Peterborough boat business owner enjoying swapping space industry for life on the Nene

The owner of a Peterborough boat business has said he has enjoyed swapping life in the space industry for the River Nene.

Thursday, 30th September 2021, 6:32 am
Cllr Steve Allen, Byron Cripps and Keith Hammond at Peterborough Boat Hire

Byron Cripps took one giant leap from life as an aerospace engineer to setting up Peterborough Boat Hire which has just enjoyed its first season welcoming visitors at the city’s Embankment.

And with equipment now put away for the rest of the year, the qualified canoeing and paddle board instructor is hoping to build on a successful start as Peterborough looks to make most of its scenic river front – a priority for the current administration at the city council.

Byron, who ventured north from the Bournemouth seafront after being made redundant at the start of the pandemic, said: “I had always either been in the sea or rivers in the area.

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“I have started this business venture to hopefully give everyone the chance to explore the beautiful River Nene and hopefully experience the same joy I have when out kayaking, canoeing, paddle boarding or just being out on the water.”

Peterborough Boat Hire is located just off the riverside footpath and offers customers access to paddle boards, kayaks, canoes, powered small boats and a wheelyboat for people with disabilities.

But there is more to Byron’s ambitions than the already admirable task of establishing a new business.

“I am also a massive lover of the environment and want to educate the importance of keeping our rivers clean. And I do a river litter sweep once a week,” he explained.

Byron has qualifications in open water lifeguarding and risk-assessment to ensure everyone is safe on and off the water, and he is planning to begin providing lessons and group events in the future.

And as he plans for the future, he is grateful for the support he has received so far from the local authority.

“The business has been growing more and more popular throughout the weeks since I started,” he added. “The council has been very helpful and I look forward to a healthy relationship with them.”

The establishment of Peterborough Boat Hire has brought about a rebirth of a once popular attraction by the Nene.

Keith Hammond and his brother Martin were the fourth generations of a family-run company which began life at the Customs House in 1888 with a horse-drawn barge.

Back then, the animal would pull the vessel down the river from the footpath before walking backwards to the start (without turning around).

The business changed names over the years (as sons replaced fathers as the owners) and ventured out to the Embankment, where horses were replaced by rowing boats and canoes.

Finally, the company known as Hammond Brothers ceased operations in 1995, with Keith moving into a job in security and Martin emigrating to Spain.

Keith, now 79 and living in Stanground, is delighted to see boat hire returning to the Embankment, adding: “It certainly brings back good memories. I’m really pleased. I might go and have a ride!”

Cllr Steve Allen is cabinet member responsible for culture and recreation at the city council. He said: “It’s fantastic to see the renewed enthusiasm for water sports on the Nene and the potential of the Embankment area being further enhanced.

“Seeing the boats on the river again is excellent news and we wish Byron all the best with his business.”