A groundbreaking boat design is helping wheelchair users partake in water-based activities. Known as Wheelyboats, the vessels have been launched at fisheries, lochs, reservoirs, estuaries, rivers, canals and all sorts of other venues throughout the UK. Whether for the purpose of competitive angling, hobby fishing, family trips, bird watching or just to experience the tranquillity of being alone on the water, the elderly and less-abled can now join in on equal terms with their more able-bodied counterparts.
Handmade to order, the boats cater for any requirement, as well as being chair operable’ so people can, if they choose, skipper at the helm without assistance. ‘Once on board, you’ve got access to the entire boat,’ said Andy Beadsley of the Wheelyboat Trust, himself a wheelchair user and fly fishing instructor. ‘It provides less-abled people with a lot of independence for a variety of activities.’
The models, and there are currently four on offer, have been developed by the Trust ñ a small UK charity dedicated to entitling less-abled adults and children the dignity of their own independence. Built from special non-slip aluminium, each boat resembles a small landing craft with a flat deck and a drop-down ramp for easy access.
Bernard Cribbins, the well-loved film, stage and television actor, not to mention passionate angler, is one of the Trust’s Patrons. Recently, he helped raise the necessary funds to provide Bushyleaze Trout Fishery in the Cotswolds with their own vessel. ‘There are lots of places that are inaccessible to anglers if they have mobility issues,’ said fishery manager Jason Lowe, ‘but they become reachable with a Wheelyboat. It really is a fantastic piece of kit!’
The Trust is always busy exploring new designs to accommodate an ever broader spectrum of wheelchair owners. Recent models include two specialist angling boats ó one a purpose-built vessel for fishing in fast moving river conditions and the other, a bigger version, ideal for larger, still waters.
Meanwhile, the all-new, eight-seating Mark III has just been launched on the estuary between Fowey and Lostwithiel in Cornwall ó an area of outstanding natural beauty, abandoned shipwrecks, ghost fishing villages, smugglers caves and a secluded floating bird hide. ‘Up until now, no public access has existed on the estuary for less-abled people,’ say the Trust. ‘It will give Wheelyboat users a real flavour of the sea.’
To find Wheelyboat locations, contact: Andy Beadsley, The Wheelyboat Trust, North Lodge, Burton Park, Petworth,
West Sussex, GU28 0JT
Tel: +44 (0)1798 342222
The Mark III, the most versatile Wheelyboat to date, can be used for trips on the water or as a small ferry
Photo: © The Wheelyboat Trust