Local Hero – Paul Wallis

Paul Wallis of Bridgnorth Rowing club was a somewhat reluctant local hero this month. “Everyone contributes so much – why me?” he asked – but it was Paul who had been bought to my attention by many members of the club who wanted to express their thanks and appreciation of all that he, and indeed his father John before him, have done for the club and the huge contribution they have jointly made to Bridgnorth.

Paul rightly stressed that it’s very much a team effort – and that he shouldn’t be singled out, but agreed that it would be good to bring to people’s attention the vision, growth and firm foundations which have grown up around this remarkable club in the midst of Bridgnorth. He has also, it must be pointed out, been a member of the rowing club for 42 years – which is a pretty impressive innings by anyone’s standard.

The Bridgnorth Rowing Club was originally founded in the late 1800’s but disbanded after the war. In 1953 it was re-founded, based in an old Nissan hut donated by a local farmer, with rowers from the town and the local RAF station, and a great deal of goodwill from the early members. John Wallis, Paul’s father, was a founder member and also a life member of the Rugby club, with whom the rowing club retains strong links.

In 1984 he was in the British Team at the World Dragon Boat races in Hong Kong.

From the age of 8, Paul was a regular down at the rowing club with his dad, starting off coxing crews. Together with his other passion – Rugby – he has enjoyed a rowing career which has seen him in the first crew from Bridgnorth to qualify and compete at Henley Royal Regatta, and in 1984 he was in the British Team at the World Dragon Boat races in Hong Kong.

A turning-point for the club came in the early 1990’s when the club purchased the riverside building – an old disused warehouse – which is now the club’s home. The building was slowly transformed by volunteer members and now boasts smart training and changing facilities, a bar and function room.

“There was a small but determined team of members who got on with the job of transforming these buildings to the great club house we have today; Dave Walker, who is now Club president, Richard Holt and Roger Payne to name a few” said Paul.

The club offers several learn-to-row schemes through British Rowing, including leisure rowing for those who don’t want to compete but want to enjoy being on the water, plus rowing for juniors, ladies and veterans. The club is always keen to welcome new members, who can make contact with the club through the website www.bridgnorthrc.co.uk and they will be met by an enthusiastic and dedicated team of coaches, including former Australian International Liz Coulter.

Paul is a man who clearly loves Bridgnorth, with the Rowing Club having a very special place in his heart – he is the second generation to have really dedicated themselves to Rowing in Bridgnorth, and as such he is one of those key people in the town who keep clubs going. But his motivation to do so comes from a deep-seated and charming altruism – explained by Paul himself: “I just love people using and enjoying the river. The river is here for all of us.” Bridgnorth Rowing Club is hosting the Annual Fun Regatta on September 10th at Severn Park. This is a wonderful chance for people to have a go at rowing, and the entry includes three free training sessions. Entries are now closed, but do come and enjoy a fun day out and BBQ by the river…..

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