Challenge NRC

26th September 1984

111 fresh faced 18 – 21 year olds, with a couple of mature students thrown in, arrive at North Riding College (NRC) in Scarborough to enrol on a Batchelor of Education Degree course with Honours.

I was very excited to be moving away from home – it felt sooo grown up. My dad took me to open a bank account and then left me to unpack. I was a tad wary at this point because I was sharing a room with someone – probably unheard of today, sharing a room that is!

To cut along story short my room mate and I got on like a house on fire and are still good friends today. Remember it was the olden days back then so we didn’t have mobile phones or laptops or tablets. We didn’t want to stay in our rooms contacting friends from home and comparing stories – we did this by writing letters!!!!!!! So we had to get out there and make friends.

Elaine (my room mate) and I did this by knocking on all the doors on our corridor as we went down for dinner. Yep fully catered, three meals a day plus morning coffee and afternoon tea!!! Also unheard of today. I’m sure we had the best deal.

So those girls (the halls were not mixed sex!) who joined us became our friends throughout the four years. You could say our team!

On graduating we moved to all corners of the UK and met up for hen do’s, weddings, Christenings, and big birthdays! We couldn’t all make every get together because we might have been giving birth, breast feeding or dealing with another major life event but we tried our best.

Once all these occasions were over we came to a decision – we would meet up every May Day bank holiday ( easy to remember!). We began by staying in hotels in various cities – enjoying the night life and convenience of travel opportunities. It then became apparent that we didn’t want to share the hotel lounge with others or maybe they didn’t want to share it with us hollering and screaming AKA having a good time so we began booking houses. We have this down to a fine art now – when we meet up we spend some time booking our next venue. It’s great everyone is there to agree with the choice.

We’ve all had traumas along the way and been there to support each other throughout the years.

Jump forward thirty four years – yes unbelievable -THIRTY FOUR YEARS!

Last weekend found those nine girls (uh um!) meeting up at Tom’s Barn in Cheltenham for our annual get together.

We arrive individually throughout the afternoon. Suzie arrives with dinner ready made – even down to the jacket potatoes being scrubbed and prepared! Pam arrives with home made cakes and enough eggs (from her chickens) to last a week! I’ve done the big shop with enough food to feed an army! Everyone else arrives with bits and pieces we might just need especially gin!

Our watering holes are all booked in advance – eating features very highly on our list of activities – in fact it’s only beaten by drinking gin. In fact they are the two main activities of the weekend!

And so it begins – one giant therapy session that lasts the whole weekend. You can’t beat it. We laugh and cry together. Our faces ache by the end of the first evening as we regale tales of the past year.

Most of our weekend was spent in the garden as the weather was magnificent. Those lazy days and me parping on about rowing (surprising – I know!) got us all thinking. Well I think it was Paula who started it, or maybe Michelle, or was it Suzie? Anyway someone said they’d quite like to have a go at this rowing malarkey and could I arrange it?


The next hour was spent with me coaching an erg session on the lawn – explaining some rowing terms and technique. When they get home, they’ll be joining a gym and practising the ‘arms, body, legs’ mantra – apparently!!!






It’s not easy to replicate the slide movement while sitting on a blanket on the grass! We gave it a good go! And I can safely say I believe that by the end of May Bank holiday 2019 my athletes will be Tokyo ready.

Later that afternoon we booked a house for next year in Chester – close enough to Warrington for our fast track learn to row course.

I’ve checked it out with the club and got the go ahead so here I am laying down the gauntlet to the class of ’84.


Warrington Rowing Club is booked, I’ve already got agreement from members that they will come and help me – only one thing left to do and that is to get a training plan in place.

Let’s go girls!

Each month I’ll send you some ‘homework’ and would greatly appreciate your feedback – in fact i expect nothing less. Comments, photos and videos will be most welcome.

So for June I would like you to go to our Always Oarsome blog and read the blog titled

Arms, body, legs, legs, body, arms’.
This will give you an introduction to our chosen activity.

I also think it would be useful to start doing some gentle stretching exercises in preparation for the big weekend.

Just fifteen minutes a day while you’re watching TV, marking books, covering playground duty, revising health and safety papers, cleaning out the chickens, waiting for your child to finish guitar lessons, demonstrating emergency crash landing procedures or demonstrating restraint strategies. I’m sure you can all find an appropriate time slot!

Good Luck and be Oarsome!!!!

Pure good fun and team work

BR umpire(TC) “ I could do with a pint of whatever they were on 🙂 They claimed to be sober… hmmm!”

Response from one of said WRC rowers “ …Not a drop despite what TC says. Pure good fun and great team spirit.”

Northwich Spring Head, Easter Sunday and April Fools day all in one!

