ITS origins date back to the famous philanthropist whose mill sits at the very heart of the recreational playground he created.

Within the shadow of the iconic chimney - a landmark of the workplace Sir Titus Salt constructed along with the surrounding properties for his employees and nearby Roberts Park, flows a stretch of river where his son enjoyed sporting pursuits.

Watching the fast-flowing River Aire glistening, briefly illuminated by the sun’s brief appearance on an unseasonally chilly May day, as it tumbles over the weir, I can almost imagine Titus Salt Junior and his teammates making great pace as they row their way along the river.

Salt Junior’s allegiance with the Bradford Amateur Rowing Club stems from 1868 when, according to the roll of honour in the clubhouse, he was in fact the club’s first president.

Of course, back then, it was a men only domain, until 1974 when Carol Singleton became the club’s first female member paving the way for many more women to follow.

Today the club has, according to director Terry Edwards, about a 50/50 male and female membership.

During Celia Hickson’s tenure as the club’s first female president it has broken new ground.

Celia was instrumental in the club establishing what she believes to be a world first for a rowing club in offering mixed ability rowing.

The club currently has two mixed ability rowers who are undergoing the training programme with a view to competing in regattas.

The Telegraph & Argus’ parent company, The Gannet Foundation, has helped to part-fund two boats within the 60 or so strong fleet.

Neatly arranged on racks, the lightweight vessels are christened after the club’s location on the River Aire. ‘Extraordinaire,’ and ‘Atlantaire’ are among the names - others are christened after notables within the club such as Barry Wood, the club’s facilities manager, whose name is given to the Boathouse.

Celia explains the club is keen to make a difference within the local community. She appreciates rowing can often be seen as an elite sport but she and her fellow members want to widen their appeal and demonstrate rowing is for everyone.

“There is a big push to make us more inclusive. The biggest barrier to participation is walking through this door because of preconceptions. People think it is elite, that people will judge or will not have patience but we have a great sport that anybody can do regardless of age as Michael demonstrates,” says Celia referring to the club’s oldest member.

Michael Randle belies his 84 years. His sprightly demeanour and agility stems from an active life predominantly on the pitch playing rugby and football. Swimming and cycling is another passion - he delighted in the gift of a racing bike for his 80th birthday.

“There is nothing more pleasurable than rowing up the river on a fine day. It is a beautiful stretch of river with the trees and heron and Kingfishers - all of a sudden you see a flash of blue,” says Michael. “It certainly keeps me fit and health and I enjoy it.”

Michael joined the club in 2006 and, keeping it in the family - as many members do - his wife Anne is involved too.

“We used to walk up and down the river and I saw these people whistling up and down the river. I thought ‘this looks good,’” says Michael, who was 72 at the time.

One of his pals was a former president of the club and told Michael about the taster rowing courses they run. “It was a chance encounter,” adds Anne.

Through the taster course Michael learned to row and became a regular member often taking to the water in the beautiful lengthy yet light-weight boats neatly arranged on racks within the boathouse.

Interestingly, the original boathouse when Sir Titus Salt’s son Titus Salt Junior was a member, along with a number of Bradford businessmen who helped to form the club in existence today, was at The Boathouse at the bottom of Victoria Road, Saltaire.

It was later re-located to its current location on the opposite side of the Weir.

Regattas are a popular occasion on Bradford Amateur Rowing Club’s annual calendar of events. The first Open Regatta was held in 1883 and the club holds two open regattas a year including the ‘War of the Roses’ involving veteran crews from clubs across the North participating in a ‘crazy knockout competition!’

One of their momentous occasions was participating in a ‘row past’ at the prestigious Henley Regatta to commemorate the club’s 150th anniversary.

The club currently has more than 200 members ranging in ages from 13 to 84 and, over the years, it has spawned many notable names such as Olympic rowers Kate Holroyd, whose father John is a past president, and Debbie Flood.

For many members their association is as much social as it is for the sport. Ceilidhs and curry nights are just some of the events within this family environment.

Celia’s husband Carlton Smith and their son Oscar and daughter Imogen are also involved in the club.

She joined in 2001 and during that time has umpired. She also coached the club’s junior team for 12 years.

“My thing is being outside doing a sport that is not in a gym, the greenery and I love water, I am a wild swimmer,” says Celia, referring to her other pastime which takes her to locations such as Gaddings Dam in Todmorden.

Celia loves the sense of well-being from being in beautiful surroundings.

“We are in an exceptionally beautiful area,” she adds.

Rowing is also beneficial for health too - according to Celia and club secretary, Barbara Edwards it’s a great cardio-vascular work-out using both sides of the body.

“We are a sitting down sport - one of the ones that the British are very good at, sailing, rowing, cycling, it’s also non-weight bearing,” says Celia.

Barbara’s introduction to the club came through her husband Terry. “I married into it in 1975,” she says proudly.

Although she doesn’t row Barbara gets pleasure out of umpiring. “It’s good fun and I thoroughly enjoy it,” she says.

Adds Celia: “It is a team thing. You get to know them very well and because it is a team thing it makes you do it regularly because you don’t want to let them down.

“It’s very social and it is addictive, I have to say. If you don’t do it for a while you miss it.”

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