A Brief History of Bolton Canoe Club – Foz passed this to me at the beginning of 2016 along with numerous anecdotes of trips, photographs and Club newsletters.

Bolton Canoe Club was started in January 1962 by a group of canoeists, the majority of whom were connected with Catholic Boys Club. The first Chair was Tom Redfern, a Lakeland Canoe Club member. Cyril Chester from the Catholic Boys Club was the Secretary and Treasurer. The first General Meeting was on 13th March 1962 at the Lads Club in Bark Street, Bolton. The Secretary outlined the nature and purpose of the Club, and Tom Redfern explained the various branches of the sport, the types of canoe and equipment required for each. To ease transport the folding canoe was recommended rather than the rigid type. Touring was the branch of the sport favoured by the majority present.

Indoor training, organised by Jim Sykes was started at the Whitecroft Road School Baths, followed by outdoor training organised by the Catholic Boys Club at the Blue Lagoon, Belmont. Tom Redfern organised meetings at Fell Foot on Windermere with Lakeland Canoe Club.

During the summer of 1962 regular meets were arranged at the Blue Lagoon, trips on the Lancaster Canal at Bolton le Sands, and with Lakeland Canoe Club on their meets to the River Rothay, Windermere and the Rag Regatta at Fell Foot. In May Oliver Cock, the British Canoe Unions’ National Coach attended a training weekend based at Smeltmill Cottages near Dunsop Bridge.

At the AGM held at New Overdale on 18th January 1963 a new Committee was elected. Sydney Edge replaced retiring Chair Tom Redfern, who was leaving the district, Cyril Chester continued as Secretary and Miss Temperley was elected Treasurer.

A second Oliver Cock training weekend was planned for 23rd to 24th February 1963. At this paddling was abandoned on favour of “Cabogganing” on the snow slopes between Dunsop Bridge and Slaidburn. This resulted in the hospitalisation of the Chair and his son Martin after an argument between their K2 and a tree.

The regatta on the Blue Lagoon became an annual fixture during the first half of the 60’s, invitations being extended to Bury Canoe Club and Local Youth Clubs.

The Club activities were mainly directed towards touring, a programme being drawn up at the AGM for the whole year. The venues included the River Ribble, Lune, Derbyshire, Derwent, Dee (Farndon to Dee Fords), Rothy and the Crake. The Irwell from Ramsbottom and occasionally above was canoed frequently in high water. Sea trips on Morecambe Bay, from Cleveleys and from Fleetwood; and on the lower reaches of the River Wyre.

Various groups joined Lakeland Canoe Club on trips to the River Eden and Eamont, and surfing weekends at Silecroft; Manchester Canoe Club on Dee tours from Corwen down, and on the River Bollin; the Lakes Windermere, Coniston (camping) Derwent Water, Ulleswater and Bass Lake were also visited.

The winter bath sessions changed to High Street, then to Horwich Leisure Centre, the Old Farnworth Baths, Dean Base, Back to High Street, Bury and finally the New Farnworth Baths.

The slalom activities started in the mid 60’s, a group of Bolton members regularly assisting Lakeland Canoe Club with their Stangerwaite slalom on the River Lune.
Club members also assisted the Scouts with slaloms and river races on the Irwell. At this time several members used the Irwell at Woodhill near Brown Cow, at the hanging practice gates below the bridge.

The first raking slalom Div.2 organised by the Club at Halton on the River Lune on 20th September 1970 had to be cancelled at the last minute due to unforeseen access problems on the left bank. This set back coupled with the loss of the Secretary in 1972 caused an all time low in the Club’s fortunes, the Chair and a few stalwarts managed to keep the Club going through this difficult patch.

Flat water training from the earliest days was carried out on the lodge west of Starling Road, Radcliffe. This facility was lost in 1977 to fishing interests after 15 years continuous use. Flat water training was then transferred to Starmount Lodge, also Crompton Lodges at Farnworth became available.

In 1976 we started to use the Irwell above the broken down Chestwheel Bridge at Summerseat for gate work on moving water. When the bridge was repaired we hired a field adjacent to the site, from which to operate and park cars. From 1978 we held regular Club Mini Slaloms and in 1983 our first ranking Div.4 and Novices slalom. This became an annual event and was transferred to the River Croal at Farnworth when the Burrs site was lost in September 1983.

In November 1984 Frank Goodman and George Parr the designers of the Holme Pierrepoint Course at Nottingham, Surveyed the River Croal at Farnworth and advised on the best way to sculpture the river bed for a distance of 300meters. This work was carried out in the Spring of 1985 in time for the ranking Div.4 and Novices slalom in April and the First British Schools Slalom Championships in June. This latter event has been held every year since up to 1989. The last two occasions combined with the Open Junior Championships, which was started by the Club as a separate event from the British Schools in 1987 as the Open Youth Championships.

Sid Edge