Friends of RTBP Winter Newsletter
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Dear Friends of the River Thames Boat Project,
Our biennial visit to Sunbury dry dock went well with plenty of enthusiastic volunteers on hand for the mammoth task that is hull painting. As dockings go we were lucky with the weather and everything we aimed to do was completed in time to return to Kingston before Christmas. It was a surprise to discover we have a new neighbour at the dock in the shape of a lighter being converted to replace one of the existing houseboats on Thameside railway wharf. It will be interesting to see if they can build their houseboat faster than C Toms can build and deliver Thames Discoverer.
Finally, we are looking for new volunteers this year with specific skills - teachers for our education programmes, cooks for our Linking People Afloat days, and skippers for the new boat. I look forward to reporting next time on the start of a special season when we take delivery of Thames Discoverer.
Peter Oldham, Skipper
Welcome to another edition of our newsletter - still winter but with a hint of spring in the air? At least in the south of England. The team has kept busy in the off season with the new boat making good progress, our new Education Coordinator finding that the Education programme really doesn't have an off season, and volunteers continuing to impress with fundraising and new roles.
In addition to new staff you will see a new Trustee for finance and a new Patron mentioned - more on them next time. It's great that people seem to be queueing up to be involved with the Charity! Miranda continues to wear a path between Richmond and Cornwall (I'm sure she will be particularly happy to see the Discoverer afloat!) and as for Peter and his cycling, hmmm. The Etape du Tour in July was his high point while last month definitely was not. (We all wish you a speedy recovery Peter!)
And don't miss the Hampton Court Music Festival evening cruises in the sidebar. These should be wonderful evenings out, made specially available to Friends. Make sure you book before the limited places disappear!
Your comments and stories are as welcome as ever.
From the Wheelhouse
The heading should read 'from the bedside'! I fell off my bicycle at the end of January fracturing my hip in the process. Having been put back together with screws, I aim to be at the wheel of Venturer in time for the start of the cruising season. Unfortunately, this has set back volunteer refresher training to later in spring - maybe no bad thing as the weather should be warmer!
Most of you will have read the newsletter that Miranda sent out at the end of January but there is still more happening.
One current theme is consultation. A week before the trip to Cornwall with the Boat Team and Naval Architect that Miranda described, there was another visit with a group of our Mates – an important source of input as the Thames Discoverer starts to take shape in more detail.
In addition, Miranda has been talking to clients, which has yielded some interesting information both for the boat and for all those who interact with clients. Did you know that for dementia sufferers it is best to avoid small patterns on any fabric? This can be confused with bits that need picking up and result in people trying to pick them out and worrying at them. For those with Parkinson’s it helps to have ‘visual clues’ on the floor – stripes or other markers. Some Parkinson's patients will experience moments when they freeze in their tracks and can't get moving again, but one thing that frequently works is to aim the next step at a specific spot on the floor - ‘put your foot on the edge of that stripe’. Simple - when there is a mark to aim at rather than just a plain floor or deck.
The yard is aiming to get the welding finished next week, after which the painting will start. On her visit earlier this week Miranda discussed details with two suppliers - one providing handrails around the stern and the galley sink, the other decking made from recycled plastic. And when I spoke to her, she and Peter were in the midst of worrying about where all the bollards should go. Plus there are numerous items that have come out of the various consultations to sort out. The list of decisions to make is almost endless!
And plans are afoot for a naming celebration after the Thames Discoverer arrives in Kingston. We will tell you more about that next time.
Mike's Fundraising Run
Educational crew member Mike Mendelson ran the Hampton Court Palace Half Marathon on 19 February to raise money for the River Thames Boat Project.
