Tuesday, November 20, 2012

K&A Canal chosen by national charity for boating holidays for people with disabilities

The Disabled Afloat Riverboats Trust (DART) are working with the Bruce Trust based at Great Bedwyn on the Kennet & Avon Canal to make boating holidays possible for more people with disabilities.

A Bruce Trust holiday boat passes Pewsey Wharf on the Kennet & Avon Canal. Picture by Bob Naylor: WaterMarx©
The Bruce Trust is well known for organising holidays for people with disabilities and their carers on their purpose built wide beam boats — but their boats must have a minimum of three experienced and non-disabled adults on them. And they provide training for groups who need it before the start of each season.

Unfortunately this means disabled people who are not part of a group cannot take a holiday with them — which is where the Disabled Afloat Riverboats Trust (DART) come in.

They have been working with the Bruce Trust for many years and they hire boats from them and fill them with people who are unable unable to find a group to bring them on a holiday.

Rebecca Bruce of the Bruce Trust said: "It's brilliant as it means individuals don't have to miss out on a holiday just because they cannot get a big enough group of family or carers together and also enables them to mix with other individuals which they thoroughly enjoy." 

If you have not been on a canal boat before then why not look at their programme of holidays. Paul Treble of DART said: "The trust welcomes anyone who would like to come. The difference is that if you have a special need DART can cater for it and allow you to participate as much or as little as you fancy in the activities on offer."

Paul said: "DART passengers travel in comfort on a wide beam boat visiting local towns such as Hungerford, Pewsey and Bath and guests are welcome to take part in activities such as steering the boat, operating locks and helping with shopping."

So, if you are disabled in any way, a carer or anyone else for that matter why not investigate what DART has to offer you as an individual or your family or small group of friends. All you have to do is book up and get to the base. After that just relax and let the DART crew look after the details of catering and activities. 

This year they have a choice of 13 holidays on offer ranging in length from three to seven days — and all based on the Kennet and Avon Canal. 

Contact DART 
Tel: 07778 842 358 or go to www.glosdart.co.uk.

Fact File

The Bruce Trust was formed in 1988 by Louise and David Bruce after they sold their chain of Firkin Pubs in London. 

They were keen to plough some of the proceeds into a project that would benefit the community and they had become intrigued by the possibility of offering self-catering holidays to disabled, disadvantaged or elderly people cruising on the Kennet & Avon Canal. 

After much research they initially put their own money into the project — and over the years have received many generous donations to the Trust which have enabled the fleet to be increased to four specially-designed, purpose-built, wide-beam canal boats.

The extra width of the boats give 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, toilets, etc. 

Rebecca, Hannah and Diana have 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 someone with less upper body mobility to steer from their wheelchair, using a joystick.

The Bruce Trust has enabled more that 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 family explained, “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 holiday makers are helped on their way by the dedication of over  70 voluntary helpers who make sure that the Trust can operate in the best and most economical fashion. 

Some voluntary helpers also get involved with crewed day trips and this year more that 500 people from day centres or residential homes for the elderly were able to come out for a day of peaceful cruising on the canal.  

Email:  rebecca.bruce@brucetrust.org.uk
Address – PO Box 21, Hungerford, Berkshire, RG17 9YY
Telephone – 01264 356451

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