools Boathouse website

Why support the Marlow and District Schools Boathouse Trust (MDSBT)?

Over the last few years, Great Marlow and Sir William Borlase’s rowers have won medals of all colours across all year groups at national competitions, and had no fewer than five crews competing at Henley Royal Regatta in 2023. Many have gained international selection too.

Fergus Murison, head coach at Great Marlow School and founding volunteer director of the Marlow and District Schools Boathouse Trust said, “What we’ve achieved to date is amazing. But it has been down to volunteers, parents and, of course, our intensely enthused junior rowers. Imagine what we could achieve with our own boathouse and autonomy. We now need to raise funds to build the boathouse – please become a donor!”

Donors will also be helping to give other young people in the area the opportunity to row. Although the Thames Valley is prosperous as a whole, there is significant deprivation in the catchment area of the two schools and into High Wycombe. Jim Biggs, volunteer director and social inclusion leader of MDSBT has previously helped set up rowing for GCSE pupils in Slough. He said, “One of the most fun things I have ever done in a boat is coxing a stable quad full of Beechwood School GCSE pupils. On day 1, those kids were full of noisy bravado, but terrified. However, by the end of the six-week programme they were absolutely loving it, working as teams and were genuinely blown away by what they had achieved. Being called ‘the OG* cox’ was a huge personal highlight – I can’t wait to replicate this in High Wycombe and find a future Olympian where few have ever looked before”.

* Jim explains that – as his kids tell him – ‘OG’ means ‘Original Gangster’ – a huge term of respect.