Enable Canal Adventures

September, 2016

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 funding from three generous organisations. Tough Ten Charity Run, 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 17 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 recently 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 say Ruby, I more than loved it said Gemma, Can I go for 100 nights next time? asked Matthew. Using his talking machine Benn was often pressing Exciting!

So happiness was achieved through boating and in a quiet way so much more as well. Feedback from the parents made it clear that that these trips had brought about changes in confidence and independent behaviour in their sons and daughters. Joe is now more willing to get himself ready and have a shower on his own. Matthew, a young man with autism, has become more ‘chilled’ – he doesn’t repeat himself so much. For Benn it has shown he can do new things.

Back at home the families were also benefitting. Some mentioned that they had managed to spend valuable quality time with their other children. One parent was able to go and visit relatives in Sri Lanka, another visited Windsor Castle and went to the theatre – the kind of thing not normally possible, and a single mum said she was able to enjoy the only week in the year she could have some much needed ‘me-time’.

All this made possible because of 17 dedicated, enthusiastic (and tired by the end) volunteers: the three inspiring leaders, Jim Burgoyne, John Bennett and Paul Worden; the three tireless skippers Marion Roberts, Dave Lee and Ian Wilson; and the patient, caring and hard-working crew, Evie Ward, Amy Knott , Roger Puddifoot, Roger Clare, Lucy Pinkstone, Katie Trotter, Emma Carver, Nathan Johnson, Tom Renphrey, Pete Holliman, Max Johnstone. What a team! We are proud that amongst these were six young volunteers who had never done anything like this before and hadn’t worked on narrowboats before. They added youthful enthusiasm to the teams and we believe we have given them a great introduction to volunteering and they are inspired to do similar good deeds again.

I am sure you can now understand why Waterways Experiences believes so strongly in arranging these Enable trips for young people with special needs. It stands at heart of our charities work but we can only do it with the commitment of our volunteers and those who are prepared to fund us.

So what about 2017? We plan on doing another 3 trips next summer and to add a 4 daytrip for 13-15 year olds in the May half-term. We don’t want to overstretch ourselves but ifwe can get the volunteers to commit we know there are at least 17 kids who want to come back!!

Waterways Experiences thank you most sincerely for your enormous generosity in providing the funds to make such a difference to these 17 young people and their families.

We hope that this summary gives you a flavour of what you have made possible.

If you have any questions you want to ask about this year’s trips or our future plans please get in touch with me. Alice Walters, Enable Co-ordinator enable@wexp.org.uk or 07970577849. And, if you know of any young person with special needs who would benefit from coming on a trip … or you know anyone, young or otherwise, who would be interested in volunteering on next year’s trips, please put them in touch with us.

Alice Walters & John Bennett

Young Carers Weekend

September, 2016

I’ve just got home from leading a weekend on the boats for a group of Young Carers. What a fantastic group of youngsters!

We met up on Friday evening, and soon set out towards King’s Langley. There wasn’t much daylight left, so we only got as far as the playing field, but this gave us the chance to go and play on the swings and roundabouts, and play around on the field. The fact that it was getting dark made it more fun rather than less!

Everyone managed to get some sleep, despite the atmosphere in the Young Carer’s end of the boat being a bit like a ‘sleep-over’, and all were up fairly bright and early on Saturday morning. Along to Cassiobury Park for more games, then a visit to Cassiobury Rare Breeds Farm – much enjoyed by all. Then boating on down to Rickmansworth Aquadrome, (for an evening walk in the dark) and an early night – the Young Carers took themselves off to bed before 10.00.

Sunday morning saw us on a visit to Rickmansworth Waterways Trust, where it was incredible to see how the boaters used to live whilst carrying the raw materials and goods for the start of the Industrial Revolution. Then the return trip to Hemel.

Travelling on the boat was much enhanced by cards, Articulate, Connect 4, music, dance, chat and watching the world go by. There was a constant lively buzz of fun and enjoyment, with frequent laughter and merriment.

