The Wey & Arun Canal Trust has added a Mk III Wheelyboat to its fleet, a boat specially built to take disabled passengers on canal cruises.

The purchase of the secondhand boat has been made thanks to a generous donation from supporter Peter Grove in memory of his grandfather Walter Grove, who was master carpenter on the Wey Navigation from 1885 - 1930. 

Flexible seating means that up to five wheelchairs can be accommodated in comfort, making the pleasure of cruising the canal accessible to a greater number of adults and children.

The boat was supplied and refurbished by The Wheelyboat Trust, a charity set up in 1984 to remove barriers to water-based activities and allow mobility, learning and sensory impaired people of all ages independent access to activities such as powerboating, nature watching, pleasure boating and angling. 

The Wheelyboat Trust Director Andy Beadsley said the benefits of getting disabled people out on the waterways were huge. “There are lots of health and wellbeing advantages to being out in the open air and on the water. We’ve worked with many disability groups, SEN schools and charities and we’re delighted to be able to work with the Wey & Arun Canal Trust on this project.”

The aluminium Mk III Wheelyboat model was was originally built in Southampton in 2007, and was previously used on Siblyback Lake in Cornwall until it was bought back by the Wheelyboat Trust and refurbished at the charity's boatbuilders at Petworth. Andy said that he expected the Trust would get at least 20 more years service from the vessel.

An outboard motor will be fitted over the winter months along with seating and bimini canopy (generously provided by the Ernest Kleinwort Charitable Trust) and it is hoped the boat will be in service next spring. It will be possible to transport the boat using the Trust’s own equipment, so it could be launched at Loxwood, on the Summit Level or at Dunsfold as required.

Wey & Arun Canal Trust director John Reynolds added: “We’re sure trips onboard the Wheelyboat will bring immense pleasure to many people and we look forward to being able to offer cruises along the Wey & Arun Canal on the Wheelyboat in 2021.”

It is planned to give the boat its official naming and launch at the IWA Trailboat Festival being held at the Summit over the early May bank holiday in 2021.