Warm hospitality inspirational for Brenda

How the warm hospitality of DARC inspired a West Country resident to take up Rowing

My twin sister, Joyce, was born feet first with a smile on her face and her foot firmly on my backside pushing me to get on with the business of living. She’s been like that ever since – amazingly fit, constantly ebullient and definitely a glass half full sort of person. Therefore, it came as no surprise to me when she started to learn to row in May 2011. However, I did have a few questions like “Isn’t it expensive?” and “Aren’t you just a little too old to be taking up this sort of sport?” My doubts were quickly brushed aside as she explained that funding for the initial course had been made available from a local authority health initiative as rowing is seen as an ideal all round fitness activity.

I wondered how long her enthusiasm would last. Then as the months passed and I listened to her tales of Sunday Leagues, DARC Dynasaurs, Monday and Thursday morning “rec” rowing, the novel names for the boats and the crews (I fantasied over DARC Desires), the nerve wracking powerboat rescue course and the banter and camaraderie of the crews, I began to feel that there was definitely something very special about DARC. It was therefore with great anticipation that on one of my visits “Up North” she asked me to accompany her to the Monday morning coffee after recreational rowing. It was a beautiful sunny day and the river was just perfect. I strolled along the bank stopping at a bridge to take photographs of her boat gliding serenely under the bridge. At the end of the session I was given a tour of the club and all its wonderful facilities (I lost count of the number of boats). Coffee was accompanied by biscuits and lots of chat and so many introductions that my head was spinning. It had been a wonderful morning and it left me longing to learn to row.

So inspired by DARC, I made enquiries on my return to Somerset. Taunton, a mere thirty-four miles away from my home near Wells (you get used to distances in Somerset) was advertising a L2R course. I was quickly getting into the jargon and after paying the full fee; (yes full) I made my way to what can only be described as a very narrow stretch of river next to a derelict piece of waste ground. The “club house” consisted of two hangers containing a few viruses and fine singles. However, the members were marvellous and welcomed me with open arms explaining that once I got the hang of it, I could then go into a quad or an eight at Wimbleball Lake in Exmoor National Park just 50 miles away from my home!

After completing the 8 week L2R course, which mainly consisted of excellent tuition interspersed with dive-bombing swans protecting their nests and random poles protruding out of the river bed, I sadly said goodbye to the lovely people of Taunton and headed towards Bath and Avon County Rowing Club – just nineteen miles away from home. Their L2R was just starting and the boat house was being demolished to be replaced by a brand new facility incorporating boat houses for Bristol University, Monkton Coombe School and Avon County Rowing Club and a club house for the use of all clubs.

A few regattas later I returned to DARC and was invited by my sister to join her in the aptly named Double Trouble. Although a daunting experience for a beginner, I was overwhelmed by the amount of people both on and off the river who remembered me and wanted to chat. It is indeed a very warm and friendly club. Owing to the lack of time – I’m still working – and the distance I need to travel, my rowing at Avon County is developing slowly. However, I love the sport and if ever my enthusiasm begins to wane, I know I need only to take a trip to the North East to be refreshed by the warm hospitality of DARC.

My grateful thanks to one and all at DARC.

Brenda Baker

(a Member of Avon County Rowing Club)