Queen's Award for Overwater Wheelyboat Services

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Another Audlem and Overwater Marina Success

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This week Overwater Wheelyboat Services was awarded the coveted Queen's Award for Voluntary Services. This is the highest award given to local groups across the UK. It is an MBE for volunteer groups and is a recognition of the dedication and hard work of the group's volunteers.
Mr David Briggs MBE KStJ, HM Lord-Lieutenant of Cheshire, said of the group
"Overwater Wheelyboat Services is a truly worthy winner of The Queen's Award for Voluntary Service. Their magnificent team of volunteers provide pure pleasure to so many of the least fortunate people in our community and enables them to see the very best of our wonderful County. I much hope to be able to present this well-deserved award to all the volunteers in the near future and I thank each of them for all that they do"

Local resident and Overwater Wheelyboat Service Chairman Rodney Cottrell BEM, one of the founders of Wheelyboat Service, told us how it all came about

This story began ten years ago, when Janet Maughan, one of the owners of Overwater Marina invited Rodney to bring a RNLI Christmas stall to the Marina. Whilst there, Janet asked if the local RNLI fundraisers fancied organising a ferry service from the Marina to the village of Audlem. In the spring, a boat that would be suitable for the narrow Shropshire Union canal was located at Bellanoch in Scotland on the Crinan canal. Rod and his wife Chris, who had sailed the Crinan many times on their own boat, brought it home, fitted it out and the Audlem Lass Boat Service was born. It is incredible to think that, often described as Cheshire's biggest mini tourism attraction, the boat has carried over 43,000 passengers and has now become an integral part of Audlem's Big Switch on Christmas festivities. Its refit ready for when the 2020 season finally gets underway means she looks just as smart as ever.

After 3 years of running the Audlem Lass, it was decided to introduce a boat that could carry passengers with limited mobility — a suitable boat was identified — a Wheelyboat. The boat was purchased in 2014 with the help of the Wheelyboat Trust and called the Maughan Lass in memory of Richard Maughan. Operating Between April and September, it has enabled many wheelchair bound and less mobile passengers to enjoy a cruise along the canal and enjoy the beautiful Cheshire countryside. For many of the visitors from care homes it is a new experience and the crew are frequently told "it feels like I have been on my holidays". Richard's dream was to help create the best inland marina in the country. He would have been delighted to see the awards that Overwater has won to date and the visitors that it and the two 'Lasses' have brought to Audlem village.

Rodney and the other volunteers did not stop at the Maughan Lass. Realising that many care homes and families have no wheelchair transport, fund-raising started in 2017 to acquire a specially adapted minibus. This proved challenging and efforts almost ground to a halt at the halfway stage, but fortunately Sarah Callandar Becket DL came to the rescue, by promotion and funding from her charity in her year in office as High Sheriff of Cheshire. With this turn around in fortunes, a new specially adapted minibus was purchased from GM Coachwork, in Newton Abbott, and the Wheelybus was born.

On the 25th January 2019, a reception was held at Audlem Public Hall with over 100 guests. Local dignitaries and volunteers gathered as the bus was blessed by the Reverend Helen Chantry. Before lockdown, both the boat and bus were in constant use; by the first weekend in March 2020, 200 passengers were already booked for a canal trip, transported by the Wheelybus when required. The bus also works with ADCA and has become a lifeline to villagers needing to get to appointments.
A point worth mentioning, where a group of people with a mixture of mobility issues and other needs wish to share the experience of a canal trip at the same time, the Audlem Lass and Wheelyboat can run together; this is an attractive option for many organisations.

As Rodney points out, it would be wrong not to mention a few of the local people and companies who have made such a difference to this success  - so, thanks must go to: Baker, Wynne & Wilson, Mike Smith, John Jones, Able World, Audlem Co-op, High Street Garage Whitchurch, Audlem Printers, Audlem Charity Shop, Car Transplants, Foxx of Hinstock (for supplying our jackets with the new insignia), Alison Walker of Café at Bridge 80, Janet & Angus Maughan and family at Overwater Marina, Roger Millns, Phil Lloyd and the rest of the ADCA team, Marina manager David Johnson, Carol Keeley, and all the marina staff.
Rodney added "We are absolutely delighted to have received this Award which recognises the efforts, hard work and dedication of our amazing team of Volunteers and Supporters and the benefits of the services provided within our local community".

This award is for all of you.

Once Government guidelines allow, you can book Wheelyboat and Bus by calling Overwater Marina on 01270 812677

Click on an image to see the full detail.

Click on the PDF below for the Wheelyboat story

Audlem Online
Overwater Wheelyboat Services
PDF file