Community Boater Wins Award

'Hazel' restoration.

‘Hazel’ restoration.

Chris Leah of the Wooden Canal Boat Society has recently won the 2014 Marsh Volunteer Award for Historic Vessel Conservation. The Award is run in partnership with National Historic Ships, and recognises those who have made a valuable contribution to the conservation, or operation of historic vessels in the UK.

The Wooden Canal Boat Society is based in Tameside, Manchester. It started out as the Wooden Canal Craft Trust in 1987, maintaining and restoring two boats; ‘Forget Me Not’ and ‘Lilith’. Over a few years the Trust acquired four more historically valuable boats. Tameside is an area of considerable deprivation where some of the community are affected by poverty, health problems, mental illness and social exclusion. Volunteering with The Wooden Canal Boat Society can be a way for people to regain self-esteem and confidence.

Chris has been recognised for his substantial fund raising, running boat trips for the local community and the rebuilding of ‘Hazel’ as a wellbeing boat. Volunteers had noted that canal boating could help to relieve anxiety or depression. Therefore ‘Hazel’ will be available to people recovering from mental health problems, people with disabilities and those who are marginalised within their community.

The majority of Chris’s work is done as a volunteer. Find out more about The Wooden Canal Boat Society at You may also like Chris’s blog: The Ashton Boatman. Lots of it relates to his work for the Wooden Canal Boat Society repairing, restoring and pottering about on historic wooden canal boats.

If you’re interested in volunteering with a community boating project find your nearest organisation on our main website.

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