Sky’s the limit for soaraway club
Last updated at 09:25, Tuesday, 24 July 2012
WHEN it comes to being a shining example for the rest of the country to follow, Hexham Rowing Club are miles ahead of their more wealthy counterparts.
In the past two years, membership has more than doubled from 50 to 125-plus, and even the demographic has shifted to see more women at the club in the male dominated sport.
And, so impressed has been British Rowing, the sport’s governing body, with Hexham, it selected the Tyne Green club to be the subject of a national documentary to be aired by Sky Sports.
The club was filmed as part of the broadcaster’s look at the 30 Olympic sports being played at a grassroots level.
And it is quite remarkable to think that, out of all the rowing clubs in the UK, many of which are elite ones, it is a developing one in rural Northumberland which is leading the way.
In the past two years, the club have come on leaps and bounds and a lot of that is down to the enigmatic ladies’ captain Pamela Walton.
Since becoming skipper, Walton’s enthusiasm has rubbed off on other beginners and membership has more than doubled. She said: “The reason that Hexham was chosen for the documentary is that we have increased from about 50 members to 125, and we are still growing.
“The demographic has changed too as it was 70/30 men to women when I joined, but now it is 80 percent women, which is remarkable in a male dominated sport.
“I am very proud Hexham have been chosen because I am a Tynedale girl, born and bred, and I want to promote the club as much as possible.
“It feels really good that a club here in the North-East is the lead for a London borough club to follow as an example!”
While Hexham continues to field competitive members challenging for top national honours, there has been a sharp shift of emphasis on having fun for the more casual rower.
Walton’s drive for new members has opened up all new avenues for the club, and they are catching the attention of those who never dreamed of getting in a boat.
The club was awarded Explore Rowing status last year in recognition of their dedication to provide a fun, flexible and varied programme of rowing events to newcomers.
The accreditation shows to people that Hexham welcomes people from all walks of life, and there are a number of courses held throughout the year to help new members develop.
The club also have the distinction of introducing the Northern Sunday League as Walton, alongside British Rowing’s Participation Development Team Leader James Andrews, created the format for the more casual rower.
The league sees novice members of clubs from across the region visit their neighbours to give them a taste of slightly competitive racing.
Walton said: “If you have ever crossed the River Tyne, looked down on water and thought, ‘that looks good’ then you can do it no matter how tall or short you may be!
“There is a very small percentage of rowers that will be of Olympic standard.
“So it is important we show that people can do it just for fun.
“What I am trying to do is to get a family, community feel at the club, and I have had sons, fathers and grandfathers join with the age demographic for adults ranging from 18-80!”
To prove that rowing can be enjoyed by anyone at all, Walton uses her own personal journey as the greatest example.
Severely overweight and with health problems, she was referred by her GP for fitness sessions at North Country Leisure in a bid to improve her situation.
It did not take long that she discovered the joys of rowing - after a failed bid in kayaking – and she has not looked back ever since.
She said: “I am as fit as I have ever been and people who haven’t seen me for a while are quite amazed by the change in me.
“I have gone from being completely sedentary to a fit sports person who is regularly active during the week.
“Rowing has so many health benefits, and I would encourage anybody to take up the sport to help improve their health.”
Hexham Rowing Club holds a number of sessions throughout the week, with a whole range of ages and abilities catered for.
To find out more information, you can contact Pamela Walton on (07733) 268771 or visit www.hexhamrc.co.uk
First published at 09:09, Monday, 23 July 2012
Published by http://www.hexhamcourant.co.uk
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