Cotswold Boatmobility is the nominated charity of the Cotswolds Canal Cruising Club
This Report has been submitted by one of our members: Jan Thomas.
We have had a really successful year.
We have a slipway built for us by the Cotswold Canals Trust, which has enabled us to use the Wheelyboat with wheelchairs. The boat is named Zephyrus, after the west wind. Unfortunately, low water levels and weed curtailed our summer activities somewhat, especially as we have a relatively low powered electric engine.
We have just purchased a brand new katakanu, as yet unnamed. We had three katakanus which meant that we could be flexible with our groups, as our numbers usually exceed 12 . One of the boats, Berry, became more fragile and second crack made her unusable. So we made the decision to buy a new one with our reserves, hard though it was to spend the money!
Our guests are really interesting and a very varied group of people. Some of our most profoundly disabled, in wheelchairs, or with no speech, express their pleasure at being on the boat in very subtle smiles and relaxing behaviours. Others with balance issues, through strokes or cancer or eyesight problems, rejoice in the free movement along the canal. Some come for the company and the opportunity to share an activity with others, to share the refreshment break and chat. Without exception, everyone comments on how relaxing and calming it is to be amongst the wildlife on the water. We have some people come twice a week, some regularly, some frequently, some occasionally, not all from Stroud either, some from other parts of Gloucestershire but also from Bristol and Cardiff. There are lots of places within an hour of our base at Ryeford, just off the A419 J13 M5.
We have had other bits of excitement, too. We had an adventure going to Stroud for the visit of the Prince of Wales. HRH had specifically asked Stroud District Council if he could meet our people with the Wheelyboat, so we had a jolly chat with him for a while before he moved on to meet the CCT. We were able to meet with the HLF to support the CCT, as a community group using the waterway. We have been bat detecting at dusk, returning in the dark. We came third in the Stroud Raft Race…a bit of team work in a self-built raft. The Harry Brown’s of Bristol sang an evening of nautical entertainment for us. And other events which all help to raise our profile in the local area.
Financially speaking, we do need to continue to offer our boating at the rate of donations people can afford. Benefit cuts have certainly affected our guests, both in money terms and in reduced care hour support. We have benefitted this year, from a few one-off generous donations from local charities and individuals, as we are a new and exciting charity. We are aware that this will not continue, and we will always need donations and support from groups such as the Cruising Club, not least because we need money that can be used flexibly for maintenance, insurance and training, which are not easily funded from groups who want to see an object for their money. We are hoping to take more children next year.
Finally, we have a splendid team of trustees, skippers and supporters, without whom, none of this would happen. All are welcome, and that includes you, anytime to suit…come and experience low level boating….and freedom on water.
Don’t forget that we wouldn’t have got off the ground, or away from the wharf, without you and for that there will always be lots of big thanks from many people you have never met, as well as those who you know well.
Thank you. Jan Thomas