When we think of Easter we think Spring and feeling the warmth of the sun on our faces. Well Easter Sunday fell on April Fools Day this year and we were fooled early in the day. The sun was shining and the landing stage at Northwich Rowing Club was buzzing with competitors ready to boat but we were warned at the coxes meeting not to be fooled “it was jolly cold out there on the water!”

The Masters Ladies from Warrington Rowing Club were out in force racing two singles and two quads. It was our first race in months and we were very excited.


A small glitch early on when one of our rowers got lost finding the club. Fortunately Northwich very helpfully delayed the start for a short time and with the help of team mates rigging the boat, and putting it on the water our Gloria took to the water and raced. Probably not the best preparation but she didn’t let that stop her. Straight up to the start, a quick turnaround and race back down. Bravo Gloria!!

Our other single rower – an experienced competitor – Sian had an oarsome race and came home with a medal. These were no ordinary medals but wooden ones made from the old boat house recently demolished to make way for new!

And so the quads took to the water. A healthy set of entries in our category – six in all.

What most people don’t realise about rowing is just how sociable it can be.There were about forty crews in our division so it takes a while for them to boat and plenty of time is given over to everyone getting up to the start (we basically row the course backwards to get there!) and then each crew has to turn around and sets off individually under starters orders as this is a timed race.

So as you sit at the start you are surrounded by your competition. You have two options here- either stare them out and try to scare them off or have a jolly good chin wag!

Obviously we chose the latter and by the time the umpires were shouting “Warrington Go!” we had a pretty good idea that the crew we were chasing down the river were going to give us a good race. It seems that this crew have trained and raced together for some years and were very successful but we gave it our best shot!!

We had a great race with a good start and we kept the momentum going all the way through. We didn’t let York get away. Head races are tricky as you can’t tell if you’ve won until the results come out unless of course you overtake your competition (which we didn’t!). Lots of support from the river bank kept us going.

Both quads were  buzzing when they came off the water, we had done our best and it felt good.

The results were out before we had even de rigged our boat and York had beaten us, the Smile quad so we came in second – no medals for us today!

This didn’t deter us. It was time for a bacon butty!!!! After bacon butties, cups of tea and scrummy cakes we went to watch the next division and the banter continued.

We were disappointed that we didn’t win but we had an oarsome race and on congratulating the York crew we had decided on a rematch at a future York event.

So to sum up the day it was “pure good fun and great team spirit!”

When the wheels fell off…

Roll back ten years and I would be the person who understood the difference that sport could make and just how important it is to have in our lives. However I had never really taken part, never really felt like part of a team, never practised until I was really good at something. I didn’t feel like anything was missing from my life – I went to the gym sporadically, took tennis lessons, took up tap dancing but that’s about it!

I had encouraged my children to have a go at everything and supported them with their chosen sports, at which they have both excelled, playing for the county and competing nationally and becoming a British Champion (had to get those bits in #proudmum)!!!

After standing on the river bank for the umpteenth time, waiting for my daughter to row down the river, in the rain I wondered if I should have a go at rowing and so I did!!

Fast forward ten years and I was asked to support a charity sports day – primary school style. Well being an ex primary school teacher that was right up my street so I agreed. We did the sack race, egg and spoon race,  skipping race, hoola hooping and three legged race amongst others. It was so much fun but I suddenly realised I had developed a competitive streak – generally when we were being penalised or disqualified for something when other teams weren’t ( it still bugs me today!) but also in that I was screaming encouragement so we could be first over the line – points meant prizes. I wasn’t even interested in the prizes – it was the kudos of winning that meant so much more for me, certainly not just the taking part!!!!

What had made me develop this competitive spirit? Yep you’ve guessed – it was rowing.

I started in a boat of like minded mums and we were basically pushed out in a quad boat and left to work it out for ourselves and we did. We had great fun pootling up and down the river. We even began entering some local races and even won!!!! Shortly after this the rowing club began offering Learn to Row courses and our senior ladies squad began to grow. We soon had a regular turnout of about twelve ladies out of a squad of eighteen.

I began to help with the Learn to Row courses and encouraged a regular session for the recreational squad, many of these people chose to join the senior squads because they decided they wanted to compete. We got regular crews together, training became part of our lives. We didn’t want to let our crew members down so we did our very best to be at all the training sessions both on and off the water. We entered local races and won a huge amount of medals. We were never disappointed if we hadn’t won but we’d put up a good race – we always were the best we could be!


Then the wheels fell off …for a number of reasons. For eighteen months we lost our way and because we didn’t have regular crews we didn’t feel the pull to turn up to all the training sessions and shockingly people started having a life outside of rowing! Then they couldn’t make events and so we competed less and so the team spirit diminished!