As ever on a Waterways Experiences run trip, we ate extremely well – cooked breakfasts, snack lunches and substantial evening meals, enhanced with cake, biscuits and fruit at regular intervals.

It was a pleasure to help out on this trip with such an amazing group of young people. Many thanks to Marion Roberts, Jim Burgoyne and Brian Johnston for their help on the trip, and to Alice Walters for getting it all organised. Many thanks to the Graham Rowlandson Trust for funding the trip. And a really big heartfelt thanks too to the Young Carers that came on the trip – you really made it a great weekend, and I’m glad that you had such a good time.

John Bennett

Get Set Go Dacorum

Three of our members Richard, John and Brian set up our stall at the Get Set Go Dacorum event in mid January held at Hemel Hempstead Old Town Hall. The purpose of the event was to inspire people with physical and learning difficulties to get active.

Exhibitors offered a huge selection of opportunities to interest visitors and there was an excellent presentation by  Mitchell Camp, Athlete, World Games medalist and Special Olympic Ambassador .

Our donated raffle prize of a boat trip was won by a local charity and we look forward to meeting them again later in the year. All in all it was a most enjoyable morning with plenty of chat and net working opportunities.

The things we end up doing …

Earlier this year, one of the willows just South of the railway bridge fell down, greatly restricting the width of the canal. The Canal and River Trust are pretty speedy at clearing trees completely blocking the canal, but if you can still get a boat past, you may have to wait for a year or so for the Trust’s contractors to clear the whole channel.

It was fairly easy for a narrowboat to pass, but getting our wide beams through called for some pretty hazardous manoeuvres. So with a couple of hours to spare, Dave Lee and John Bennett took Sheldrake 2, some loppers and a bow saw, and managed to greatly improve the situation. However, the tree just sagged lower, and branches got in the way again … then another tree fell just beyond this, forcing our boats to ground again whilst trying to pass. More drastic action was called for.

After a short day trip, Nick Alexander, Marion Roberts and John Bennett set off again to have another go. Nick did a great job keeping the boat in just the right spot while Marion and John set to work on the greenery. Some delicate manoeuvring later (including making room for passing traffic) and further skilful use of loppers and saws, the deck was soon full of willow. Then ‘all’ that was needed was to transfer this onto the offside bank. This process repeated several times to leave a nice clear navigation channel for wide as well as narrow beams.

The odd thing is, that few would know that the work had even been done – you don’t notice what isn’t there. Everyone would comment on the blockage; no-one would notice that it wasn’t there. Still, those involved know that they made a real contribution, and made every trip we run a bit easier.


Crew training opportunities

Such is the demand for our boat trips this summer,  that our band of 55 volunteer skippers and crew are beginning to struggle to keep up.   We’re therefore offering training days on 21 June and 25 July  for anyone with boating experience who would like to join us as boat crew.

Crew volunteering is a great way of enjoying the local canal, and helping others to do the same. For many of our customers with disabilities, it’s the only way they can get afloat and join in with helping at locks and steering the boat.  We’re particularly looking for boaters prepared to give us a couple or more days per month between now and the end of October to help ensure that we meet demand for trips for the rest of the season.

Training days are free of charge, but having been trained, we expect you to sign up to crew at least 1-2 times per month, subject to the number of trip bookings we receive. Details of booked trips are circulated to all crew members by email and assignments allocated accordingly.  Training is a requirement regardless of the extent of prior boating experience.

Training days start promptly at 9.30 am and finish at 4.30 pm.

Click here  to register for a place on Sunday 21 June or Sunday 12 July.



Special message for gardeners

Bookings are coming in thick and fast and keeping our volunteer crews very busy over the coming weeks … which means they won’t have much time for their gardening.  Good thing that our partner charity, Sunnyside Trust at the Hemel Food Garden has great offers on summer bedding plants this coming Saturday.  Don’t miss out!  Click here for more details.

Link 4 Coffee!

