Another Ethel Success – Towpath Talk, August 2016

Derek Stansfield, director of training for the NCBA, continues his series of articles illustrating the diversity of the NCBA. Following his feature in the June issue on the work of long-standing member the Ethel Trust, he brings us a case study.

Some of you may have enjoyed reading the recent article, courtesy of Derek Stansfield at the National Community Boating Association, when the very successful work done by the Ethel Trust in South Yorkshire was outlined in some detail.  In particular the wonderful and touching achievements of their outstanding un-Locking Confidence Project, delivered to learning disabled and disabled children, young people and young adults between the ages of 4 and 25, with their fully accessible, purpose built, Leeds–Liverpool length barge Ethel.

The Ethel Trust is very proud to be able to offer its young users the amazing opportunity of day, and ASDAN accredited team and confidence building residential courses free of charge.  They can only manage this having built a reputation of delivering with empathy and safety, working closely with learning and care professionals to ensure that everyone gets the best experience, according to their needs and ability.  This reputation has been recognised locally and nationally by philanthropic groups and individuals who take part in this success through giving.

Despite a difficult Winter 2015/16, when a much needed planned repaint had to be postponed through bad weather, and the misfortune of Christmas flooding to the River Aire at Castleford;  together with missing the opportunity to Lock through the Tinsley Flight into Sheffield, with Rivers and Canal Trust works to the ageing locks.  It began to look like their Spring programme of day trips, offered to mainly Sheffield and Rotherham disabled youngsters would be in jeopardy.  At this point friends at the Rivers and Canal Trust came to rescue, giving temporary permission for the un-Locking Confidence Project to work out of Rotherham town centre with a safe mooring at the Eastwood Marina.  Over 300 youngsters now grateful, happy and with abiding memories thanks to everyone involved.

Conscious of the need to introduce the outstanding South Yorkshire waterways to as many people as possible, last year the Ethel Trust developed the first three day residential for Autistic young people from Sheffield to Thorne, an outstanding and memorable success for pupils and staff at Bents Green Special School, Sheffield.  This year the guys at Ethel wanted to repeat that success, even though the journey needed to be shorter with the group being collected by the barge outside Rotherham railway station.


I am sure that readers will enjoy reading a Case Study, written after the three day residential from Rotherham to Thorne by Roger Simmons, staff member from Bents Green Special School; and the impact on one young pupil James:

From 11th to 13th May 2016, 7 Students and 2 staff from the Post 16 section of Bents Green School in Sheffield took part in a 3 day residential on board the community barge, Ethel.

Post 16 students have been involved in similar residentials over the past 4 years and for the last 2 years have helped Ethel in her annual trip from Sheffield to Thorne to begin her Summer programme of trips.

John, from the Ethel trust said, “we really enjoy having the Bents Green Post 16 group, they are particularly good at getting involved in all the work in transferring the barge from her Winter moorings to her Summer location.”

“Some of our students are more able than others” said Post 16 Tutor, Roger Simmons, “but the Ethel crew are very experienced and soon have all the students involved to the best of their ability”.  One student who got particular benefit from the residential was James Tranter.

As well as opening locks and bridges and steering Ethel, James showed a keen fascination in everything to do with the barge and was never short of a question

“We love having young people who show a keen interest” said Ethel crew member Tim Miskell, “it shows the value of the ‘Ethel experience’ to these young people.”

The benefit James received from the experience was re-enforced by his mum: “He told us how much he enjoyed it when he got home” said Mum.

So another successful residential for the Ethel/Bents Green team!

Here’s looking forward to the trip in 2017

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