Rebirth of a boathouse

Saturday 23rd April saw the official opening of the restored boathouse at Elford Hall Gardens.

When the project began in 2009, there was not much remaining of the once elegant boathouse on the River Tame. Restoration of this particular boathouse was not high on the project list of priorities and efforts were inevitably directed towards buildings that were immediately more valuable in the overall context of the project. The boathouse restoration was also fraught with difficulties as mature trees were growing within the boathouse and across its entrance! Not to mention the tonnes of mud and silt that had filled the boathouse over the years and buried the fallen roof timbers and tiles.

Boathouse ruins in 2009
Boathouse ruins in 2009

The decision was taken to put the restoration of the boathouse on the back burner. Volunteers were fully occupied on other tasks, not least the general maintenance to keep the garden looking presentable for our increasing numbers of visitors. The boathouse would have to wait….

Out go the tree stumps Dec 2014
Out go the tree stumps Dec 2014

 

Fortunately, no-one told Laurence Watton that the boathouse was not to be a priority, so, with commendable initiative he began digging out the silt by hand. In his mind was the prospect of creating a wildlife hide within the boathouse, while still letting it maintain its original function. Dad Dave Watton was soon drawn into helping out, as were other volunteers from time to time and soon this restoration was well underway, financed by a generous donation from one of the project volunteers. Work began in November 2014 and was completed early this year with much of the work being a Watton family effort. Much credit to them!

The craftsmanship on the restoration is of a high standard. All volunteers involved have had their names carved into the roof beams for posterity. It is a functioning boathouse, but the addition of two windows and a wildlife pond have created a dual function for watching wildlife.

The restored boathouse in 2016
The restored boathouse in 2016

The ceremony on Saturday opened with some words of welcome from Roger Thompson, as a crowd of some 75 locals, friends and volunteers gathered. The ribbon was ceremonially cut by long –serving volunteer Julie Cox and project patron Matthew Ellis made some very nice comments about the project as a whole, having been a close supporter since 2006, before the project got underway in. The assembled group then retired to the marquee to celebrate in some style with a bring and share lunch and some well received entertainment from the Walled Garden Wailers and long-time supporter Alun Davies. Needless to say, a good time was had by all!