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Active Thames funding fuels 23 projects to encourage use of ‘blue space’

Active Thames, the partnership programme led by the Port of London Authority (PLA) to encourage physical activity on the tidal Thames and inland waterways, has awarded £150,000 in grants to 23 projects across London, Kent and Essex.

This brings the total to £390,000 of Active Thames funding across 50 community clubs in the last three years.

Grant Recipient Leaside Trust
Grant Recipient Leaside Trust
Grant Recipient Poplar HARCA (Photo by Sylvie Belbouab)
Grant Recipient Poplar HARCA (Photo by Sylvie Belbouab)

Like our better-known green spaces, the 95 miles of “blue” space offered by the tidal Thames can be a place for sport and relaxation, benefitting people’s physical and mental wellbeing. Active Thames helps communities make the most of this blue space, opening the river to a more diverse range of river users. Most of the funding is directed towards projects engaging people who are less likely to be active, including people with disabilities and long-term health conditions.

The funding covers a wide range of activities including sailing, paddlesports, rowing and walking. It also spans a significant geographical reach, from West London to Southend-on-Sea,  encouraging activities for all on the Thames and nearby inland waterways.

The projects that will receive Active Thames funding include Oar and Explore club in East London, which encourages women from local minority ethnic groups to enjoy watersports, a Sea Scout group that is purchasing two new catamarans in Kent, and Westminster Boating Base, which will provide watersport sessions for young people with special educational needs and disabilities. The grants range from £2,000 to £20,000, corresponding to the needs of the projects

“We’re really excited to support so many ambitious community projects this year, creating a more inclusive and accessible Thames, which is a core commitment of our Thames Vision 2050 strategy. On a day famous for the ‘January blues’, I’d encourage people to check out their local community club and enjoy the all-round physical, social and mental health benefits of being active in blue space.”

The summary of all the 2023/24 Active Thames grant recipients:

Age UK Kent Rivers, Gravesend, Kent 

Age UK Kent Rivers will receive £4,160 to set up two walking groups along the Thames Path. One group will specifically support adults with learning disabilities and their support workers, the other will be open to all ages and supported by staff so that older and vulnerable people feel safe and confident to attend. The Clarendon Royal Community will act as a meeting point and place for walkers to socialise.

The AHOY Centre, Southeast London 

The AHOY Centre plan to enhance their ability to generate income for their programmes by becoming commercially endorsed. A grant of £5,000 that will cover training and certification costs for staff members and their boats. Income generated will support several of the Deptford-based charity’s programmes, which all improve the health and life skills of disadvantaged young people and young adults.

And Fitness For All CIC, South London 

And Fitness For All CIC have been awarded £5,000 to build on their successful paddling and mentoring project with Downside Fisher Youth Club. Staff from the youth club will be trained to become paddlesports coaches, which means the youth club will be able to provide paddling sessions for young people well into the future. Training will take place at Surrey Docks Watersports Centre in Southwark.

Brentford Community Boathouse, West London 

£5,000 will provide 6 bursaries so that young people from lower socioeconomic backgrounds can keep active all year round at Brentford Community Boathouse. Parents of current rowers describe the project and coaches as “excellent” “supportive” and “understanding”. The club aims to reach as many children as possible in the local area, which has some of the highest levels of deprivation in London.

Cake Club CIO, Essex 

Cake Club CIO is a project offering parenting support, activities and playgroups in Essex, fuelled by plenty of tea and cake. £2,000 will enable the club to set up weekly walk and talk sessions in Shoeburyness, Southend, Westcliff and Leigh. Aimed predominantly at women in the perinatal period, the project aims to help get people active in the local area and support them with their mental health and wellbeing.

Dartford and Cambria Sea Scout Group, Kent 

Dartford and Cambria Sea Scout Group have received a grant of £8,300 towards the purchase of two new catamarans. Volunteer coaches will also soon receive RYA Multihull specialist instructor training and be able to coach over a hundred 10-18 year olds in the summer. The scout group have managed to raise match funding for this project and expect the sailing boats to last for at least ten years.

Docklands Sailing and Watersports Centre, East London 

Docklands Sailing and Watersports Centre have received £5,000 to run an instructor development programme. Young people from lower socioeconomic groups and diverse backgrounds will be taught to become instructors, with the intention that they then become part-time coaches at the centre. This supports a drive to increase sailing coaches in East London and builds on learning from a project funded by Active Thames last year.

Enable Leisure, West London 

A rowing programme delivered at Barn Elms Boathouse, managed by Enable Leisure, will receive £4,000 to support a fitness programme for adults with long term health conditions. Referrals to the rowing programme will come through existing social prescribing networks, and people will be given the opportunity to learn a new skill, get active outdoors, and connect with others in a positive environment.

Fulham Reach Boat Club, West London  

Fulham Reach Boat Club have been awarded £10,000 to strengthen and extend their work with schools in Hammersmith & Fulham and beyond. The grant will support access to rowing on the Thames for young people from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, including young people with disabilities, learning conditions and challenging behaviours.

Islington Boat Club, North London  

Islington Boat Club are excited to set up a new paddling club night for young women and girls. The boat club have spent the past year developing their female coaches and have a team that reflect the diversity of their local community. The club will receive £4,984.64 of funding and will target young people from lower socioeconomic backgrounds and faith communities which might prefer a female-only environment.

