It’s training camp season. No sooner do the clocks creep forward and the last marshal departs an empty Tideway course than clubs up and down the UK flock to bodies of water to prepare for regatta racing. Many go abroad – to pastures including Spain, France, and Portugal – without taking into account the wide variety of cost-effective solutions already present inside their borders.
Fear not – at Square Blades, we want to promote the best that Britain has to offer. In this article, we’re going to list some of our favourite destinations to plug the spring miles and enjoy a brief respite from the relentless machinations of winter training.
Let’s start simple. It might not be the sexiest or most glamourous of destinations but as one of only a couple of purpose-built rowing lakes in the country, Dorney has its clear merits. Available to book throughout the year and handily located within firing distance of the M4, Dorney already plays host to numerous domestic regattas. Why not hone your skills on the same course you’ll be competing on in a few months’ time?
If all-conquering Oxford Brookes choose to spend their pre-Henley camp there, then Wimbleball can’t be doing much wrong. Situated in Exmoor National Park in the heart of South-westerly patchwork countryside, this reservoir doubles as an ideal location for rowers to seat race and match eights on the wide expanse of water. Combine that with sweeping green fields and a wonderful collection of local hotels, restaurants and pubs and you’ll find yourself wishing you’d thought of it earlier.
If heroes are forged in the hellfire of hardship, then Peterborough is a proving ground for those protagonists to rise. Although Peterborough Rowing Club have dual use of both a small rowing lake – approximately one kilometre in length – and the River Nene, it is the latter that should attract you to bring your squad for some good old-fashioned mileage. The Nene stretches unencumbered for over five kilometres, allowing you to stay off the ergoes and in the boat, fine-tuning every movement in preparation for summer season.
We take your four miles, Peterborough, and we raise you. Boating from Grosvenor Boat Club, you can row for 20 uninterrupted kilometres on the River Dee in beautiful Chester. Several successful Henley campaigns were launched on this quiet stretch of English waterway and 2023 could be the year that you follow in those hallowed footsteps. With a multitude of restaurants, pubs, and local amenities on your doorstep – plus it's our home stretch – Chester makes for a compelling Easter camp option.
If all roads point to Henley, then why not get ahead of the curve and get some pre-summer paddling in on the world’s most renowned rowing course? If you time it well, you’ll probably start to see some of the early instalments for the regatta series and the buzz will begin to build. Don’t feel constrained by the 2112m regatta guidance – you can paddle upstream and downstream of the official stretch for several kilometres each way.
Bisecting the great Northern powerhouses of Newcastle and Sunderland is the River Tyne, home to the Blue Star and several prominent club squads. This is a fantastic option for mileage that takes you through the toon and out towards the North Sea. It’s also worth noting that of all the options above, the Tyne is the only stretch of water that passes directly through a major conurbation and thus allows for a huge amount of flexibility in selecting accommodation and post-rowing distractions.
Words by Junior Rowing News
Photo by Aaron Sims