Meet Our Members: The Wooden Canal Boat Society


“New Lives from Old Boats”

As soon as I found out this organisation existed I wanted to write about it, as I am fascinated by the heritage of the canals, and this community boating project are really doing something quite different.

The Wooden Canal Boat Society finds new uses for their collection of former working wooden canal boats. Their work offers a chance for people to learn new skills, meet people, make friends and do something useful and rewarding. The society has the second largest collection of former working wooden canal boats in the UK.

The Tameside community, in Greater Manchester, has high levels of disadvantage, low income and health problems. A combination of poverty, mental illness and social exclusion can often affect a person’s ability to work. Low status jobs or unemployment can then lead to a lack of self-esteem and confidence. This is where the opportunity to volunteer with the Wooden Canal Boat Society can provide valuable meaning and structure in somebody’s daily life.

Key Projects

  • Portland Basin Museum where they maintain and display their five working wooden and inform the public about the history of working boats, our canal heritage and the work of the WCBS.
  • Twice monthly working boat trips for community recycling.
  • The Wooden Canal Boat Society Charity Shop in Stamford Street
  • The restoration of “Hazel” as a residential “wellbeing boat” at the Boatyard in Knowl Street.

There are up to 100 volunteers per year involved with these projects. Their activities include boat handling, boat building, maintenance and repair, “boat sitting”, community recycling, van driving, charity shop sales , tourist information, industrial heritage, marketing, project development and fund raising.

When you consider that this gets people out and about making new connections, learning new skills, possibly finding a route back to work, “giving something back”, increasing wellbeing and reducing the risk of social isolation you can really understand what they mean by “new lives from old boats”.

Financial help is more than welcome but they also need help and support that can be given simply by donating your spare time. So if this project interests you and you live locally visit the website to find out more.

The Wooden Canal Boat Society

Historic Boats Working for the Community

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