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Coquet Shorebase Trust
From The Beginning
By Ian Ridley
(Based on A Potted History by V Brown)

 

canoesmileThe Coquet Shorebase Trust came into being in 1992, but it is often not realised that the story and history of the Shorebase starts in the 1950’s

 

The 1950’s

It all started with nautical training courses run by Amble County Modern School. The following two quotes are taken from the Northumberland County Handbook of 1957:

“In The County Modern School at the fishing port of Amble, navigation, practical as well as theoretical, has been part of the curriculum ….. ”
“At the secondary modern school [Amble], a special course in seamanship and navigation serves the inshore fishing industry of the area.”
The result was that many of the local fishermen started their career on the School Boats – the Collingwood and the Seaquest. The courses also provide a foundation for boys who wanted to work in the Merchant or Royal Navy.

The Shorebase was built in 1950’s (currently the exact date is not known) either on part of the site originally occupied by the Amble Brickworks or by the side of the Brickworks. The Brickworks had been on the site for nearly a hundred years by 1950. Before the Brickworks were built in the 1850’s the site was saltmarsh along with a most of the area occupied by the current quayside area of Amble.

In the early days there was no slipway at the base for launching boats. This meant that the heavy whaling boat, used for rowing and sailing practice, had to be manhandled into the water over the edge of the quay at the Shorebase.

 

The 60’s and 70’s

In the mid sixties the compass binnacle that is still a prominent feature in the classroom arrived at the Shorebase. It is believed that it was a donation to the Shorebase by a shipbreaking firm on the Tyne. Investigations are underway to try to find out more about the binnacle and which ship it came from.

When the county of Northumberland moved over to the comprehensive education system, responsibility for the Shorebase was given to Coquet High School. It was also, around this time that the slipway was constructed. This allowed a much wider range of boats to be launched from the base.

With the change came an additional role, that of promoting sailing as a sport. Various schools in the area came together to jointly provide the base with a fleet of Enterprise sailing dinghies. This was the start of the base being used by most of the schools in this part of Northumberland, something that still continues today.

 

The 1980’s

In 1982 the Coquet Sailing Club was formed at the Shorebase, the objective being to give adults the opportunity to learn to sail using the school boats. One of the first tasks that the club undertook was to buy a Searider RIB Safety Boat.

1986 saw the appointment of Vic Brown as Head of Nautical Studies at Coquet High School, the post also carried with it responsibility for running the Shorebase. Under her leadership, while Nautical Studies teaching continued in the school, the general watersports sessions that were run at the base were increased with numerous schools in the area taking part.

In 1988 the youth tutor at Coquet High School left to become an insurance salesman. He had been responsible for the School kayak fleet. Before another youth tutor could be appointed Vic took the opportunity to take charge of the School kayak fleet, moving it to the Shorebase.

With canoeing now available at the Shorebase, the Coquet Canoe Club was formed in 1988, with similar objective to the sailing club, but aimed at those who wanted to learn to canoe.

 

The 1990’s and the creation of the Trust

During the early 1990s it was estimated that 75% of year 11 at Coquet High School had been canoeing or sailing with the Shorebase. Several of those youngsters are still involved with the Shorebase as either instructors or club officers.

1992 saw big changes to school funding. The County Education Committee which had directly funded the Shorebase was unable to continue the funding. It also became apparent that while the Coquet High School would like to fund the Shorebase, it could not. Therefore, along with most Outdoor Education Centres in the County, the Shorebase was threatened with closure.

A big campaign was mounted by, both the Clubs, Amble Town Council, parents of local children and the schools who used the base. The campaign was targeted at the County Education Committee to persuade them to keep the base open. The most important result of the campaign was the collection 2,000 signatures on a petition to keep the Shorebase open. The petition was presented to the Education Committee.

After the presentation of the petition, the Education Committee offered the campaigners a deal that resulted in the Coquet Shorebase Trust being formed in 1992. The driving force behind the setting up of the Trust was the two clubs and the town council. When the Trust became a registered charity it was four members of Amble Town Council who became the Trustees.

