Canoeing has been has been part of the fabric of Newbury since the 1950s, with NCC cementing its place in 1978.
Whilst the club maintains a strong involvement in Flatwater Racing due to the canal lending itself to this discipline. prior to the alteration of the weir in 1996, they were also very active in slalom, even producing two Olympic level slalom paddlers!
Whilst having its competeitive successes in flatwater, marathons and slalom, history shows it has always offered its members and the community a fun and varied paddlng experience and continues to do so today.
To read a full chronology of the history of paddling in Newbury and the NCC Click here .
To read a personal recollection and a more detailed account of the early years from former founder, Richard Johnstone, Click here.
The formation of NCC
There has been three canoe clubs during the history of canoeing in Newbury.
Kennet Valley Canoe Club (KVCC) (formerly Kennet Valley Canoe Club). Formed 1958
The early years of canoeing in Newbury started from after the second World war with the Kennet and Avon Canoe club in the 1950s and the formation of Kennet Valley Canoe club by District Youth Officer, Jack Broadbent, in 1958.
The club operated from the island at the Millstream with a caravan and a floating pontoon for changing. They went to many slaloms and white-water trip to the Wye and USK along with surfing to Devon and Pendine sands. At the end of the decade, they held mini slaloms in the mill stream.
Paddlers from KVCC were coached by Chris House and they entered many crews in the Annual Devizes Westminster Race.
In the late 60’s KVCC was gifted the Studio in Newbury Wharf later to be known as the Band Hut, and now the current clubhouse location, by the Kennet and Avon Canal Trust.
The Waterside Centre LD Youth Group
Along with paddling for youth members the centre was used by the army to train for the DW.
The Waterside LD Youth Group entered the first Junior DW team under the watchful eye of Keith Treacher where the Canoeing Youth Club evolved.
Newbury Canoe Club (NCC). Formed 1970/71
Based out of the Waterside Youth Centre, Newbury Canoe Club came into existence between 1970 and 1971 as a way to provide a follow-on canoe club for the youth going into adulthood. Youth worker, Richard Howison-Johnstone qualified as an instructor and formed Newbury Canoe Club under the guise of a youth work project on behalf of the local Youth Service.
NCC was initially a small group of long distance paddlers who enjoyed competing in marathons but also had a growing interest in Slalom..
In 1982 NCC and KVCC merged when NCC moved out of the rented accommodation of the Waterside Youth Centre and into the band hut.
The Club house
Following the merger between NCC and KVCC in 1982 the 1980’s Newbury Canoe Club grew to a membership in excess of 100 paddlers.
With the closure of the wier in 1996 and slalom no longer active, membership and the Band Hut started to significantly decline. In 2006 the building was deemed unsafe. The remaining few members and trustees (approx. 10 people) started to explore how to rebuild our facilities.
In 2014 NCC applied for planning permission for the new building that you now see. The club successfully raised over £300,000 from; Sport England, Greenham Trust, Armed Forces Military Covenant, British Canoeing, Thatcham and Newbury Town Councils and other Trusts. The proceeds from running the Waterside Series also form a large part of the club's income, and formed the basis of the funds used to develop the new clubhouse that we see today.
The building was completed and opened to members in April 2019. The intent still is to rebuild the boat storage to meet the now rapidly growing membership and club needs.
With the club house now able to meet these needs, in order to secure the future of NCC they have recognised that, whilst there still remains a strong enthusiasm for flat water racing, it is always important to offer members a varied choice of ways to paddle that is not always competitive.
Whilst NCC now focuses its attention on flat water racing it still carries a strong reputation for success in marathons and Slalom.
Flat water/ Marathon racing
Devizes to Westminster
The full historical story of DW can be found on their website http://www.dwrace.co.uk/History.html
DW story started in 1920 with a group of men in "The Greyhound" pub in the village of Pewsey, just outside Devizes, when a national rail and bus strike was looming and alternative means of transport were discussed in the bar. Their challenge was to get down the River Avon from Pewsey to the sea at Christchurch in under three days, a distance of some 70 miles.
IN 1946 three RAF men and a local farmer took up the challenge, reaching the sea in a time of 51 hours.
