Fun on the canals with The Bruce Trust

Bruce Trust

In a brand new venture for the DBF, we took to the open water (in the gentle form of the Kennet & Avon Canal) on a fine, sunny day on Wednesday 24th September.

Our willing guinea pigs for the trip were a lovely band, members of the Roehampton Limb User Group (RLUG) from the Douglas Bader Centre at Queen Mary’s Hospital. 10, including Christopher Harwood, their Chairperson and co-organiser of the event with David Bickers of the DBF, joined David and me and 4 wonderful Bruce Trust volunteers, David (the very accomplished skipper), Alec, Peter and Martin (on his inaugural trip on this particular boat) on the Bruce Trust’s Hannah for a cruise from Great Bedwyn to Crofton and back.

Sadly, the Group got delayed on the way down by those dreaded words: “sheer weight of traffic” on the way out of London, but it gave the DBF team and our lovely and very patient crew time to get lunches etc. organised and down a couple of cups of very welcome coffee while we waited. Once the group arrived in a special Cruisers Accessible Coach and had all boarded Hannah, the peace of the canal worked its magic and soon London traffic was a thing of the past. We set off from the beautiful village of Great Bedwyn a little later than anticipated but, somewhat surprisingly given the sky earlier in the day, in glorious sunshine. The canal was at its best and we had a lovely serene journey to Crofton on gorgeous calm, sparkling water between banks rich with plant and animal life. Accompanied by a dignified group of 2 adult swans and their 3 huge cygnets encouraged by Pam, our own swan whisperer (helped a little by some tasty leftovers!) we floated gently to Crofton through locks of varying degrees of difficulty all skilfully negotiated by our skipper for the day, David, and his team, Peter, Alec and Martin. To add to his accomplishments, David possessed a wealth of knowledge about the canal and its history and proved to be a fascinating and entertaining speaker increasing ours en route! He told us about a cottage, isolated on the banks of the canal and possessing no running water or electricity and which apparently caused the long-suffering postman a considerable walk to deliver the post. We were able to visit this cottage ourselves while moored beside a nearby lock and several of us bought plants from a tempting table by the gate. What a great way to do business!

Following a lunch of delicious sandwiches, flapjacks and brownies supplied by Cobbs, supplemented by crisps and a selection of fruit very kindly donated by Cobbs, all washed down with wine, beer or, for the more abstemious, non-alcoholic refreshments, we winded around (another term we learned from David originating from the time prior to engines when canal boats used the wind to assist turning) at Crofton and then retraced our steps to Great Bedwyn arriving just as the air was growing more chilly and the clouds were beginning to gather. Perfect timing. Following a somewhat chaotic group photograph or two, we bade our goodbyes and the RLUG departed on their coach for London.

It was a wonderful day with lots of companionship, laughter, chat and simple enjoyment of the best that nature and the waterways can offer. We are extremely grateful to The House of Yoga in Putney who made the DBF their local charity of the month and raised the funds to make the trip possible; the wonderful Bruce Trust and their very special volunteers for providing the wherewithal for such a great and thoroughly enjoyable trip and Cobbs Farm Shop (well worth a visit if you’re in the Hungerford area) for the delicious, extremely generously stuffed sandwiches and other goodies. Not least, of course, a very big thank you to the plucky band from the RLUG who were prepared to undertake the long journey from London to take part in this new venture. It’s easy for those of us without prosthetics to underestimate such concerns and Christopher Harwood puts it so well when he says: “We are definitely praising The Bruce Trust’s operation and The Douglas Bader Foundation and House of Yoga for making possible the opportunity for us amputees at the Roehampton Limb User Group at Douglas Bader Centre, Queen Mary’s Hospital as it provided a chance of pushing the boundaries of physical restrictions further away. Overcoming fearfulness of longer journeys, to be out in nature capturing the moment with eye and camera while on the waterways and discovering fellowship along the way. It’s a health check in its self! This ability rather than a disability is what the Late Sir Douglas Bader wanted and what his charitable trust, The DBF are about today…”

I felt privileged to be able to share this trip with the RLUG and we hope this will be the first of many such trips with The Bruce Trust.

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