While Mike was lining up on the start line to begin his fundraising run for us, a team of RTBP volunteers and others assembled to provide two water stations for the race. The course passed the Thames Venturer in the Barge Dock on a circular route to and from Hampton Court Palace. With about 4,000 runners, the volunteers handed out nearly 6,000 bottles of water. Unfortunately, that also meant 6,000 empties to pick up too! The good news for the Boat Project is that the race organizers will be donating £600 to the charity for our endeavours (thanks to Peter for organising the hardworking team), and Mike’s fundraising appeal currently stands at over £600 with gift aid. You can still help him reach his £1,000 target here!
Here is Mike's story:
We’re in the pub. “So, let's get this straight, you want us to sponsor you to do something that you might have done anyway?” “Well, yes, but don't put it like that, it's for the charity with the boat on the Thames.” “And that's interesting, you and water! If you were doing something life-threatening, like swimming the channel, but no you are offering to run, which you do every week!”
I should come clean, I have not opted for a life-threatening challenge. I do run, I have run a half marathon before but now I am attempting one as an over-60.
Sunday morning and I'm gathered in a pen with about 500 people who all think they can do 13.1 miles in under 2 hours 10 minutes. Go! Ten minutes later we shuffle across the start line. We're off - and immediately the runner next to me is a faller at the first road hump. In Kingston Market Place a man has managed to run into a bollard and the paramedics are dealing with him. Who said this is not life-threatening? Great to get water from the RTBP team at Canbury and there's Peter on his crutches exhorting me to put my water bottle in the bin.
Seven and a half miles and on to my favourite stretch, Kingston Bridge to Hampton Court along the river. After which it's only 3 miles to go and everything is feeling good. (Thinks... a bit of effort and I could get near a 2 hour time.) This is now the bit I like, having enough puff to go past more runners than pass me.
The finish! 1 hour 55 minutes 3 seconds. Collect goody bag, with 4 different energy bars! Why does running make me so ferociously hungry? (Also got shirt and medal, see photo, a pity I can't eat those.)
There we have it, my half-marathon personal best as an over-60. And someone whispers, “That's your only half-marathon as an over-60.”
Thank you to all my sponsors. Every Little Helps. (Where have I heard that before?) And does it matter that I thoroughly enjoyed it? I hope not!
Education & Learning Programme
We said goodbye to Gemma Hindi in the last issue, and this time we say hello to Zaria Greenhill, our new Education Coordinator. Zaria tells us about her start in the job, her plans, and a bit about herself.
I took over as Education Coordinator in January, and was thrown in the deep end as Peter Oldham sustained a cycling injury and was out for the count! Nonetheless, the first School on the River (SoR) group of 2017 was welcomed on 1 February, amid terrible weather and very high water. Luckily the rain held off as Gemma came back for a surprise visit to lead the trip to Teddington Lock and the foreshore foraging session. More SoR bookings are planned for March, April and May and all available education volunteers will be pressed into service!
As the end of the financial year draws near, we’ve chalked up over 1,500 children who’ve visited Venturer through SoR, youth group visits and citizen science sessions. We’re preparing for the new season with an education volunteers’ training day on 13 March. This is aimed at active education volunteers but any Friends are welcome. If you are interested in participating please email Zaria. A talk by Primary Geography expert Paula Richardson will help us orient our work in the context of the geography curriculum. Being curriculum-relevant is increasingly important as school funding cuts are going to focus schools’ budgets on the best quality learning for their money!
Although I’m new to the job, Venturer is not actually a stranger to me. I’ve boarded her before, first around 20 years ago, when my Grandma hired it to celebrate her 70th birthday and invited her numerous grandchildren. I was also on board for the residential London Environmental Educators Forum (Summer 2015 newsletter). My maternal family grew up by the Thames in Molesey and Teddington so I know the area and I have fond childhood memories of this part of the Thames. I’m delighted to take up the role and I’m enjoying the challenge so far.
One of my first challenges is to increase the number of education volunteers, so if you’ve got some spare time, you enjoy children and can spend a day or two delivering sessions to children on board Venturer, I’d love to hear from you. We need your help!
