As a family, when my daughters were in their teens, we had a lot of canal holidays, and that's when I fell in love with canals. About 12 years ago we moved to live near the wharf at Lyneal on the Llangollen Canal and I got involved as a volunteer with the Lyneal Trust, a small charity providing canal-based recreation and holidays for people with disabilities, illnesses or vulnerabilities, and their families and carers.
A couple of years later I was invited to become a trustee, and five or six years ago I ended up as Chairman. So now I work harder than I ever did when I worked!
The Lyneal Trust has two narrowboats, Shropshire Lass and Shropshire Lad, which are specially adapted to be accessible for disabled people. And we're very excited about a new day boat which will be joining us soon – Shropshire Lady. When we were designing the adaptions for our original boats, we had advice from one of trustees and one of volunteers who were disabled - and for our new boat we have the help of two occupational therapists who are very up to date with current needs.
I’m proud of our boats but one of our proudest moments was when both Shropshire Lass and Shropshire Lad were in the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Pageant on the Thames. It was wonderful to see so many thousands of people cheering and waving their Union Flags as we passed through Tower Bridge and there on the left was the Spirit of Chartwell with the royal family on board. The Queen gave us a wave and we sang the National Anthem and waved our flags with all our hearts. It was an exhausting day. It was cold and wet and the weather was as foul as I've ever known it on a boat!
Later in that year the Queen visited Shropshire. I was representing the charity on the day and was invited to meet the Queen in a reception line. Her Majesty asked me what it had been like on the boat in her Jubilee Pageant, and I replied that the crowds were phenomenal - and then, as she left moving onwards in the reception line she added, "Wasn't it a pity about the weather?" I said to her "Ah, Your Majesty it was terrible, in fact we all found it quite a long hard day." She stepped back, faced me and said... "You don't need to tell me that!"
When I do slide shows for the Lyneal Trust, I always end them with that story!
Chris, Lyneal Trust, Llangollen Canal