David’s role in the planning and funding of the development, which is now the base for British Rowing and our National Squad, was pivotal to the development ever being built. It was his idea, his land, he paid privately for the planning, and he made the 10% donation, necessary at the time for Lottery funded projects. This, along with the Lottery funding, gave GB Rowing their base, and training lake, from which they have achieved staggering Olympian successes.
David was, and is, a self-made business man, who knew thirty years ago, that the site was perfect for an Olympic-sized rowing lake. He worked privately, and totally on his own, to buy up strategic parcels of land to enable the project to come about, fighting planners and banks, and putting his company, Thames and Kennet Marina, at risk over the twenty-five year period. Subsequently, after planning was eventually granted on the site, the project was taken over by Sport England; David, as the 10% enabler to the project, gave away a large proportion of his assets. After relocating his old marina in order to make way for the rowing lake, he had no option but to sell the newly built marina, further up the lakes, in order to settle his debts. Stories of vast wealth due to the project are totally disproved by the audited accounts of the period. The ARA asked David if he would like the lake named after him, he declined, but was happy that the boathouse be known as ‘Sherriff’s Boathouse’.
In signing up with Sport England David made the following important covenants over the lake, which are binding ‘forever’:
The British Canoe Union also have rights to use the lake. He additionally convenanted that the seventy-acre wildlife sanctuary was set up on the site, providing funds for this, along with Lafarge Aggregates. During this period David also donated land to the Thames Traditional Boat Society for their headquarters, and a site to the Henley River and Rowing Museum, to build a storage facility, overlooking the lake.
In twenty-five years David transformed this big area of wasteland outside Reading into a world-class water-sports facility, bringing with it industry, employment and purpose to the river, whilst enhancing the site’s natural habitat. Today Caversham Lakes is testament to his vision, with two marinas totalling 500 berths, including the first ever purpose-built narrow-boat marina on the Thames, the headquarters of the Environment Agency, a sailing club, a water ski club, a 70 acre wildlife sanctuary, the Redgrave Pinsent Rowing Lake, the headquarters of GB Rowing, the home of the Thames Traditional Boat Society, and David’s own business on Dreadnought Wharf.
David was made a Distinguished Friend of Oxford University in 2004 in recognition of his gift to the University. The ARA gave him their Gold Medal in 2008 for outstanding contribution to their sport. He was made a full member of Leander in recognition of his contribution to rowing. Recently, in 2014, he has been awarded an Honorary Membership of the Oxford University Boat Club.