Abingdon based Kingfisher Canoe Club (KCC) was finally able to begin a new chapter on Saturday with the official opening of their new boat store on an island in the River Thames. Connected to the riverbanks by Abingdon Lock and the bridge over Abingdon Weir, the new facility has storage for canoes and kayaks plus changing rooms and has been constructed in an environmentally sensitive way on a raised platform to mitigate the impact of changing river levels.
The community sport club of around 140 members was based on Wilsham Road until 2017 when development forced them to look for a new home. Having seen boats stored in members’ gardens, trailers and even vans in the interim, the new hut has allowed the club to start running courses again and encourage more people into the sports of kayaking, canoeing and paddleboarding. “It has been a long journey involving assessment of over 30 sites, lots of fundraising and dealing with the complexities of building something during the pandemic, so it is fantastic that we have finally reached this stage” said Tim Wilkes, KCC Chairperson. “With the help of national and local sponsors, such as Sport England, River Legacy, Thames Water and Christ’s Hospital Abingdon, plus many more financial and non-financial contributions, including legal support from law firm Hogan Lovells, consultancy by Oxford construction company SIAD and invaluable assistance from the Environment Agency and local farmer Anthony Allen, we now have a facility that will set our club on a solid base to serve the local area for many years to come.”
Attending the event were around 90 people including many current and former club members, some from its first year of existence in 1974. Having helped the club achieve this landmark, from Oxfordshire County Council, Cllr Emily Smith was present to celebrate the opening, along with Monica Lovatt and Vicky Jenkins who both supported the club’s efforts whilst at The Vale of The White Horse District Council.
The Club Chairperson thanked the many people who had been involved in the project, plus the volunteers who keep the club running, before handing over the ceremonial ribbon cutting jointly to one of the club’s most senior paddlers and one who has developed her skills in Kingfisher’s Youth Section, Pathfinders. David Surman, 72, has paddled rivers all over the world, including the Grand Canyon, Nepal, India, Uganda and South America and uses this experience to help inspire the next generation of paddlers. He was also one of the key drivers in securing the location, permissions and funding for the new base. Jenny Wood, 17, joined Pathfinders in 2015 and has since paddled rivers all over the UK plus the challenging Soča in Slovenia, twice.
Notes to editors
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Sport England is a public body and invests up to £300 million National Lottery and government money each year in projects and programmes that help people get active and play sport. It wants everyone in England, regardless of age, background, or level of ability, to feel able to engage in sport and physical activity. That’s why a lot of its work is specifically focused on helping people who do no, or very little, physical activity and groups who are typically less active – like women, disabled people and people on lower incomes.
Kingfisher Canoe Club
Based in Abingdon on the banks of the River Thames, Kingfisher Canoe Club and its associated Pathfinders Youth Section is a local club which has existed for over 40 years and introduced hundreds of people to the sports of kayaking and canoeing. The club is unique in the area in that it is principally an adventure club open to anyone, as opposed to racing or competitive clubs, and its membership range from 11 to over 70 years of age. In addition to providing training, coaching and led trips for its members, the club actively engages with the local community, running monthly open “taster” sessions, sessions for local Scout, Cub and other Youth Groups as well as supporting community events such as Abingdon Fun in the Park and undertaking river clean-ups with AbiBinit!.
In 2017, development meant the club had to leave its base of over 20 years and seek a new location. A lease for a new site was agreed with the Environment Agency in February 2020 and the target funds to begin building a new club hut were reached in March 2020 with many donations from local organisations and individuals and a £36,000 grant from Sport England and The National Lottery.
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