Laburnum Boat Club, North London  

Laburnum Boat Club have been successful in receiving funding from Active Thames for a third year in a row. £6,458 will support their Inclusive Waters project, which provides paddlesports activities and guided walks for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, and young people with disabilities. The grant also supports the development of the Laburnum coaches and, this year, the club will provide discounted spaces on their courses to other centres and watersports providers in the area.

The Leaside Trust, East London  

£4,860 will support The Leaside Trust to boost the development of volunteers at their paddling club in Hackney. 18 volunteers will become paddlesport instructors: six young people, six older adults, and six women from the local Charedi community. In turn this will help the charity continue to provide free sessions for the local community. Leaside are a charity based on the banks of the River Lea in East London.

London Youth Rowing (LYR), Kent

London Youth Rowing have received £20,000 to continue to roll out their Active Row programme in Kent. Now in it’s second year, the project works with schools to establish indoor rowing clubs and then gets them out onto the Thames from Gravesend Rowing Club. They plan to work with ten schools over the next calendar year, introducing hundreds of children to the River Thames.

Poplar HARCA, East London 

Over the past year (and with previous support from Active Thames), Poplar HARCA have successfully recruited over 50 local minority ethnic women to engage in watersports, many for the first time. The women have formed a committee and their club, Oar & Explore, is now affiliated to British Canoeing. A grant of £4,880 will support the club to deliver new sessions including family days, sessions for their male relatives and friends to try paddling, and two sessions dedicated to SEND families.

Sea-Change Sailing Trust, Essex and Kent  

Sea-Change Sailing Trust will use their grant of £8,370 for three purposes; a sailing residential for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, training for their current volunteers, and subsidised sail-training weekends for adults interested in learning how to sail traditional barges. Traditional Thames barges, such as the Blue Mermaid, require additional skills and there is a shortage of people able to sail them. This project aims to benefit the Thames sailing barge community as a whole, keeping a key piece of Thames heritage alive.

Seaquins Westcliff, Essex 

Seaquins Westcliff promote physical and mental wellbeing, facilitate community integration and challenge stereotypes faced by the Orthodox Jewish community. £4,500 will enable Seaquins to establish regular walking groups along the Thames Estuary Path. They aim to reach 550 individuals throughout the project, creating a sense of belonging and shared experience for all.

Shadwell Basin Outdoor Activity Centre, East London 

Shadwell Basin Outdoor Activity Centre will run a ten-month instructor training programme for six young Londoners aged 16-18, chosen from their existing youth leadership programmes. £4,988 will allow them to run weekly sessions of practical and theoretical workshops including personal skills, group management, leadership, safety and mentoring. This programme intends to address the current lack of instructors in outdoor and adventure sport.

Southend Association of Voluntary Services, (SAVS), Essex 

Southend Association of Voluntary Services, SAVS, came together with several other clubs in Southend to apply for Active Thames funding. £20,000 will support subsidised activity sessions across six different sports, provide coach development for several clubs and voluntary organisations, and culminate in “Active Southend-on-Thames” event days where members of the public can try a new activity under the guidance of experienced instructors.

Thames Barbarians Pilot Gig Club, Kent 

Thames Barbarians Pilot Gig Club are based in Kent. Their traditional wooden racing boat requires essential maintenance in order to keep rowers on the water this year. £4,640 will contribute towards the large repair bill faced by the club and will also enable them to continue to offer taster days and Learn to Row courses for the local community. The club will also use some of the grant to develop coxes from their club, and from other clubs on the tideway.

Thurrock Yacht Club, Essex 

Thurrock Yacht Club is a community-centred sailing club based at Grays, Essex. £5,000 of Active Thames funding, and funding raised by the club, will upgrade their fleet of safety boats. This will enable the club to run more sessions and support safe sheltered sailing for other local organisations such as Grangewaters Outdoor Education Centre and the Tilbury Sea Scouts.

Tower Hamlets Canoe Club, East London 

The visually impaired paddling project at Tower Hamlets Canoe Club continues to grow. Now in its third year having originally launched through Active Thames funding, club members will be upskilled in white water kayaking, safeguarding, paddlesport instructor courses and sea kayaking. A grant of £4,163 will support the club to expand its offer and membership throughout 2024.

Welsh Harp Sailing Club, Northwest London  

A boost of £5,000 means that Welsh Harp Sailing Club will be able to expand their work with local communities in Brent including Chalkhill Community Centre, the Well Well Project and an English language project called Utopia. The funding will provide sailing taster days, courses and discounted memberships.

Westminster Boating Base, West London 

Westminster Boating Base have been delivering watersports on the Thames for 48 years. A grant of £5,000 children will allow the base to run powerboating, canoeing, kayaking and sailing sessions for young people with special education needs and disabilities on the Thames, and will directly involve their carers and teachers too.

Grant Recipients Dartford and Cambria Sea Scout Group
Grant Recipients Dartford and Cambria Sea Scout Group
Grant Recipient And Fitness for All
Grant Recipient And Fitness for All
Grant Recipient Sea-Change Sailing Trust
Grant Recipient Sea-Change Sailing Trust
Grant Recipient Laburnum Boat Club
Grant Recipient Laburnum Boat Club
Thames Barbarians Pilot Gig Club
Grant Recipient Thames Barbarians Pilot Gig Club
Grant Recipient Fulham Reach Boat Club
Grant Recipient Fulham Reach Boat Club
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