Caldecotte Xperience in Milton Keynes has launched a wheelchair-accessible Wheelyboat: the first fully accessible power boat to operate at this outdoor activity centre, strengthening existing provisions for people with disabilities.
Two charities, The Wheelyboat Trust and Action4Youth, workied together on the project, to provide young people with mobility impairments with the ability to participate fully in water-based activities at this centre.
The new Coulam V20 Wheelyboat, aptly named ‘The Wheel of Opportunity’ in a competition won by local school Great Linford Primary, was officially launched on 15 March and is the first V20 to operate in the Buckinghamshire, Bedfordshire and Northamptonshire region. The event was attended by local MP Iain Stewart, as well as the boat builder Jim Coulam, and engine provider Ade Coulam, who are brothers. This vessel provides safe, dignified and easy access to the water for all disabled visitors. The V20 can be powered by an outboard up to 140hp enabling it to provide high speed action.
The Wheelyboat Trust and Action4Youth partnership started in 2015 when an instructor from Caldecotte Xperience saw a Coulam V20 Wheelyboat being towed along the M1. The instructor realised this might be the perfect vessel to fill a significant gap in provision for mobility-impaired people at the outdoor education centre. After Googling the model name, the instructor discovered this was the boat’s builder, Jim Coulam, on his way to the Southampton Boat Show.
This twist of fate led The Wheelyboat Trust and Action4Youth working together to fund the Coulam Wheelyboat V20. The total cost of the project was £41,000 for features including folding bench seating, wheelchair anchorage for the helmsman’s seat, and a 4-wheel braked trailer, with the Wheelyboat Trust raising £10,500 towards the overall cost. Caldecotte Xperience can now enrich the lives of their learning, sensory and mobility impaired visitors with this new roll-on, roll-off access power boat, which will enable them to enjoy the excitement of water sports, without the need to leave their chairs.
Caldecotte Xperience prides itself in being fully inclusive, with a team of experienced staff who have been specially trained to work with disabled people and understand their complex needs. They endeavour to tailor every activity and course to meet the needs of each individual attending, ensuring that everyone, regardless of disability, can enjoy the challenge of adventurous outdoor activities. The special features of the Wheelyboat will provide users with mobility impairments with complete independence, as disabled users will be able to learn to drive the boat themselves, as well as participating as members of the crew, acting as lookout and helping moor the boat. Caldecotte Xperience is confident that at least 700 young people will use the V20 in its first year of operation. In fact, Barnados has already signed up to use it to offer training and qualifications to its beneficiaries in the 19 to 24 age range.
Developed by The Wheelyboat Trust and J M Coulam Boatbuilders, the Coulam V20 offers flexible seating, level deck and a watertight bow door that lowers to form a solid ramp for extremely easy and safe wheelchair-friendly access. The craft allows people with mobility impairments to participate in waterborne activities alongside and on equal terms with their non-disabled counterparts, an important factor in the quality of life they are able to lead.
Jenifer Cameron, CEO of Action4Youth explained, “Action4Youth is an innovative charity that looks beyond all barriers to provide the best possible prospects to children, giving them the confidence and motivation to push themselves to achieve. Our new Wheelyboat is the first of its kind to be launched in the region and will enable all children and young people to have an equal opportunity to experience the excitement and adventure of water sports activities."
Andy Beadsley, Director of The Wheelyboat Trust said, “Our aim is to enable as many people as possible to enjoy taking part in waterborne activities. This Caldecotte boat is the 15th V20 built in our 191 fleet of Wheelyboats launched in the UK and Europe. The launch of this boat at Caldecotte Xperience will allow disabled visitors to not only have access to the water, but also gain powerboating tuition and qualifications for the first time. This project will benefit in particular those with the most limiting mobility impairments, improve their well-being and broaden their horizons through challenges, independence and thrills!”
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 at www.wheelyboats.org/donate.html.
Slider image: Children from The Redway School are the first to try out the new Wheelyboat
Image above: Action4Youth's new Wheelyboat makes waves on Caldecotte Lake