THERE are lots of good causes looking for your support through the year but one which I believe deserves special mention is the third annual River Festival staged by the Weybridge Mariners’ Club (WMC) – a cruiser club based on the lock island at Shepperton.
The club, which has been in existence since 1960, was hit by a terrible fire in March 2006 which totally gutted its classic old clubhouse and it has been struggling to get back on its feet ever since.
Now, more than two years on, a new clubhouse has risen from the ashes of the old one and work on the outside fabric of the building is virtually complete.
Club secretary Glen Lavier said: “We’ve got a roof, walls, floors and windows now so it is beginning to look like a proper clubhouse again – but there is still a huge amount of work to do on fitting out the inside of the building. Our insurance paid for the majority of the heavy duty building work, but we’re going to have to handle the fitting out ourselves.”
Which is one very good reason to get down to Shepperton lock island between noon and 4pm on Saturday, September 6 to enjoy the attractions of the River Festival and, hopefully, help raise funds to enable WMC to move back into its new clubhouse sooner rather than later.
The attractions will include radio-controlled model boats, a display of birds of prey, a fly-fishing demonstration, a mini boat jumble, an RNLI stand, loads of stalls to keep the kids amused and, for the parents, a Pimms booth.
Additionally, WMC will be running a raffle with prizes including £175-worth of John Lewis vouchers and a George Foreman grill.
The club, which has over 100 members and around 50 boats, stages regular cruising weekends up river to Windsor, Abingdon, Oxford and beyond and down river to various venues in docklands for long weekends.
Once a year they go over to the Continent or cruise the East Coast. The club also puts on a varied social programme including murder mystery evenings, quiz nights, a Summer Ball and a weekend away for a dinner/dance.
The club was originally formed by a group of boat owners based at Weybridge Marine who decided to get together to pool ideas and common interests. WMC’s first home was the rear end of a converted barge called Greywell for which they were charged the princely sum of £2 a year rent. It was not until 1972 that the club found a new home in a rebuilt boathouse on the lock island which was then owned by the Thames Conservancy.
It was a devastating blow for Weybridge Mariners when the clubhouse – which had been the subject of a huge amount of refurbishment and TLC by the members – burned to the ground as a result of an electrical fault.
Glen Lavier said: “We were determined to keep the club going despite this setback and now, thanks to a lot of hard work, the new clubhouse is nearly there.”
THE weekend after the WMC River Festival, the club will again be the focus of attention as the destination for the annual Association of Dunkirk Little Ships veteran’s cruise from Kingston. This event, on Sunday, September 14 is staged to mark the evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force from the beaches of Dunkirk by a flotilla of small boats, many of which are still afloat on the Thames. The organisers are keen to tempt Dunkirk veterans to join them on this year’s cruise. If you were involved – or if you know someone who took part in this iconic historic event – please contact Ian Gilbert on 07828 812648 or email him at papillon1930 [at] yahoo.com
I’ll be doing a detailed piece about the veteran’s cruise in a couple of week’s time.