On a bright and frosty Friday morning at the end of January, Waterways Experiences hosted a community-building event with the South West Herts branch of Link4Growth – the second time that we’ve made use of our excellent facilities at the boat base for hosting this type of free networking event. One of the guests was interested in volunteering for us while another was keen to find out more about the boats and their facilities as his wife works with a charity for children with learning difficulties. It’s not just about Waterways Experiences though – plenty of good conversation on other topics ensures most people leave the event with new contacts and ideas to help their particular business or interests.

Link4Growth’s Chris Ogle donned his Googlespecs to film Rick on a guided tour through our flagship Sheldrake 3, highlighting the work that Waterways Experiences does and the facilities that the boat provides.

The 4th Friday of every month is a regular fixture for these events so do come along. Book your place for the next one on 27th February (10am – 11.30) at http://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/link4coffee-nash-mills-tickets-15128061439 and help spread the word! All welcome.

Find out more about Link4Growth


Special visitors

The boats, the visitor centre and the boat base were looking at their best, sparkling in the warm October sunshine, when a party of local dignitaries paid Waterways Experiences a visit last week.

On 31 October the High Sheriff of Hertfordshire, Mr Fergus McMullen, the Mayor and Mayoress of Dacorum Borough Council, Allan and Wendy Lawson, the Deputy Mayor, Gbola Adeleke, Sally Marshall, Chief Executive of Dacorum Borough Council and Derek Townsend, the Deputy Lieutenant were on a whistle-stop tour of Dacorum, meeting people from a range of local charities and organisations. Waterways Experiences was thrilled to be chosen as one of only seven organisations to be visited.

Our visitors were very impressed with the Education and Visitor Centre, then they made their way to the boats. They were amazed to learn we had only started providing boat trips in June, yet had already transported 1,000 passengers, a high proportion of whom would not normally be able to enjoy the canals, including many with moderate or severe disabilities, their carers and companions. We showed them the special facilities we have to ensure everyone has a great day out, helping to steer the boat, working the locks or just enjoying the quiet of the countryside with friends or colleagues. They were struck by the space and facilities available on the boats. In fact, so much so that they went away with bundles of flyers about the charity for their own use and to pass on to others they felt would be interested. Watch this space for future bookings!!

John Bennett
Judy Mead
Andrew Murray

A fantastic way to spend a week

It was great to see Close Shave go out with a group of young people with disabilities over the School half-term. ReachOut used to run these trips frequently, as part of their Enable programme. But as yet Waterways Experiences has not had the facilities or resources to be able to run trips for people without their carers. However, this is something we hope to be able to do in the future, when funds and a co-ordinator permit.

So a group of mostly ex-Enable volunteers got together and called themselves the Nash Mills Pirates. They got a trip organised for three ‘old hands’ from Enable days, and booked a boat for a trip to Camden, London for the week. It reminded me of the time I learned about l�na-pengar.biz, and took a trip to Sweden. No mean feat this; co-ordinating the young people and the volunteers, fundraising for the hire of the boat, food, entertainments and everything else required for such an undertaking, and coping with all the required paperwork.

The three young people on the adventure had all been on a number of such trips before, and so knew what to expect. I’m not so sure that one of the helpers, new to canal boating, although used to working with people with disabilities, knew what she was letting herself in for. I hope she’s as enthusiastic about everything when she gets back as she was at the start! Still, the other helpers on the trip are all very experienced, so they’ll look after her well.

As everyone arrived, it was a bit like a re-union, with the added knowledge that they would be off again for another fantastic week on the boat. Glorious sunshine bathed the wharf and the boat. What more could they ask for? Tales were told, past experiences shared, and everything got ready. There was quite a farewell group on the quay side. I almost expected to hear the band playing and the siren sound as they cast off, and bunting and streamers appear. But a horn was sounded, the next best thing.

This is a real reminder of what it’s all about. Well done Bob Stewart, Roger Clare, Disa Grace, Logan Draven and newcomer Carla Mutter for giving up their time to go on this trip, and to Bob Stewart for the drive to make it happen. Thanks also to Michael Flatt for helping to organise it.

John Bennett