Mixed Ability at Ross Rowing Club

One in Six people live with a disability.

Many rowers and non rowing members have disabilities at RRC, and we are proud that everyone is welcome and enjoys our sport, our club and our environment.


Email the Mixed Ability Project Manager, Sally Pettipher, sallypettipher@hotmail.co.uk

Health inequalities related to disabilities remain stark . Removing barriers to physical activity has physical and mental health improvements for everyone involved and there are many benefits offered by MIXED ability (rather than disability) sport.

Rowing has a strong club culture where members support each other and regularly connect off the water, reducing loneliness, improving self-esteem and a sense of belonging. Beyond providing regular healthy exercise, rowing on the River Wye in our Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, improves mindfulness and mental health, while interacting with crew mates provides lasting social bonds.

The Wye is a natural watercourse which rises and falls. This means boats are currently carried up and down a steep bank. Providing Adaptive (Disability) Rowing raises concerns about people getting up and down the bank while our steps are repaired. These concerns focus on mobility impaired people, whereas in reality, there is a broad spectrum of (dis)abilities that can be accommodated.

Club members include those with:
• Cerebral Palsy
• Hearing impairment
• Visual impairment
• Diabetes
• Chronic musculoskeletal problems
• Immunological disorders
• Cancer
• Depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder

So too we have club members dealing with other inequalities:
• Economic hardship
• Bereavement and isolation
• Minority ethnicity

We welcome people with:
• Learning disabilities, who are carers or who are refugees

For those who do not want to row on the water there is the gym, and non-rowing roles such as boat maintenance,  driving launches, towing trailers, serving drinks, making cakes or mowing lawns.

Mixed Ability Rowing at Ross-on-Wye

From 2023 we will mix people who wish to row socially, twice a week as a physical session, and once a week as a social session. People with and without disabilities, beginners and old hands.

This is not hard competitive training, although people that wish to extend themselves physically can do so in other sessions. This is about having fun, making friends, enjoying supporting others and feeling welcome in a club and sport that you might not have considered before in order to improve physical and mental health.

The standard of rowing is less important than the level of satisfaction and health improvement.

In the case of poor outdoor conditions, Mixed Ability team training in the club gym.


We are delighted that in December 2022 the Love Rowing charity (British Rowing’s Charitable Foundation) made a founding grant of £3,000 towards this programme. In February 2023 the Herefordshire Community Foundation (HCF) granted £3,000 from the Iron Fund and £1,000 from the Wye Valley AONB.

In year one the cost is £9,940 and in year two £4,560, further fundraising bids are being made for the remainder. The Love Rowing and HCF grants give us confidence that we will be able to start with on-water sessions after Easter, and gives other funders confidence that this is a well considered and deliverable programme.

Getting started

We started by forming a small team of people with and without disabilities in Sept 2022, and we have gone out into the community to meet other people with disabilities, and invited them to join us for our first social session. In the winter it is too cold and dark to start rowing, so we started with social events to welcome new people and allow them to get to know the club – gym, bar, boathouse – and our mixed ability team.

Financial sustainability

In future years the external funding requirement will diminish as new session fees increase and allow the club to continue through self-funding.

The Detail

To start, grow and maintain this project will require a dedicated coordinator and coach, either one person or two. Initial phases will be:
• publicising the programme
• engaging with the media
• interaction with relevant disability and community groups
• arranging taster sessions
• Level 2 rowing coaching (including child and vulnerable adult protection training)
• Planning a graduated expansion of provision as a self-sustaining programme beyond the start-up period.

Emmy Award winning wildlife cinematographer Andrew Anderson

1. Attract 10 new adults with disabilities to row in Mixed Ability Sessions by the end of 12 months
2. Attract 20 adults without disabilities to row in Mixed Ability Sessions or volunteer to support in other ways by the end of 12 months
3. Provide an improved rowing experience for 10 existing non-competitive club rowers by integrating into the Mixed Ability Sessions

Benefits to RRC
The club will be more welcoming, and visibly so, breaking down community preconceptions and barriers to people feeling welcome.

The families, friends and carers of new mixed ability members may be interested in rowing or supporting too. Building membership will increase capacity across the club which has been much reduced by Covid.


The project is self-sustaining after the initial intervention of start-up funding if the planned membership income to expenditure is met, and the balance of those able to pay vs those in hardship is accurate. This does not account for increased club budgets for equipment wear and tear, which may need to be supported by additional fundraising from Year 2 onwards.


Expenditure Year 1
Planning and coordination  £1,872
Level 2 Coaching  £5,200
Community engagement and fundraising  £1,872
Reasonable out of pocket expenses £1,000
Total £9,944

Income by end of three year project

New adult membership – waged £10,080
New adult membership – hardship rate £240