On Wednesday 26th October 2022, Maj Gen Shaun Burley CB MBE had great pleasure in opening the new Army Rowing Boat Club.
The Army Rowing Club used to rent part of an Eton College boathouse, based on the River Thames in Dorney. Not only was this a great stretch of river for rowing, when Eton College built its own rowing lake right next to the boat house, it was also superbly convenient for all the competitions to be held on the rowing lake. However, being such a great facility, the Dorney Rowing lake was chosen as the venue for the International Rowing Regattas, including the 2012 Olympics.
As part of this growth in the use of the site, the Army Rowing Club was evicted from its rented facility as Eton College required the building for their own use and so Army Rowing had to find somewhere new.
The Vale of White Horse council had leased a riverside stretch of land to the MOD since the 1950s. This land was used by Dalton Barracks, and Army Rowing had been supporting rowing (with the RLC Rowing Club) on the site since the mid-1990s. The land had a wooden shed and Pavilion, but these were in poor repair and needed to be replaced.
As a stop-gap, whilst looking for other locations, Army Rowing took over the lease of this council-owned land and turned it into their temporary home with longer-term aspirations to find a home for Army Rowing.
Although the site is small and the existing sheds were unsuitable for a long-term home, Army Rowing delivered many learn-to-row courses and training camps on the site. This went on for nearly ten years, operating with no electricity, car battery-operated lights, a single toilet and having to store the boats off-site at Dalton Barracks to prevent damage with winter floods.
What Army Rowing needed was a purpose-built, safe and suitable boat house that could hold more of the rowing boats, as well as a few canoes, and a crew room that was protected from flooding.
A proper ablution block with changing rooms, male and female loos, and a shower were also desirable. Army Rowing had been trying to secure respectable premises ever since their eviction from Dorney, and the declining state of the Abingdon site’s buildings provided the catalyst to find a solution.
Very early on in Maj Gen Shaun Burley’s tenure as Director ASCB, he visited the site and said the immortal words ‘We can do better than this’ and with that ASCB kindly agreed to fund a new boat house on the existing site. Brig Adam McRae put in the hard work to get planning permission, hold consultations with the locals, and field their concerns throughout the build. Maj Mike Schofield was the brains behind the build’s size, layout, and structural details.
ASCB’s Paul Mannering provided invaluable construction expertise along the way. And Lt Col Nicola Roberts was the project lead, being the Army’s focal point for the project manager and the contractor.
Army Rowing now has an excellent facility that they are proud of, which should encourage more people to come rowing, with more opportunities for crews to train regularly as the boats will be on site all of the time. The site is also designed to cater for adaptive rowers and staff.
Wonderful to see a boat named the “Shaun Burley” will be available too!
Best of luck in your new home Army Rowing, we look forward to seeing lots more personnel out on the river , learning to row and competing.