Picture by Bob Naylor©
With the resignation of former MP Michael Ancram after two years as President of the Kennet & Avon Canal Trust his place will be taken by David Bruce who founded the Bruce Trust so that people with disabilities could enjoy holidays on the waterways.
David has been an active supporter of the Canal for many years and he was the Chair of the 'Last Lock' Appeal, which raised money for the restoration of the grass-sided Widmead Lock (89) before the official re-opening of the canal by the Queen in 1990. He was made a Vice President of the K&A Canal Trust in 2008.
David's love of the K&A Canal began in 1966 when he was a trainee brewer at Simonds Brewery in Reading where the River Kennet raced through the brewery site in what was known as Brewery Gut.
After selling a chain of London pubs he and his wife Louise formed the Bruce Trust in 1988 so that people with disabilities and their friends and families could take a holiday on the waterways.
They based themselves at Great Bedwyn with their first specially adapted boat, which they named Rebecca, after their four-year-old daughter. Rebecca became the Trust's administrator in October last year when she took over from Danese Rudd who had done the job for 21 years.
The Bruce Trust now operates four specially-designed wide-beam canal boats on the K&A Canal from bases at Great Bedwyn and Lower Foxhangers.
The extra width of the boats gives plenty of space for wheelchair users to manoeuvre and the boats have special built-in facilities, including hydraulic lifts, wide-access boarding ramps, low-level bunks, heating and specially fitted showers and toilets.
A Bruce Trust specially adapted wheelchair-friendly wide-beam trip boat passes Pewsey Wharf: Picture by Bob Naylor©
Rebecca, Hannah, Diana and Rachelhave been designed so that wheelchair users can steer the boat using the tiller and both Hannah and Rachel have been fitted with a remote steering device that enables people with less upper body mobility to steer from their wheelchair using a joystick.
The Bruce Trust has made it possible for more than 11,000 disabled, disadvantaged or elderly people together with their carers, friends or family to enjoy participative canal-cruising holidays on the boats. As one woman commented: “With increasing age and disability my father Harry’s days of enjoying canal holidays seemed to be over. But last week, there he was rising up on the lift to take the tiller once again and having a wonderful holiday with four generations of his family”.
The Bruce Trust has an enthusiastic, active volunteer force of more than 70 who help to maintain the boats do the turn-rounds between hirings.
Some volunteers are now crewing day trips on the K&A Canal and last year more that 500 people from day centres or residential homes for the elderly were able to enjoy a day of peaceful cruising on the canal.
Address: PO Box 21, Hungerford, Berkshire, RG17 9YY
Telephone: 01264 356451