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In the words of one of our founders!

Richard Johnstone was one of the pivitol figures in the formation of NCC as it is today. Here he offers his own account and recollections of those early days.


There has been three canoe clubs during the history of canoeing in Newbury.

In 1958 the then District Youth Officer Jack Broadbent called upon local young canoeist and their parent’s owning barges to a meeting to form the Kennet Valley Canoe Club (KVCC).

The KVCC continued to develop well into the 1960s. and had 25 members. 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. 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.

In 1969 there were 4 Waterside Junior boats, one Waterside senior, and one Kennet Valley.

In the late 60’s KVCC was gifted the Studio in Newbury Wharf later to be known as the Band Hut by the Kennet and Avon Canal Trust.


Canoeing at The Waterside moved to Newbury Canoe Club, thus merging KVCC and Waterside Canoe Club.

By 1967 KVCC had some strong marathon crews competing in the DW. Chris House, their trainer at the time, wanted a series of races to improve training. They came up with the now legendary Waterside Winter Series of four races. Keith Treacher, Warden of Waterside Youth Centre was requested if the Waterside could be used for four training races. Waterside crews were initially trained by KVCC to sit their boats on the park pond. The first Winter Series1968 had 70 crews; 40 adult and 30 Junior.

1970 Chris House was stationed by the Army to Germany and Keith Donkin took over the organisation of Winter Series for the next decade. He became the first NCC President. Of Newbury Canoe Club. Also, in the early 1970s most of KVCC had drifted away for several reasons; college, children etc. This left a handful of members.

Early recordings of the Waterside Series

The first Waterside Winter Series commenced under the Guidance of Keith Treacher, the then Warden of Waterside, alongside Chris House managing the race series and marshals.

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.

The first ten years of Newbury Canoe Club

Records show that Newbury Canoe Club came into existence between 1970 and 1971. The first record of NCC was in the start sheet of the series for 1971. Membership for the three years of 71 to 74 was a small group of LD paddlers who enjoyed going to marathons.

As a Youth Worker from Kennet Youth Club, I had for a few years been taking YP canoeing at Pangbourne and trips to Biblins on the river Wye. I was asked by Keith Treacher to help Waterside YP to go canoeing. In 1974 I became the only qualified BCU S.I. in Newbury at that time. 1975 I organised the first Newbury Slalom with help from Kevin Nutt and Peter Holloway of Eyot Canoe Club at Red locks. NCC grew in membership and became known as a family orientated club (1977 had 52 members). Private Canoe BCU one-star courses were offered to both adults and children alike by myself from 1978 at the Waterside.

The club was active with trips away over Christmas, Canoe Slaloms etc. and very active with slalom training on gates on the Mill Stream and white-water practice at Red Locks and the Band Hut weir.

1976 -1978 the Canoe club had carnival floats at Hungerford and Newbury.

Hungerford Carnival of 1976 NCC organised a ‘come and try it’ session in the Town Wharf. The Newbury Carnival NCC took part as a way of thanking Newbury Round Table for their sponsorship to buy a fleet of Club general purpose boats.

1979 was a memorable year, NCC took part in the Sorte C’ International Canoe festival in Spain. After achieving good results in the slalom and white-water racing, Sorte was followed by a trip down the river Ardeche in France. It is said the slalom paddlers in the club got serious after the success of the trip and soon afterwards went on to reach the top division in the country in both slalom and white-water racing.

C2 at Sorte Canoe festival 1979 Richard Johnston and Mark Nebel

1980 there were discussions about needing a new boat house next to the Band Hut. The plans for this building were drawn up by Bob Tilling. In the Committee meeting of 9th March

1982 Dennis Price informed the committee that Marley Buildings were to erect the Boat house next week. At the meeting Gordon Hughes said the Waterside must be cleared for the club to move out of Waterside on the 1st April 1982.

January 1983 committee minutes recorded ...

Bob Tilling is organising this year’s Slalom in May for Novice and Division 4.

Brian Adlem is organising the Winter series.

A Slalom Training Day at Redlocks 23rd April.

A trip to the Canoe Exhibition in February at Crystal Palace.

A trip to River Dart white race on the 23rd January arranged by Bob Tilling.

Eight Swimming Pool sessions organised by Kim Cross January to April.

A Poole Harbour paddle on 3rd April by Kim Cross.

The Putney to Greenwich by paddle power arranged by Kim Cross.

This showed the diverse nature of the club who now had over 100 members.

The 1986 Slalom saw the start of multiple years of the British U14 British Championships on the bank holiday Monday. It is recorded the 1986 slalom entry was the largest ever entry in any BCU slalom of 253 paddlers.

By the end of the 1980s paddlers from other canoe clubs joined NCC to have access to higher quality training facilities at the club. Many of them became notable British Paddlers.

Following the Hungerford Disaster in 1987 Newbury Canoe Club organised a sponsored canoe paddle in support to the people of Hungerford that had been affected. An estimate of 500 paddlers from all over the country attended coming in to Hungerford common together at 4.00pm, £4000 was raised.

In the Summer of 1978 saw the start of one-star canoeing courses privately run by Richard Johnstone at Waterside with the help of junior club members. An 11-year-old Shaun Peace attended. This young man became not only British Junior Slalom Champion but also GB Senior Champion, as well as, world men’s kayak champion on some 4 occasions. In his later years a World Veteran Champion. When Shaun retired at the top of his career, he initially became the Canadian Slalom coach before returning to the UK to become the GB Mens slalom coach at the Olympics in London 2012. He went on to be the New Zealand Team Manager.

Two further slalom paddlers of merit in the eighties and early 90s were Kevern Kerswell and Corrie Johnstone. Both started their Paddling by attending courses run by Richard Johnstone. Kevern became the GB under 14 and 16 men’s Junior National Slalom Champion before competing at the men’s junior Pre World Kayak Championships in Switzerland 1989. Corrie Johnstone was U14 and U16 GB Junior Champion and went on to win a GB Team silver medal at the Pre-Worlds 1991 in Norway.

During the early 90s Bob Tilling organised on behalf of the BCU White Water Committee three races on the upper Wye, several members took part in these races.

During the period of canoeing in Newbury up the early 90’s we must acknowledge the enormous contribution of parents, committee members, club chairs and presidents and other senior paddlers. There are too many to mention here but some notable people are: Keith Donkin, Gordon Hughes, Dennis Price, Dave and Jenny Pearce, Frank Bartholomew, Clive Williams, Dave Seward, Ray Russell, Carl Legg, Carolyne Neal, Chas Wells, Maurice Ceaser, Bob Tilling David James, Ken Heart, Brian Adlem., Chas Wells, Ray Russell, Carl Legg, Carolyne Neal, Maurice Ceaser, Ken Moon, Ken Heart, Brian Adlem to name a few.

Richard has made contact with a few past members but please see this on the web of 3 paddlers on the Band Hut weir.


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