This soon became a repeated challenge and, following an unsucsseful attempt by originator, Roy Cooke, it was taken up by Devizes Scouts under local sponsorship to see if they could succeed in "taking a boat from Devizes to Westminster in under 100 hours, all food and camping kit to be carried in the boats".
At Easter 1948, Peter Brown, Brian Walters, Laurie Jones and Brian Smith, all aged just 17, set out on the first DW run.
In 1949 over 20 boats made the attempt and so the evolution of the DW commenced.
Newburys DW involvment
Historical records show that part of the formation of Newbury paddling evolved early on as a result of those wanting to compete in the Devizes to Westminster race.
Paddlers from KVCC were coached by Chris House and they entered many crews in the DW. The earliest record we have for Newbury Paddlers in the DW dates to 1966 when 4 boats entered the race, all being Kennet Valley crews.
In 1968 there were 4 waterside Junior Crews. 1969 4 Waterside Junior boats one waterside senior and one Kennet Valley.
NCC to date continue to date to have some participating crews in the race and play a pivotol role in assisting with the organisation and running fo the race as it comes through Newbury.
The first Waterside series was created as preparation races for the DW and managed in 1967 by Chris House, under the guidance of Keith Treacher. Chris wrote “at the time of the first go with the series it produced a big response, coupled with many requests for the series continuance”. It was reported that sportsmanship was an outstanding feature of the first series and it was felt that a tradition had been established.
Interesting facts about The Waterside series
In 1997 the Waterside saw Computerised results that Peter Nobel wrote and is still being used in 2013!
In 2001 the Waterside Series was all but cancelled with only Race A being run due to the outbreak of Foot and Mouth.
Throughout the working relationship between Adventure Dolphin and the Club has been nurtured with help in both directions. AD help at the Waterside Series is vital to its current success. And Club members have helped at Evening Sessions, some outside Waterside and other in the warm swimming pool environments teaching advanced rolling skills.
2008 witnessed traffic chaos at Great Bedwyn at Race A of the Waterside Series. Thus the limit of 400 paddlers was introduced.
2010 Saw 9 miles of ice at Race C
2012 Saw Race A Cancel due to 1inch ice along the whole route.
2013 has had challenges due to inconsiderate support crew behaviour
Following the merger between NCC and KVCC in 1982, the 1980’s Newbury Canoe Club grew to a membership in excess of 100 paddlers with a focus on slalom.
Training regularly took place in Red Locks and at the club’s training site West Mills. Regular rolling and indoor events were held during the 80’s. By the end of the 80’s notable top paddlers from other canoe clubs had joined NCC to access the excellent training facilities at the club, those being Clive Williams, Bob Tilling, Mike Richman, Richard H, Corrie and Shaun Pearce along with a string of others in the seventies
NCC started running a large annual slalom event on the red locks weir back water near Northcroft. Red locks slalom had grew massively by 1994 to have the recorded largest entry for a UK slalom running from dawn to dusk. The 1986 event saw also the start for several years of British Under 14 Championships on the bank Holiday Monday.
Newbury Canoe Club members achieved top ranking slalom positions during the 80’s reaching Junior Champions, three of which went on to World and European Success at Junior and later Senior levels.
Shaun Pearce - British Junior Slalom Champion, Pre=World Junior Champion, World Champion, 7 x British Senior Champion, competed in Atlanta 1996. Coach for UK National Team and London Olympics.
Kevern Kerswell - GB under 14 and 16 men's junior national Slalom Champion, competed in mens Junior Pre-World Kayak Championships in Switzerland.
Corrie Johnstone - Under 14 and 16 GB Junior Champion, GB Team Silver medal and Pre-Worlds 1991 in Norway.
In 1996 the slalom lapsed and the following year the weir was altered in such a way that it was dangerous to paddle in the weir. Newbury Canoe Club no longer had white water to train on.
With the new clubhouse built and members now reaching 100+ the club is in the throws of a new phase of leisure and competetive paddling. Whilst veteran members have still been competing in the DW a new racing team is evolving under the leadership of Paul jackson and Coaching by Kieron Blackburn to compete throughout the Hasler racing season .