A HOMELESS canoe club in Oxfordshire has finally signed a lease on its new base that marked the end of a prolonged three-year struggle.

Despite several setbacks, Kingfisher Canoe Club made the long-awaited announcement after raising almost £90,000 that will cover the cost of building a combined storage hut and changing facilities at their brand new home in Abingdon Lock island.

While the group had funds to start the project that was granted planning permission by Vale of White Horse District Council in August it needed help to reach the full total.

A major chunk of the money was largely crowdfunded by the Abingdon community and local organisations that helped the club reach £30,000 in March. However, it also received a generous £36,000 grant from Sport England.

The public body invests up to £300 million National Lottery and government money each year in projects and programmes that help people get active and play sport.

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Youth development officer and trustee at Kingfishers David Surman expressed his gratitude to the Abingdon community that raced to help them.

He said: "This is fantastic news as it means that together with the money generously awarded by other organisations and the money that has been donated by members of the local community and that which we have raised ourselves, we now have enough funds to start and complete our project.

"This will ensure the sustainability of the club and the 45-year tradition of community canoeing and kayaking in Abingdon.

"Times are very difficult for everyone now, but at least we now have the resources to make a contribution to the life here when we get through this present crisis."

Kingfishers, which has 140 members aged from 11 to 70, and its youth division Pathfinders, packed up and left their Abingdon home of 25 years in October 2017.

They were given notice of eviction by the Army Rowing Club, with which they had shared the site.

Since then, the club has had to operate from temporary sites in order to keep going.

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In 2018 the organisation was even forced to run its popular river sessions from the back of a van as members struggled to find a permanent base.

The club's Justgiving page stated: "After a three-year search looking at sites along both banks of the Abingdon stretch of the River Thames we have finally located and had planning permission granted to build a timber frame canoe storage and changing facilities for the club on Abingdon Lock Island.

"With this hurdle completed we are now finalising plans for construction."

Amongst the local organisations that supported the canoe club financially in raising this amount were Christ`s Hospital Abingdon, Abingdon Rotary Club, Abingdon Town Council, Balliol Boys Clubs Association, Abingdon Marathon, Tesco Bags for Life and Waitrose Community Matters.

Kingfishers also praised Oxfordshire County Councillors Alison Rooke, Neil Fawcett and Emily Smith who helped through the OCC Councillor Priority Fund, and many well-wishers from the community who made individual donations.

GO Outdoors Oxford also played a big role by allowing the club to hold a bucket collection at their branch on Abingdon Road.

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While the canoe club has been forced to suspend all activities during the coronavirus crisis, it is usually known amongst the community for providing training, coaching and trips for its members.

The club also actively engages with the locals by running monthly 'taster' sessions, events for local Scout, Cub and other Youth Groups, as well as supporting community events such as Abingdon Fun in the Park and undertaking clean-ups of the river.

There are also numerous trips arranged by members during the year such as canoe surfing, and travels to various rivers in the UK and sometimes even the Alpes.

To find out more about the Abingdon organisation and how to become a member visit kingfishercanoeclub.co.uk