A CHARITY that helps everyone enjoy the experience of canal boating is gearing up to hold a fundraising day. 

Bruce Boats has been providing trips on the Kennet and Avon Canal for disabled, disadvantaged and elderly people for more than 35 years. 

The charity was created in 1988 by Louise and David Bruce, following the sale of Bruce's Brewery and the Firkin Pubs in London. They were keen to plough back some of the proceeds into a project which would benefit the community, and they became intrigued with the possibility of offering self-steer, self-catering holidays, cruising on the Kennet & Avon Canal for disabled, disadvantaged or elderly people.

Having carried out considerable research into the existing facilities for people with special needs on Britain's other inland waterways, the Bruces purchased their first boat - Rebecca. Rebecca was a purpose-built wide-beamed boat offering wheelchair access with a disabled toilet and shower with all the luxuries of home.  Today Bruce Boats - now owned by the Kennet and Avon Canal Trust and run as a not-for-profit charity - operates five boats, four of which are widebeam and one narrow boat used for youth groups.

Bruce Boats has helped more than 30,000 people in its 35 years and is holding a fundraising day to inspire more people to help them and raise vital funds for its restoration project. 

Salisbury Journal: Bruce Boats

Steve Gibbons, publicity officer, said: "We are always looking for new recruits, so if you fancy giving a hand please come and join us.

"Fundraising is essential for us to maintain and run our five boats. Fundraising this year was kicked off by Janet Ollie and Beth from the Three Tuns in Great Bedwyn who completed a sponsored run in the New Forest and raised over £2,000.

"One personal donation last year has enabled us to start work on converting Diana, one of our wide-beamed boats to Hybrid power. This will enable our day trips to run purely on battery power. This is a big project and has taken a lot of planning."

On Easter Monday, Bruce Boats is holding an event on the wharf at Great Bedwyn from 2pm until 5pm.

There will be live music, refreshments and craft stalls, and visitors will have the chance to look around the boats, meet volunteers and the engineering team working on the hybrid conversion, as well as enjoy boat trips.

Steve added: "Please come along and support this wonderful organisation. If you would like to join our team of volunteers or wish to help Bruce Boats with fundraising please drop me a line." 

The fundraiser will take place on Monday, April 1 from 2pm until  5pm at Great Bedwyn Wharf, near Marlborough, SN8 3PB .

For more email bruce.publicity@katrust.org.uk