New boatclub on River Thames opens

New boatclub on River Thames opens

1 May 2024

There were cheers and celebrations as Headington’s Rowing community came together to mark the official opening of the School’s new boathouse.

Olympic silver medallist and Headington alumna Katie Greves officially cut the ribbon on the stunning new facility on the River Thames at Long Wittenham on Saturday 27th April before current parents, rowers and former members of HSOBC (Headington School Oxford Boat Club) toured the facility and shared pizza, fizz and rowing memories.

The young rowers then demonstrated the boathouse’s purpose, taking to the water for their Saturday training session.

In its 30-year history, Headington School has seen over 120 girls row for Team GB, including three Olympians. The boatclub is the most consistently successful girls’ club and school over the last 20 years, winning numerous medals at the National Schools’ Regatta and Henley Women’s Regatta. Despite this impressive track record and the sport’s popularity across all school years – with around 140 members, Rowing is one of the most popular extra-curricular activities at Headington – the club has never had a dedicated boathouse or direct access to the River Thames, instead sharing facilities with a neighbouring school.

After an extensive search, Headington School acquired an eight-acre riverside site known as Maddy Moorings in the village of Long Wittenham. In addition to providing the boatclub’s first permanent home, the new boathouse has 300 metres of river frontage and 5km of uncongested water, ideal for training and competition.

The boathouse was designed by Spratley & Partners to blend into its surroundings and to pay homage to the sport of rowing, while supporting the School’s ability to develop rowing talent as one of the UK’s top school boat clubs.

The riverside location is susceptible to annual flooding and presented several challenges, requiring careful coordination with specialists for all works within 10 meters of the river, including wet docks, pontoons and regrading of riverbanks. The boathouse has been substantially raised on columns more than two metres above flood level. A landing ramp connects the riverside to the building, while a club room balcony offers views downriver for spectators. With an area of almost 5000 square feet, the distinctive wildflower roof enhances the site’s biodiversity and slatting facades help the building blend into its rural setting. Ecological features include Air Source Heat Pumps, electric charging points, improvements to water vole habitats and the creation of bat crevices in the building’s cladding and neighbouring trees.

Head Rowing Coach Ryan Demaine said: “This fantastic new facility is a symbol of our dedication to excellence in sport and support for our pupils’ ambitions and achievements.

“We are incredibly excited about the opportunities it will give us to add to Oxfordshire’s rich and well-established rowing community as we inspire, nurture and develop future generations of rowers.”

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