New accessible boat for disabled anglers launched in West Sussex

A project to improve access for disabled people on Burton Mill Pond has come to fruition with the formal opening of a new access ramp and pontoon and the launch of a wheelchair accessible Wheelyboat Mk I.

The Wheelyboat project has been organised by West Sussex County Council (WSCC) and supported by the Wheelyboat Trust, a national charity whose HQ is half a mile from the pond. The project is part of Arun & Rother Connections, a £2.2m Heritage Lottery funded initiative to improve the environment in the Arun and Rother catchments, encouraging greater access by the public. The new ramp provides step free access from Burton Park Road to a new pontoon specially designed to accommodate the Wheelyboat.

The Wheelyboat, named ‘Harriet’, has a bow door that lowers to form a ramp for roll-on, roll-off access. She is available for disabled anglers and their companions to use on a day-ticket basis.  Propulsion is provided by a 1kw electric outboard. Her cockpit is open and level, including the helm, so the boat can be driven from a wheelchair.

Burton Mill Pond is owned by WSCC and the angling rights leased to Sussex Piscatorial Society (SPS). The fishing season on the pond runs from 16 June to 14 March. Anglers wishing to use the Wheelyboat should book her via SPS’s website: www.sussexpiscatorialsociety.co.uk.

The Wheelyboat was supplied by The Wheelyboat Trust, which designs, builds, funds and supplies Wheelyboats to provide disabled people of all ages with access to a wide range of waterborne activities. She is one of 80 Wheelyboats built using the original design and was previously in service on a lake in Worcestershire. Using a grant from The Gerald Micklem Charitable Trust, the Wheelyboat Trust has had the boat fully reconditioned ensuring she provides many more years of useful life.

The Wheelyboat will also be available for disabled people to use for activities such as nature watching organised by WSCC Countryside Team.

Andy Beadsley, Director of The Wheelyboat Trust, says “The best part of my job is seeing a lot of hard work culminating in the delivery and launch of another Wheelyboat.  This one is particularly special being so close to The Wheelyboat Trust’s national HQ.  I will undoubtedly be one or her users! Congratulations to everybody involved and huge thanks to the funders for their support’.

West Sussex County Council spokesman says, “The new facilities, which are remarkably discreet, also provide a safe and accessible viewing area for all visitors and a secure mooring for the two existing fishing punts.”

The Wheelyboat Trust relies on the support of individuals, companies and charitable organisations to fund its activities. Donations can be made in a variety of ways including online at www.wheelyboats.org/donate.html.