Seventeen young people with a range of medical conditions and learning difficulties had a great adventure this summer aboard Waterways Experiences’ boats, Close Shave and Sheldrake II. They had a whirlwind of fun, made new friends and learned new skills. All this was made possible with the help of 17 fantastic volunteers and generous funding from Prudential Insurance and The Graham Rowlandson Foundation.
Three trips went out for a week in sequence during August. The first boat took five teenage boys including Benn, a 19 year old quadriplegic who needs full personal support. Benn charmed his way into the hearts of the volunteers and his fellow travellers. Using his wheelchair and a hoist made specifically for our boats, he was able to participate in almost everything they did including canoeing!
The second and third trips each had six young people aboard: a mixture of girls and boys. Some had been on Enable trips before but most were new to the narrowboat experience. Quite a number had not spent more than a couple of nights away from home before.
So what did they do exactly? Well of course they did what you do on narrowboats: open locks, steer the boat, chat to people on the towpath … a bit of fishing. But that wasn’t all. When moored up they helped prepare the meals, played games, and in the evenings some singing and dancing. Great favourites were making pizzas and baking cakes, And then there were places to visit along the way: Cassiobury Rare Breeds Farm (almost a small zoo!), playing games on Cowley Park (amongst others), the swings and roundabouts at Horsenden Hill (and elsewhere), canoeing with Colne Valley Special Sailors at Rickmansworth Aquadrome, going to the cinema, eating out, playing football and frisbee, lots of bubbles, meeting Paddington at Paddington Station, swimming (at Tiddenfoot Leisure Centre, not in the canal!) and walking around Camden market.
Did you enjoy yourself? They were all asked on return. The answer was a resounding YES. “I loved it gazillions” said Ruby, “I more than loved it” said Gemma, “Can I go for 100 nights next time?” asked Matthew.