Heartbreak as rowing clubs destroyed by floods

Committee member Colin McDermid cleaning down the boats.
Committee member Colin McDermid cleaning down the boats.

All four of Lancaster’s rowing clubs were overwhelmed by the River Lune on December 5.

Lancaster University’s boathouse at Denny Beck, Halton had its roller doors caved in.

At least three boats are known to be damaged, but the rowing club members are not able to get in to clean up and assess the full scale of the impact until the building has been made safe.

All of Lancaster Royal Grammar School’s boats were washed off their racks at Halton TA camp.

Most of the pieces have been recovered from across the site, but there are only four boats left in usable condition.

At the club house by Skerton Weir shared by Lancaster John O’Gaunt RC and the Lancaster Schools’ Rowing Association, the river rose to the first floor level, leaving mud across the changing rooms and gym upstairs.

In the boathouse below, the destruction was massive with more than half the fleet of 24 boats wrecked by the river.

Mike Pugh, chair of the Lune Rowing Development Group to which all the clubs belong said that some may be repairable, but others will be written off. The clubhouse electrics have also been swamped as well as other damage to the building and fixtures and fittings such as racking, fridges and heaters.

Mike said: “Obviously rowing clubs have to be near the river bank and we are prepared for a foot or two of flooding once or twice most years, but this has never been seen before.

“John O’Gaunt club has been on the site since 1842 and as far as we know have never had this level of flood damage.

“The clubs have insurance cover but the replacement cost of new boats will be double the value the clubs can get from their insurers for the wrecked ones.”

Mike said that that recovery from the floods could take years.

He added: “So far the clubs have been trying to clear the mud and debris from inside and around their buildings.

“It remains to be seen what the total cost of repairs will be when the buildings can be fully inspected.

“The clubs are trying to find out whether they can benefit from the £50m flood relief fund for families and businesses announced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer this week.”

Michael Burrow, chair of the Rowing Club Association of Parents at LRGS, and David Yates, teacher in charge of rowing, said: “The waters swamped the lower levels of Halton Training Camp. A true force of nature, it tore away the compound perimeter ‘protecting’ the boats and uprooted our boat racks from their moorings.

“Miraculously only a couple of the older boats were washed away, but the damage the fleet suffered is heartbreaking.

“Only two boats remain unscathed, many others need extensive repairs and some were simply destroyed by the force of the water and other floating debris.

“As ever, the boys themselves have proved to be very resilient and played a key role in supporting the clear up.”

The school is hopeful that their fleet of boats will be repaired and replaced so that they can get back on the water before spring next year.