The Clwyd Voluntary Services Council brought together 10 people on 10th May 1983 to form the Vale of Llangollen Canal Boat Trust as Registered Charity No 513892.
The council founded the trust with the intention of providing day trips and holidays for disabled and disadvantaged people of all ages. They used a specially adapted narrowboat with a hydraulic lift to allow people in wheelchairs or with walking difficulties to board.
Apprentices at British Ship Builders – Cammel Lairds in Birkenhead – built the boat as part of their final year of training. The narrowboat was constructed for the cost of materials only as it was part of the Rainbow Trust, a charity formed at Cammel Lairds. They placed their order in late 1983, and Sir Harry Secombe came along to launch the boat in 1985.
Glas Y Dorlan
Demand was so high in 1985 that they decided to raise money for a second boat. They found a second-hand one (Glas y Dorlan) that another charity was not using. The second-hand one took passengers on day trips and the original one worked on the 5-day holidays.
After operating the original boat for 15 years, they applied to the Children in Need fund for money to build a new boat. They launched their new `Millie` in late 1999. Over time, the demand for holidays reduced, and the costs of running two boats were expensive. The Trust decided to run only day trips and subsequently sold the holiday boat in 2010. They refurbished the other boat with the money and ran day trips on Glas y Dorlan until 2019.
The Trust was the beneficiary of the will of Winifred Hood with a bequest of £125,000. They ordered a new boat which was built at a commercial boatyard `Stoke Boats` in Stoke. Terry Waite launched their new boat Lady Winifred in June 2019.
Their boat takes up to 12 people, and the Trust relies on Donations and fund-raising events. It costs approximately £10,000 per year to run the charity.
The trips run from March to October. The pandemic unfortunately meant they couldn`t run “Lady Winifred” in 2020 and 2021. The trips recommenced in March 2022.
The Trust trains its own skippers – they have 20 at the moment. Everyone in the Trust, including their trustees, are volunteers. They take about 1,250 persons in a normal year, including carers and disabled or disadvantaged passengers.
They celebrated their 40th year on the 10th May 2023, and still have two of the founder trustees from the original 10 involved in the Trust: Colin Burman, President, and chairman Tom Lewis.
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Special thanks to the President of the Vale of Llangollen Canal Boat Trust, Colin Burman, for providing this article.