As part of the deal the County Council leased the premises to the Trust at a peppercorn rent. They also gave the Trust all the boats and equipment at the Shorebase. In addition, they supported the fledgling Trust financially by providing a maintenance grant, initially guaranteed for three years.

Vic Brown left the security of working as a teacher in 1992 to take a years casual fees contract to be the first manager of the Coquet Shorebase Trust. In fact, during her six years as manger she got a year’s casual fees contract each year, due to the fact that the Trust committee did not think that the trust was financially stable enough to take on the responsibility of a full-time employee. During the first couple of years, while she had a contract, there was no guarantee that the trust would have enough money to pay her. In fact, this was often the case in early days and if Vic had not been prepared to work for less than the going rate during the lean times then the trust would probably not be here today.

The trust was extremely lucky to have Bert Rolly as its first Treasurer. Bert developed a very prudent fiscal policy. The result was that within three years of being formed the Trust had acquired reasonable reserves, and was well on its way to being reasonably stable financially.

During the first six years the trust raised funds to build up the fleet of boats, made improvements to the premises and buildings, and built up a relationship with Alnwick District Council involving an annual grant towards paying for a manager, for which the Trust undertook to provide services for the people all over the district Alnwick. We also raised funding for short term summer contracts for instructors: Phil Raine and Debbie Mowatt being those concerned.

In April 1998 Vic Brown retired (sort of) and Claire Knifton was appointed as manager on a 3 year full-time contract. So the Trust became an employer for the first time, having decided that we were financially stable enough to do so.

During Claire’s tenure as manager the Trust continued to grow. In addition, the Trust obtained the franchise to offer open college courses in various watersports.

 

Into the 21st Century

In March 2001 Claire left the Trust to work for Outward Bound in Scotland, and Paul Hewitt was appointed as the third manager of Trust. This time the Trust felt able to offer a permanent contract; things had come a long way since 1992.

Funding was granted to purchase a windsurfing fleet, and the Coquet Windsurfing Club joined the group of Shorebase affiliated clubs.

We were successful in gaining a Sport England grant (supported by the SRB fund) for a Paddlesport Development Officer. Simon Tibbitts was appointed on a 5 year contract and, with 2 full-time staff, more could be achieved. We also decided to employ a part-time secretary. Geoff Barrett was also working regularly as an instructor.

Both Paul and Simon moved on to other jobs, and Phil Scowcroft was appointed as the new manager, with Geoff working part-time as additional support.

 

2010 and the 2nd decade

In early summer of 2010, Geoff and Phil both moved to new employment, and Vic Brown stepped in to take on the role of manager (or rather honorary manager), again, until a permanent appointment is made. She is ably assisted by the Office Administrator – Hilary Brooker-Carey, and Ken Martin (honorary deputy manager and in charge site maintenance and canoeing), as well as the many volunteers and members of the associated clubs.

In 2011 we applied to The Inspired Facilities Fund and were offered a grant of £50,000 towards a new building at Duridge Bay Country Park. This then started a massive push bu Vic Brown to raise the additional £75,000 needed to build the new facility and associated launching area. The required £125,000 target was reached with the Trust using a chunk of it’s reserved to provide the final tranche of money. It had been expected that building work would start in early spring so that it would be ready to use for the school summer holidays. For various reasons work started much later in summer of 2013 and our new premises were officially opened in October 2013 just as winter was coming. But in Easter 2014 our new facility at Ladyburn lake opened for business. It has been a great success with all the Trust user, volunteers and sessional staff. It has allowed us to expand the work that we do at the country park as well as allowing us to have easy access to a wide range of boats.

In early 2014 we knew that Coastal Community Funding had been awarded to fund developments in Amble, this included relocating the Shorebase Amble facility to a new site upstream of the Coquet Yacht Club and Amble Boat Club. We moved to the new premises in April 2015. The greatly enhanced facilities at both our premises have opened up new avenues for participation, both in Amble and at Druridge Bay Country Park.

We are looking forward to expanding the opportunities we offer both to the local community and visitors to the area.

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