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Issue:- Monday, 30 May 2016

Headlines and reports on this page = 4 news items.    Page - 11.

New Wheelyboats make the River Dee in Wales accessible to all for the 1st time

QUAY Watermen’s Association launches new river boat service with 2 Coulam Wheelyboat V20s. The 2 brand new wheelchair accessible boats are going to play a key role in putting Connah’s Quay on the River Dee Estuary at the top of the list of must see places in North Wales. What was once a prosperous port and boat building hub is due to be revived, as The Quay Watermen’s Association carries out an ambitious restoration plan and gears up to launch the 2 Coulam Wheelyboat V20s, on Saturday, 4 June 2016. The boats were designed and developed by The Wheelyboat Trust, a small national charity dedicated to providing mobility impaired people with access to waterborne activities.

Honouring the area’s rich maritime heritage, the boats will be named:- ‘Kathleen’ and ‘May’ after the famous 3 masted topsail schooner, of that name, which was built in Connah’s Quay. Guest of honour, cracking the champagne over the boats will be Carl Sargeant, Welsh Assembly Member for Alyn and Deeside.

The keen members of the Quay Watermen’s Association want to share their passion for boats and the river and endeavour to provide local people of all ages and abilities with access to the tidal River Dee; something that has not been available for many years. The Association secured a £192,000 grant from the Big Lottery’s Coastal Communities Fund in July 2015 and has already used part of the sum to fund the refurbishment of a disused sea cadets’ building into a new Community Centre.

But the vision is even greater, and this year almost £70,000 of the grant was dedicated to acquire the 2 new Wheelyboats. The specially designed boats, which offer safe and easy access for the disabled, young and old, were the Association’s 1st choice. Reaching speeds of over 30mph, the Wheelyboats will be used on trips for schools, photography groups, birdwatchers and any other interested individuals or groups.

The Quay Watermen’s Association hopes to keep alive the history of the area and envisages a permanent heritage exhibition in its new Kathleen and May Community Centre. While plans for the future exhibition are not yet finalised, a live commentary pointing out the various sites of interest along the river is already in place for the 1st passengers on the new Wheelyboats. The Association will offer 20 minute ‘taster’ trips, 90 minute longer trips upstream to Chester Weir and individually tailored charters.

Later in the year the operation will include trips downstream into the estuary where passengers can experience the tranquillity of an internationally important bird reserve and relive ancient battles as they cruise past Flint castle. Among the many benefits the project will bring to the region, 3 jobs have been created already, and the growth in visitor numbers is expected to be a welcome boost to the wider local economy. Jonathan Eeles, Director of the Quay Watermen’s Association says:- "The Wheelyboats were a natural choice for the Quay Watermen. Like us, they are innovative, inclusive and exciting. We want everybody to come and try the new boats. Get involved, rediscover your river!"

As the latest design of The Wheelyboat Trust’s seven boat models, the Coulam V20 is the most important development since the launch of the original Wheelyboat more than 30 years ago. The boat is designed for use on inland and inshore waters, powered by a 90hp motor outboard supplied by Suzuki GB and can accommodate up to 10 adults (8 on inshore waters), including 6 wheelchair users. George Cheeseman, Head of ATV & Marine at Suzuki GB says:- "We are proud to partner with The Wheelyboat Trust and provide the outboard power for the Coulam V20. The trust does a fantastic job enabling more wheelchair users to experience the enjoyment of being out on the water."

Andy Beadsley, Director of The Wheelyboat Trust says:- "We are very excited about this project as The Wheelyboat Trust shares a common goal with the Quay Watermen’s Association to allow more people to enjoy taking part in waterborne activities. Our aim is to have as many Wheelyboats throughout the UK as possible and we are therefore delighted to launch 2 new Coulam Wheelyboat V20s on the beautiful River Dee as part of our growing fleet which now totals 173 Wheelyboats."

The Wheelyboat Trust relies on the support of individuals, companies and charitable organisations to fund its activities. Donations can be made in a variety of ways including online.

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