Hugh Ellins – Rowing Down the River….

Hugh Ellins, Associate Solicitor – Commercial

Rowing Down the River

This blog is not about development, planning, green energy, compulsory purchase or CLUEDS.  It is about 8 people over the August Bank Holiday weekend rowing from Lechlade to Teddington Lock in aid of the NSPCC in Swindon.

Some 15 years ago,  the well know ( in Swindon) , Swindon 6 (at that time 8) decided to row the same trip for the same cause.  As this year is the 25th year of fund raising in Swindon for the NSPCC the idea is mooted that we should do it again.  A little seed grew and now some of are doing it again.

Unfortunately, of the original 8 only 4 are still rowing that is Alan Fletcher, Peter Mapson, Michael Shirley and myself.  On this occasion we are being aided by 4 younger men.   That sounds a good idea but as we have found in training it creates it own problems.  We discovered the first problem at the Reading Rowing Club who are not only generously lending us the boat but also through Des Norton giving us a lot of help in training.  Oh yes, we are in training.  The distance is 124 miles which we intend to cover in 3 or 4 days.  That is a serious effort, but we shall do this in relays as the boat only holds 4 and a Cox.

The first problem is that the younger men (the boys) row with a longer stroke than us older men (the gentleman).  Initially this caused us many problems as the oars were going in and out of the water at different times.  Not only was there no passing resemblance to a smoothly operating rowing crew it meant that progress, when there was any,  was not running sleekly through the water but bearing a remarkably resemblance to a car whose timing was out.  Start splutter stop start splutter stop.  We are still not rowing with the style and rhythm of other rowers from the reading Rowing Club all whom seem to make their boats pass serenely by with little or no effort and are a joy to watch.  We are however improving so that we can get to a speed where our trainer on the bank (no he does not have a megaphone nor a bicycle) has to break out to a gentle trot.

Another problem which affects both the boys and the gentleman is getting in and out of the boat.  This is a greater problem for us gentleman.  When we were first introduced to the boat the aforementioned Des gave us clear instructions as to how this was to be achieved most efficiently and safely.  The theory is fine but practice less so.  Not only is there the issue of getting into a boat which is only slightly wider than the rowers then one has to bend into an even smaller area.  The idea is to gently sit on to the sliding seat.  That seat is clearly malignant as it has the knack of never being immediately below you as you go to sit down.  It is always at the end of the runner and where it firmly stays whatever encouragement you offer it.

Getting out has similar issues to which must be added the difficulty of unbending oneself after an hour or two’s rowing.   That results in a stiffening back and lack of mobility.

Then there is the scariest part which is putting the boat back in its resting place.  This consists of lifting it out of the water turning it through 180 degrees and then manoeuvring it over a floating platform up on to the bank then into the boatyard.  The yard is now full of other boats of a similar ilk.  All this has to be done without dropping the damn thing and particularly not the berth below our berth in the rack.   That is because as Des told us on the first occasion, we manoeuvred the boat that it is one of the GB boats.

All this effort is to enable us to accomplish the  row and raise a lot of money for the NSPCC.  If this blog inspires you to make a donation I  will  be delighted.  The donation can be made either by contacting me at Bevirs or by donating via the fundraising web page at

 As the NSPCC says every child who is worth fighting for.

Hugh 01.08.2019