Grabbing the Opportunity with Both Hands – Towpath Talk, October 2014

This month National Community Boat Association chairman Derek Stansfield features the Hillingdon Narrowboats Association

Paul Boakes stumbled into Community Boating around three years ago, when his oldest son and his Beaver Scout group were taking a trip on a narrowboat one evening, with Hillingdon Narrowboats Association, based at Coppermill Lock in Harefield on the Grand Union. Having seen his son safely life-jacketed up, and on his way, he got into conversation with someone called Dave, who was the Project Manager of the Association.

“Have you got any spare time?” he asked. And that’s how for Paul it all started…

Hillingdon Narrowboats have been around for years, originally as part of Hillingdon Council’s Youth Project, and, more recently, a fully-fledged charity in its own right. Operating five boats, one of which is fully accessible for wheelchair access, they work with many Scout groups and schools in and around West London. But it’s not just young people: they work with local care homes as well, to give their residents a day out with a difference. And they’ve started working with other vulnerable groups as well: young offenders (as well as their parents), children leaving care, and they’ve just started a project with the Princes Trust.

HNA has a steady stream of volunteers, and as any boater knows, there’s always something to be done on a boat: when you’ve got five of them, plus a boathouse and admin office to look after, the length of the “Things to Do” list sometimes seems endless. Whether it’s re-blacking the hull, repairing a leaking water tank, disappearing for a week steering a school summer camp, replacing damaged ropes, answering email, or even just washing up a mountain of coffee cups, community boating has something for everyone. If you want to make a difference, in about a million different ways, this is the place to be.

Over the last three years, Paul has reinvigorated HNA’s NCBA training. He has co-ordinated the various emails, made sure that people get regular updates about forthcoming training weekends, made sure that they’ve paid, even as far as ensuring there is enough tea and coffee on the boats for them. In return, HNA put him through the NCBA Trainer’s Course, sent him on a VHF Radio course – some of HNA’s trips use the Thames – and they give him a lot of latitude to bring in new ideas, from the bigger corporate world.

Talking of training, they’ve already run three CCBM courses this year, on a four day trip from Harefield, into Paddington, round to Limehouse, up the tideway to Brentford, and back to Harefield via the Hanwell Flight (always a good place to test out the teamwork!). Ages range from 18-80, and experience goes from first timer right up to ex-Boatmasters.  And it helps that real boaters involved, so it’s more than just theory and practice, its history and experience that trainees hear about too. By doing this boating is opened to the young, and show that canals, even with their history, have a place in the future.

Community Boating is simply what it says. And if you ever get the chance to get involved, grab it with both hands.

For further details about Hillingdon Narrowboats Association contact Lorraine Grainger by tel: 01895 823582 or 07860857877  or email: or visit their web site at:

Changes to NCBA fees

After many years of  maintaining NCBA fees for membership and certification at the same level for many years the NCBA has decided to make a small increase to some of its fees whilst retaining some at the current level.

The new fee structure comes into force on the 1st October and is as follows:

NCBA Membership                      £100 p.a
ATC status                            £60 p.a.
CCC Certification                     £20
Boat Handling Certificate             £35
CCBM Certificate                      £60
CCBM Renewal                          £20
Trainer Course                       £325
Trainers Certificate Renewal          £30
Trainer Refresher Update              £75

Just a reminder that the benefits for members include

  • 10 free DB’s checks for volunteers per year (value £100)
  • DBS checks for employees and further volunteers
  • Opportunity to reduce insurance
  • A  National Voice
  • Access to approved training
  • Network opportunities
  • Opportunity to become  a recognised Training Centre
  • Annual Meeting for members
  • Instant credibility in being part of a national Organisation
  • Website profile of your project with own access to update
  • Support network

Date of the AGM

Plenty of notice for the AGM of the NCBA, which will once again be at Darlaston on Thursday March 19th. 2015.

About the Author:

Derek Stansfield
Chair of National Training Committee, Advisor & Senior Trainer (North East)