By Karl Connor
Its idyllic setting next to the River Ehen has been one of the most attractive features of Egremont Rugby Union Club since it was formed over 125 years ago.
But the picturesque view comes with its own set of problems – and the club house was almost literally washed away two years ago when the devastating floods hit national headlines and caused chaos in places like Cockermouth and Workington.
Life Member Ian Marr, the force behind the lottery bid which provided the new changing facilities and multi-user games area, said: “The club’s very existence was threatened because everything was destroyed. The clubhouse itself was badly damaged and we had to start from scratch.
“But we have a very good committee and the club pulled together. Members were determined to get back into operation and the hard work has paid off.”
The club now boasts some of the best facilities in amateur rugby with a stylish, modern clubhouse which doubles as a venue for conferences and meetings, and excellent changing rooms which are the envy of the rest of the county.
The opening of the new clubhouse at the beginning of last season has also sparked a turnaround in the club’s fortunes on the field, with the first team winning promotion to the Cumbria and North Lancashire League and numbers in the second team increasing sufficiently to make regular weekly fixtures possible.
And the youth section – easily one of the best in the county – is thriving once more.
Club captain Chris Temple said: “Things have changed for the better, that’s for sure.
“In some ways it seems like no time at all since those floods, but it was a long hard season with no club house and not having a club to call home meant you lost some of the camaraderie. People weren’t hanging around after games or training and it meant we were a less united team because you lost the social side.
“Since the club opened it has been easier to attract players because our facilities are so good. We’ve been promoted and what we have is on a par with any of the clubs we’ve played in Cumbria or Lancashire.
“Our committee works very hard to give us great opportunities and we are taking them.
“We recently had ten lads down helping the next phase of development, a concrete pour on a flood defence system, which should ensure we never suffer again. It was great team building.”
The first team’s form this season has also surprised a few. They’ve scored some impressive home wins and a good run over Christmas should ensure that they stay in the higher division.
Ian added: “The most pleasing thing has been the relaunch of the youth section in the proud tradition which goes back to the days of Colin Wright, and with our new facilities we can offer a great place for kids to come and learn the game.”
The club will celebrate its success with the annual Sharks v Bulls game, where current and former players aged over 30 take on their younger comrades in a one off fixture which takes place at 1.30pm on December 28th, and any former players are welcome to bring their boots on the day. Those no longer able (or willing) to brave the field are invited to renew old acquaintances by coming along to watch the game, share a drink and see the new facilities. The game kicks off at 1.30pm.
For more information on Egremont RUFC, including how to book the club for use and times and days of training for all age groups, visit the website: www.egremontrugbyunion.co.uk