A Client Story: Hillview
Hillview is a small residential home in Surrey for adults with learning disabilities, providing supported living for its tenants in en-suite studio flats. It is part of CMG (Care Management Group) which runs over 120 facilities throughout the country. CMG was established in 1996 by a parent of a person with learning disabilities and its ethos has always been that the people it supports and their families are at the heart of the organisation. Its aim is to provide highly personalised, safe and fun environments where the people it supports can develop their social, communication and life skills with a view to gaining greater levels of independence, including education and employment.
In September 2016, a group from Hillview came on the Venturer for the first time courtesy of T.R.E.E.S., an organisation we told you about in the summer 2014 issue, which funds trips for residents of various care homes throughout Surrey. The trip was such a success that they booked to come back for a weekend residential in late October as mentioned by Peter in ‘From the Wheelhouse’ last time. Despite the late season the weather cooperated, and the group had a lovely trip up to Windsor. As this was Halloween weekend, pumpkins were carved and illuminated on top of the wheelhouse on Saturday night.
The feedback we had from Rachel Webb, Registered Home Manager, describes the success of that trip beautifully:
All of the tenants have been discussing the boat trip since their return. They have all talked about the jobs they completed on the boat and the new skills that they learned. When asked about whether they would like to go on the boat again they have all expressed much enthusiasm. The crew from the River Thames Boat Project are very much missed by the tenants and are talked about often.
The residential was not just a boat ride but a chance for tenants to learn new skills, feel socially included within their community and create life cementing experiences. The crew embraced the tenants, not as individuals with disabilities but as fully realised adults with their own beliefs, opinions and thoughts. One tenant now wishes to become a sailor and dreams of one day living on a boat.
Our staff feel they have reunited with their first passion, to support tenants in creating an opportunity to achieve great experiences in life. We love the idea of extending the residential for a longer period of time to allow the tenants to really bond not only with each other but with staff and the crew and to really hone and perfect the life skills that are taught.
Receiving such perfect feedback is always a pleasure, and we look forward to welcoming Hillview back on board in the future. And one of our crew members, Warren Stein, was so impressed with Hillview that he has arranged to work with them!
Linda Varney – Our New Company Secretary!
We told you in the last issue that Linda Varney was stepping in as Company Secretary now that Wendy Moss has ‘retired’ from that position. So, we asked Linda to tell us about herself, and her experience with the Charity.
I began volunteering with the RTBP in 2011 after retiring the previous year, having a bit more time for other things. Although I have lived in Ham for 30 years I wasn’t aware of the Charity until a few years earlier when a friend mentioned she had seen the Venturer in a lock and talked to Miranda. That sparked my interest.
I'm a long-term boater, having sailed with my uncle on the Broads as a teenager. My late partner and I bought our first boat in 1987 and I still have my own motor cruiser moored in Penton Hook Marina near Staines. I'm also a member of the Small Boat Club which is based on Stevens Ait, the mid river island just downstream of the Barge Dock. The Venturer offered me another stream of boating, helping others enjoy being on boats on the river as much as I did.
I started crewing in 2011 under the watchful eye of Pete Gannon – at least he seemed to be the mate every time I was on board. And very helpful he was too! Since then I seem to have managed to get involved in most areas of RTBP activity - from maintenance in dry dock to hosting LPAs, helping with School on the River and Open Days, and being volunteer representative on the Operations Committee. (Editor’s note – and helping to provide some lovely food for various occasions!) Pippa says I should learn to sit on my hands! After a couple of years' experience Peter asked if I would become a mate so I have had that privilege for a while. Trouble is, you don't get to throw many ropes.
My latest challenge is following Wendy in the role of Company Secretary. It's certainly an exciting time to be taking the role of working with the Trustees - the Thames Discoverer coming on stream, working out the future role for the Venturer and all the work around our moorings. But I still hope to be fully involved with cruising - after all, that's why I volunteered in the first place!