In about 1952 the GSM of Sea Scouts, Edmund Chaloner, and the City Youth Organiser, “Fred” Benger encouraged a group of Scouts and others to form a Canoe Club using the old Sea Cadet premises, formerly a riverside bathing station. In 2013, Worcester Canoe Club celebrated the 60th anniversary of its foundation.
In that time, club members have amongst other things, paddled the Grand Canyon, competed in Olympic Games, World and European Championships, taken canoeing holidays all over Europe and the UK, won the National Interclub Marathon Championships (6 times!), organized innumerable Marathon Races and Slaloms, hosted National Championship events, and broken the world bath-tub-paddling record!!
The club has introduced many people to the sport of canoeing, be it for recreation or serious, high level sport. All of this has been achieved thanks to the voluntary services of its members. It has been estimated that current members probably paddle more than 35,000 miles per year, and that over the past 50 years well over a thousand people have, between them, paddled well over a million miles! Currently around 200 juniors and adults are actively involved each year with many more visitors enjoying the club’s facilities at events.
As mentioned, the Clubs first premises comprised half of the City’s old swimming baths, located in a cordoned-off section of the river, and associated changing rooms, previously occupied by the Sea Cadets and Sea Scouts. The founder members refurbished the buildings in the early 60’s turning them into boat storage, a workshop and club house, rebuilt the landing stage and built their own boats. Most boats were made of wood and canvas, some folded up for transport and storage with the earliest sprint boats being made of wooden veneer.
The club’s first major trip took place in 1956 when about 30 members spent a week camping and cruising down the Wye from Hay to Monmouth. Since then club trips have taken members all over England, Wales, Scotland and to many rivers in Europe.
By the late 50’s club members were taking part in marathon, surfing, slalom, sprint racing and camping tours and by the early 60’s the club was establishing itself as one of the country’s leading organisers of racing and slalom events, hosting national championship marathon events, and slaloms at Builth Wells, Llandysul, Bransford and Bevere.
The 1960’s saw Alan Edwards and Glenn Palmer, the club’s first international competitors, represent the country at many events, including the Tokyo and Mexico Olympics
In February 1965, with a growing membership and need for more space, the members looked for new premises. With the assistance of a kindly benefactor, members were lucky enough to acquire the old Kings School Boat House on Hylton Road. Again the building needed work and was rebuilt with the enthusiasm of its members to provide one of the best club houses in the country at the time.
From these West-Bank premises the Club hosted National Championship Marathon events and numbered many international paddlers among its members. By the mid 70’s the existing River Sports complex on the Eastern bank of the river was being planned and the club spent many hours raising funds and subsequently building the existing premises. These finally opened in November 1985. Financial assistance from a local doctor and from the City Sports Council had been crucial in securing the finances needed for what was once again the leading canoeing facility in the country. Lottery funding has also been important since that time.
The club still values amongst its members some individuals with a very long record. Chris Skellern, one of the first members to represent the club and country in slalom and white water racing, is an active member, winning the over 50’s White Water Race World Cup Event at Bala in 2002. Robin Powell, one of the founders, and his brother Mick , who joined the club in its early days, are regularly cruising on the river or helping maintain the premises.