I was the one of the ‘saddy pants’ who did keep on training (most of the time) as I still wanted to compete and I had built up a level of fitness which I had never had before and I needed the buzz of training. I began to get frustrated when we couldn’t get a crew together for a race or crews were thrown together at the last minute. Don’t get me wrong I knew we were never going to make the Olympic squad but I wanted to do the races justice and show people what our club could achieve, not just bowl up and be a walkover. Remember I had developed a competitive streak – it wasn’t going anywhere!!

And I loved being part of a team – that felt like a thing of the past.

It was a frustrating time. Thanks to my family and friends for listening to me whinging and moaning, twelve months on from the charity sports day and two fantastic things have happened.

Number one – so it seems that quite a few squad members felt the same as me and when it came to organising regatta season 2018 some one ‘took the bull by the horns’ and we had a frank discussion which ended in us joining together, combining forces and showing some commitment and hopefully our regatta season will prove to be a good one.

Number two – another of our ladies suggested a challenge – we would row a marathon supporting Cancer Research UK. That was about two weeks ago and in that short space of time some of the ladies have completed their challenge on the ergs or on the water and the rest of us will be rowing the 26 miles on the river on Saturday 24th March. (We planned to do it last Saturday but the mini beast from the east got the better of us and we had to postpone it). We have also raised over £2500 and that amount is still growing.

And guess what?


There’s a renewed buzz around the ladies squad.

All the people who have taken part in the challenge and gone the extra mile (literally!!) and made sure they have been around to support people in their efforts, whether that is sitting beside someone on an erg and helping them through the last 5k or 500m, feeding people jelly babies so they don’t have to stop rowing, shouting encouragement  when they “hit the wall”, cheering them on the water every time they passed the club and turned around for the next leg, lifted boats off the water for fatigued rowers in the snow and generally just been present while others are completing their challenge.

Huge thanks to those responsible for instigating the changes and thanks to the Ladies Squad as a whole for muddling through and then pulling together when it really mattered.

What’s that saying? You don’t realise what you’ve got until it’s gone – been there, seen it, done it and now we’ve got it back!

Watch this space for the next challenge!

I’ll leave you with a quote from the least normal member of our squad!

“I love that you are all weird and I’m normal but you’ve accepted me anyway!”



The Youth of Today

A couple of hours a week I spend some time coaching children from local secondary schools as part of the Warrington Youth Rowing programme. They are predominantly Year 9 so around fourteen years old and have attitude by the bucket load! Backed by British Rowing these children are being encouraged to take up a sport they probably wouldn’t normally have access to.

I guess a visit to the rowing club can be quite daunting for some of them and everyone reacts to new situations in different ways. They generally come across as being overly confident while trying to be nonchalant, cool and unamused. I’ve coached a couple of the schools and generally they all dampen their enthusiasm in front of us adults.

The programme has been running for over a year now and it’s not easy juggling timetables, staff and travel arrangements for eight different schools in the borough but this is what is happening.

In July a mini regatta was organised so the children could showcase their newfound skills to parents and staff alike. It was enormous fun and gave these children the opportunity to shine.

Last week an indoor rowing challenge took place at Priestly College organised by the Warrington Youth Rowing coaches and a variety of other people, including students from the college, head teachers and teaching staff and various volunteers.

Twenty four rowing machines had been collected and arranged so that there was a warm up area and a competition area. The machines in the competition area were wired up to the big screen so everyone could follow the race and shout encouragement where needed. The PA system was fully tested and they even had a professional sports photographer snapping away!

The children arrived looking nervous and not quite sure what to expect, huddled in their groups shivering with excitement ( or was it nerves?). Eventually the first competitors names were announced on the screen and after a warm up period they were asked to take their seats for their race. The start procedure was explained and then WHAM! off they went rowing as hard and as fast as they could – how many meters could they row in a specified time?

Going off too hard meant they ran out of steam – would slow and steady win the race? It’s not just about strength but about technique and also holding your nerve and not giving up.

They were fantastic – each and every one of them. Not only showing great skill and stamina but also empathy and encouragement for the fastest and the slowest! Many kids cracked their PBs!

After the individual round came the relay race. Now if you thought handing over a baton while running was tricky try the equivalent on a rowing machine!

So you row full pelt for about a minute, stop, drop the handle, take your feet out of the straps, move off the seat making sure the next person can sit down, strap feet in, pick up the handle and get that machine going again from scratch.

This really was the ultimate in team work with competitiveness, stamina, energy and enthusiasm by the bucket load. They all deserved medals – they were oarsome!!

