100yr old Hazel’s eager to start work

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Shipshape & ready to sail (almost)

boatYou may remember one of Dial2Donate’s very first stories which was all about 100 year old canal boat, ‘Hazel’. Unbelievably that was written around 10 months ago now . To say that the old girl looked tired and was beyond salvage was an understatement. Despite her creaky timbers, Master Mariner ‘Captain Chris’ saw the hidden potential in ‘Hazel’. And so, his vision to restore her to her former glory began. What is more, this was to be no ordinary transformation.

Hazel the Wellbeing Boat

Thankfully, Hazel was destined to become a canal boat with an extremely unique difference. Through months of exceptional skill and sheer determination, Hazel was to be transformed into a full-equipped wellbeing boat. Her role? To offer respite day and residential trips for people with mental health issues. However, these exceptional journeys will also be available to those genuinely seeking respite for many different reasons too. Full accessibility was always at forefront of Hazel’s developments. It was essential that she allowed complete wheelchair access and had the capability to accommodate passengers with varying degrees of mobility.

Our terrific trip

The WCBS (Wooden Canal Boat Society) very kindly asked Dial2Donate along to experience a lovely ‘thank you’ boat trip on board Hazel. Along On boardwith my colleague, ‘Kirsty’ and I went along for a day on the waterways. Our route began at Portland Basin, Ashton-under-Lyne and would take us on a lazy trip to Stalybridge. Well, when I say lazy, alongside the other lucky passengers we were sat comfortably within the beautifully decorated cabin, whilst the crew tireless steered and managed the various locks with absolute precision.

Modern twist on the traditional

Sitting in Hazel’s cosy cabin, it was difficult to remember the way that she had been just a few short months ago. Beautifully painted woodwork in soft duck egg blue. A traditional wood burning stove gently warmed the space and with endless tea, coffee and cake, I instantly knew this would be a wonderful trip. Even the sun shone – so with the elements in our favour, there was no stopping us.

stokeThe adaptations to Hazel were quite extraordinary, from the innovative wheelchair ramp and lift to centrally heated sleeping area, walk-in wet room and full cooking facilities, she literally has everything in place and more.

Feeling safe and snug, the serenity of the waterway was simply wonderful. Hazel undoubtedly offers a complete break from everyday stresses and strains. Kirsty and myself agreed (as did the others on board) that a few hours on the boat certainly topped a day in the office.


It is safe to say that Hazel is brimming with character. Upon meeting the trustees of the WCBS and the fundraising team, it is clear to see that this is a group of dedicated people with success in mind.

Our day out allowed stories to flow. The passengers we were travelling with began as names and faces but through a massively enjoyable experience we all became friends – sharing tales along the way. Two members of the group ‘Anne & Dave’ shared their anecdotes based on a 20 years living on a canal boat. One amusing story they told us centred on names given to canal boats and barges. As you can imagine they had encountered many beautiful names such as Rose and Bluebell, however, many boat owners had the uncontrollable urge to name their boats in pretty weird and indeed funny ways. Take for example ‘Morning Flatulence’ – considering that painting a boat’s name costs per letter, there was a much shorter alternative to this one. All I can say is, ‘thank goodness, ‘Hazel’ is called ‘Hazel’ – saving not only money on painting the name but retaining grace too.

We learnt that traditional canal boat artwork, exceptional fundraising and methodical administration were just a handful of the skills apparent on our trip. Obviously, much more has and continues to take place both on and off the water too.

Those finishing touches

With Hazel’s first official trips on the horizon, there are now just a few Plaquesfinishing touches to be added. The seating within the main living area requires upholstery and the wet room floor needs finishing. Of course, even when those daily and residential journeys are in full swing, ongoing donations will still be necessary. After all, maintenance work always to be done to ensure that Hazel performs at her very best. Could you help? Please email general@wcbs.org.uk or call 0161 330 8422.

Like to book a trip?

The first trips on board Hazel should be due to set sail on the canal around October/November 2015. Of course as soon as Dial2Donate learns the official date, we will let you know too.

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