Special guests celebrate launch of Wheelyboat in Marlow

(From left) Claire Lomas and Andy Beadsley

(From left) Claire Lomas and Andy Beadsley

First published in News Bucks Free Press: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter

A NATIONAL boating charity for disabled people celebrated its 30th anniversary this week by launching their latest model in the River Thames.

More than 150 guests attended the Wheelyboat Trust event at the Bisham Abbey National Sports Centre on Tuesday, July 15, including TV star Bernard Cribbins.

The charity provides disabled people with the opportunity and freedom to enjoy water-based activities all over the UK, for sport, wildlife watching, recreation or rehabilitation purposes.

In conjunction with their anniversary they also launched their 160th Wheelyboat - the Coulam Wheelyboat V20.

Director of The Wheelyboat Trust, Andy Beadsley, said: "This has been a fantastic day celebrating all that The Wheelyboat Trust has achieved in the last thirty years.

"We are already looking ahead to hitting our dream target of 200 Wheelyboats on waters throughout the UK and Europe.

"These Wheelyboats are so important for breaking down the barriers that people with disabilities face when looking to participate in waterborne pursuits.

"We hope that now we have launched on the Thames, many more operators will come forward to provide their facilities and venues for Wheelyboats on waterways across the country."

Launching the group’s latest model was Claire Lomas who was paralysed after a horsing accident seven years ago.

Mrs Lomas recently walked the London Marathon in a bionic suit after years of rehabilitation.

She was on hand to launch the latest boat and celebrate with other guests.

Mrs Lomas said: "I am honoured to be involved in the launch of this new Wheelyboat on the River Thames.

"It is so important to encourage people with disabilities to get outside and enjoy outdoor pursuits and sport, and this is exactly what The Wheelyboat Trust is enabling every time they launch a boat on the water."

Commentating on the proceedings was Bernard Cribbins, a Wheelyboat Trust patron.

The boat was the first Wheelyboat to operate anywhere on the River Thames, as part of the Boatability project in collaboration with the Rivertime Boat Trust, which aims to increase disabled people’s active participation in watersports.

The specially designed Wheelyboats are easy to board via their roll-on, roll-off bow ramps and their level deck provides access to every corner of the boat including the helm.

This overcomes practical difficulties and provides disabled users with independence to make the entire water accessible.

In celebration of opening up disabled access on the waters of the Thames, a fleet of Wheelyboat models sailed past Bisham Abbey.

Students from Manor Green School in Maidenhead were on board, demonstrating the opportunities that Wheelyboats bring to those with disabilities or limited mobility.

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