The Most Spectacular Journey? – Towpath Talk, March 2016

This month the Director of Training for the NCBA, Derek Stansfield asks the question: is this the most Spectacular Journey for our members?

What is the most spectacular trip or journey that you can take on the canals of Britain?  No doubt there will be many to make a stake to that claim, but one that stands out amongst others must be to cross the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct in North Wales, a 126 foot high masterpiece of Victorian construction by Thomas Telford.  One of our members, The Vale of Llangollen Canal Boat Trust, is based in Trevor Basin immediately at the end of this aqueduct.

The Vale of Llangollen Canal Boat Trust is a registered charity and was formed in 1983 to raise money to build a narrowboat to provide day trips for disabled and disadvantaged people of all ages. The Trust has one boat, Glas y Dorlan which is their day trip boat and this runs trips from March to October each year. Glas y Dorlan and the Trust is run by a team of volunteers.  Patrons of the Trust are David Essex, Aled Jones and Brian Kay.

The boat has a hydraulic lift to assist wheelchairs aboard. The toilet and washing facilities are designed for disabled people. Seating can be removed to accommodate wheelchairs. Windows are large and set low to provide a good, clear view of the canal and the spectacular scenery beyond.

In 2013 The Vale of Llangollen Canal Boat Trust decided to overhaul their Skipper’s qualification structure and decided to use the NCBA to demonstrate the competence of their skippers to manage the boat in all its aspects.  Initially they came under one of the current Accredited Training Centres (ATC) in order for their present Skippers to train and qualify for the Certificate in Community Boat Management (CCBM).  This was followed by two of their Skippers, with considerable experience, to train and then qualify as a NCBA Trainer.  Once this had been completed The Vale of Llangollen Canal Boat Trust became an ATC in their own right and now train and certificate their own skippers.  In turn they are now subjected to moderation by the NCBA.

Based in Trevor Basin, 5 miles from Llangollen and 7 miles from Wrexham, the Trust are able to offer a number of trips of varying lengths to suit most requirements. The boat is available for use from 9:30 am. They try to be as flexible as possible in setting the times of departure and return and passengers are asked to allow 30 minutes for boarding prior to departure.

The boat is able to carry 12 passengers (including helpers) at a time. The ratio of helpers to disabled people must be determined by those making the booking. It is not possible to have more than four people in wheelchairs on day trips.

For groups of up to 24 people (including helpers), half would go on the boat from Trevor to Llangollen or Gledrid, the remainder could browse around Llangollen or Gledrid and vice versa for the return journey.

Bookings can be made for disabled people of any age. The boat can be booked by groups (schools, clubs, homes, etc.), by families who have a disabled member, or by individuals. Wherever possible bookings will be accepted on a first come, first served basis.  The boat can be booked for either Half-Day or Day-Trips.

Although primarily available for use by disabled families and groups Miss Bethan Parry chose this  unusual means of transport to arrive at her wedding to Gareth Coles at the Lion Quays Hotel. The bride, who was accompanied by her father, Derek Parry, one of the Trust’s skippers, chose the Glas y Dorlan narrow boat for this important journey. The boat was skippered by Terry Thelwell, another of the Trust’s skippers and his wife, Betty.

Having crossed the Pontcysyllte aqueduct and experienced the flow of water through Chirk tunnel I find the statement that for our members this is Britain’s most spectacular journey hard to argue against.  Unless of course you know different and is so please let us know.

For more information on The Vale of Llangollen Canal Boat Trust contact: 01978 861450 or
Email:  llangollencanalboattrust@gmail.com
Website: http://canalboattrust.org.uk

A date for the Diary

The Annual Conference and AGM of the NCBA will be held 10th June 2016 at Aldridge Airport Outdoor Centre Walsall, WS9 0QQ.

About the Author:

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

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