Old salt lends sea cadets a hand as they struggle to keep HQ shipshape and dry

I’m always delighted to hear about the hard work put in by volunteers aimed at helping youngsters make the most of their free time. So it was with a great deal of pleasure that I attended the official unveiling of a new roof for the premises housing Sunbury and Walton Sea Cadets on the banks of the Thames next to Shepperton Marina recently.

I’M ALWAYS delighted to hear about the hard work put in by volunteers aimed at helping youngsters make the most of their free time. So it was with a great deal of pleasure that I attended the official unveiling of a new roof for the premises housing Sunbury and Walton Sea Cadets on the banks of the Thames next to Shepperton Marina recently.

Training Ship Black Swan has been providing fantastic opportunities for boys and girls for more than 65 years and is currently a thriving unit with more than 45 cadets – boys and girls – regularly attending. Cadets take part in a wide range of activities including sailing, canoeing, orienteering, engineering, first aid and cooking. They can also take part in the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award scheme.

Current chairman Gail Cramp tells me that, thanks to a huge fundraising effort by the volunteers who run the unit and parents of the cadets, more than half the £20,000 needed to replace the old asbestos cement board roofing of the building was raised.

That, together with grants from Trinity House, the Heritage Trust and Surrey Community Grassroots, enabled Black Swan to go ahead and replace the old roof which had been leaking copiously for more than 10 years.

Gail paid special tribute to Cliff Cook, a former cadet at TS Black Swan, who now works as a roofer.

“He heard we needed the roof replaced and when he learned what we’d been quoted for the work, he offered to do it virtually at cost – which was absolutely brilliant,” she said.

Cliff, from Byfleet, was a cadet at the unit during the 70s before he went on to join the Royal Marines. He modestly said: “It was a pleasure to help Black Swan out because I had seven or eight great years here and it was good to be able to put something back into it. It’s important for kids to have places like this to come to learn all kinds of skills.”

Now, with the new roof in place, the unit is looking to continue to improve the facilities on offer – but they are awaiting news from the owners of the land, the Walton Charity, to discover whether they will be offered a new lease and allowed to undertake further building and restoration work.

While that’s under consideration, Elizabeth Glen-Smith, one of the stalwart volunteers at Black Swan for many years, is trying to piece together details of the unit’s history. Elizabeth, who lives right next door to Black Swan, has held several roles including chairman, treasurer and secretary of the group.

“We’d love to hear from former cadets who can fill in some of the blanks about the way the unit developed,” she said. So come on all you ex-cadets, get back in touch and tell your stories. You can contact Elizabeth by email at egs@riverbank-shepperton.co.uk.

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