there is an urgent need for ‘new blood’.Trust Chairman David Mieras is busy planning the pre Christmas trips and is very conscious of the need to ensure there are enough volunteers to make them happen:
“People can give as much or as little time as they can to help us. They will be fully trained in the skills required, but the most important ability is to enjoy working with people. The reward you get from seeing people of all ages relishing the experience is difficult to explain. But we offer something that is very special, and I want to make sure we keep doing that.”
Cruises from the base at Ratho leave up to three times a day, seven days a week and can last from one and a half hours to three hours, from April to October. Some head east towards Edinburgh, but most travel west towards the spectacular Almondell Aqueduct. Tea, coffee and biscuits are provided but many groups bring their own picnics. The boats are fully accessible with lifts to enable wheelchairs and those with mobility problems to come aboard, and each has an accessible toilet.
The charity is entirely funded by grants and donations, and run by volunteers – some of whom may be retired or others who offer their free time in the evenings or weekends. They prepare and operate the boats during the summer and for the Santa Cruises, but also help maintain them over the winter months.
Louise Rutherford is one of those already involved: “I’d never done anything like this before but it’s a wonderful experience. Steering the boats is great fun, but I really enjoy sharing the trips with the people who come onboard. They have a range of disabilities and can be old or young, but they just love the slow pace, the history and the wildlife. The canal is a hidden gem and we can reveal it to folk who are often stuck indoors day after day. Sometimes there’s a sing-a-long or perhaps they just want to chat – every trip is different.”
David Mieras is still taking bookings from childcare organisations for the Santa Cruises throughout December, but is also keen to hear from anyone who’d like to join the volunteer crews.