Sun, 04 Feb 2018
A CELEBRATION of Newbury’s waterside history will make a splash this weekend.
Newbury Canoe Club will be marking 50 years of the Waterside Series of canoe races, which attracts more than 500 paddlers across the world each race.
The attire and gear may have switched from the homemade craft and knitwear to high-tech carbon kevlar boats and specialist clothing, but club members say that the challenge is no less.
The series began after the Second World War when a group of canal enthusiasts formed to re-open and develop the Kennet and Avon Canal.
The group set about generating interest in the canal and a few of them started canoeing in the 1940s and 50s, when more people took to the water in canvas and homemade canoes.
By the end of the decade, canoeing in Newbury had become a formalised activity.
The Kennet Valley Canoe Club was formed in 1958 by the amalgamation of members of the Kennet and Avon Association and the regular Newbury paddlers.
Key members included Tim Davis, Chris House, Pat Kirkwood and Melvin Brown, and a partnership with Denison Barracks at Hermitage was also struck.
In the 60s, Mr Davis and Mr House were successful in long-distance canoe racing, including the annual Devizes to Westminster Canoe Race.
However, they were keen to improve race times and wanted Newbury to play a key part in the development of long-distance canoeists.
Forming a partnership with the youth leader of the newly-built Waterside Centre, Keith Treacher, who was keen to get young people involved in physical activity, Mr Davis and members of the parachute regiment put together a programme to offer four standalone training races of increasing distances.
In 1968, the Waterside Series of canoe races was born, with the first race being held from Great Bedwyn to Newbury.
Newbury Canoe Club will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the races on Sunday, February 4.
It will also be opening its new clubhouse next to the A339 bridge over the canal later this year.
Club member David Seward said: “The races have never been more popular and thanks to those who kept the canal open, we can all enjoy the spectacle of canoeing on one of our most precious local assets, looking forward to many more years, knowing that the canal is now in good hands with the Canal and River Trust.
“The family of paddlers who make up the Waterside Series over the past 50 years have been committed to ensuring the event is an inspiration for all our long-distance paddlers from the best in the world, to the up and coming.”
Races will be held on February 18, March 4 and March 18.