Looking around the gym as they raced the last few meters it was heart warming to see the dedication from the children, staff and coaches as they screamed each other on when legs were sore, arms aching and lungs gasping- it would be easy to stop but they didn’t they powered on.

Teenagers get bad press today but this lot showed their true colours because someone believed in them. Warrington Youth Rowing is giving these children such a fantastic opportunity and they are certainly making the most of it.

I hope this programme continues to grow and you never know we could have some Olympians in the making, but even if they don’t take it to that level they will have skills for life – not merely the rowing technique but team spirit which will serve them well all through life.

Arms, body, legs, legs, body, arms…

Not sure if I’ve ever mentioned this before but I LOVE ROWING.

When I’m not working on our Always Oarsome business, I’m usually doing something else rowing related. For example running the Learn to Row courses at Warrington Rowing Club. Here’s an insight into what it’s all about.

Learn to Row November 2017
Team L2R

So approximately five times a year, Jen and I run the Learn to Row (L2R) course at Warrington Rowing Club. Although WE organise this we also have the help of a super group of volunteers from our senior and sometimes junior squads. It’s a six week course – two hours a week on a Sunday morning – open to anyone over the age of eighteen.

We generally get a mix of ages and usually more women than men! However this time the majority of the group were over forty and sixty percent were male!

The big day arrives and our “clients” begin to turn up. Some people book on with friends, some come as couples and many come along completely on their own. It’s quite a brave thing to do – to start to learn something new with a group of unknown people.

Some are nervous, some excited, some reluctant – usually those who have been dragged along by a friend! I know this feeling I was recently dragged along to my first kayaking lesson – it was brill by the way!

Most people have watched rowing on the TV – you know The Boat Race? Those “kids” make it look so easy – believe me they have trained for hundreds of hours both on and off the water!

I’m not trying to put anyone off – we have great fun in our L2R sessions and by the end of the course the attendees generally have a good grasp of the rowing technique.

Let’s begin

The first session begins with a quick introduction and safety briefing. Next we check that our “victims” are wearing the appropriate kit. We do not want anyone to be unsafe on the water or uncomfortable.

Following this we head to the gym and the fun begins. Several of our clients may have used a rowing machine (erg) in their local gym (the tricky ones!) and many have never sat on one before (also tricky but less so!)

We go through the basics of the stroke to give them an idea of what to expect and some pointers to bear in mind when in the boat.

Arms, body, legs, legs, body, arms”.

How difficult can it be? Believe me it’s not that straight forward, even less so when you think about it! Eventually we have them all rowing together and we stop the torture, er I mean finish on the ergs and Jen gets the cake tin out – they get really excited, momentarily, until we say we are just collecting valuables to lock away while we are on the water!!! No cakes or biscuits I’m afraid.

And so to the water…

We have really stable, safe boats especially made to make learning to row easy. Think very large plastic baby bath and you’re on the right lines – except these definitely float and are very tricky to turn over!!!

The boats are carried to the landing stage and put on the water and the oars fastened into the gates – the amount of information and new words we have given these people in this first half hour is phenomenal and we haven’t even started rowing yet!!!!

During one of our earliest courses, about week four, one of the ladies asked the question many people wanted to but didn’t dare, apparently!

“What exactly do you mean when you say ‘tap down’?”

After explaining this term we vowed to say at every session please do ask if there are words or terms we use that you are unfamiliar with!!

‘Tap down’ is the very first part of the rowing stroke so to not understand it causes a problem from the beginning!

The students are then seated in the boat and they float to the middle of the water and the real rowing begins.

This is where the ‘team’ part of rowing kicks in. You can have the fittest, strongest, tallest, most competitive people in a boat but if they aren’t team players they are scuppered – the whole lot of them.

A smaller, weaker crew who listen and row together as a team can quite easily make the boat go faster purely with teamwork.

So basically in rowing you follow the person in front of you – moving when they move – their arms, their body, their legs, their legs, their body, their arms. Simples!!

(Remember I said earlier it’s not as easy as you think? Well, even as I sit here writing this I am going through that motion at my desk to make sure I have the correct sequence arms, body, legs, legs….. you must get it by now?)

Putting this into practice does get very tricky because, of course, you are bobbing about in a boat on the water at the same time and water doesn’t stand still!

Miraculously, it all ‘sinks in’ and before very long we have ROWERS!

We have grown our very own team with everyone working together and listening and encouraging each other.

It’s difficult to explain just how proud we become of our ‘newbies’. We look forward to catching up at each session and recapping on things learnt in the previous weeks.

From the safety launch Jen and I see a group of people concentrating, thinking, imagining, smiling and laughing, but most of all we see them working together to make the boat go faster.


The next course starts in 18th February 2018 there are two places available!