Helping people experiencing loneliness and social exclusion by providing Volunteering and employment opportunities through the preservation of historic wooden canal boats, which engage the community in a variety of activities such as, boat recycling trips and running a charity shop; boat restoration, repairs and maintenance; The boats offer respite for disadvantaged people and those suffering poor mental health.  Preserving the traditional boat building skills and the history surrounding the operation of these boats.



The Wooden Canal Boat Society, has been shortlisted to receive funding of £2000 from Provident’s Good Neighbour Community Programme.

It is one of nine organisations to be shortlisted across Central UK, and you are invited to vote to decide on the winners until 25th September.

You can cast your votes at

until 25th September 2016.

They will use the money towards a much needed van if they receive the most votes.

Provident’s Good Neighbour Programme recognises the projects or organisations which make a real difference to their local communities. It invested more than £1 million into communities across the UK during 2015. The Wooden Canal Boat Society believe their work makes a real difference in the local community by providing opportunities for better mental health of volunteers and also those who go for trips on Hazel, their Well-Being boat. ‘’We would love to do even better work in the area with the help of this funding, which will help us purchase a much needed ‘new-to-us’ van for collection of donations for our shop, delivery of goods bought there and general fetching and carrying of all the items our old boats need’’

Andy Parkinson, Provident Home Credit Director, commented:  “Our Good Neighbour Programme is all about recognising projects and organisations, no matter how small, which bring about positive changes in their communities. W.C.B.S. is a perfect example of precisely that, and we have been thrilled to see so many nominations from local residents. “Provident agents have always worked closely within the communities in which we operate, and we see first-hand the importance of community spirit. We’re encouraging the people of Tameside to vote for their local organisations to receive funding to continue their great work.”


New opportunities with us

We are now well into the first year of Hazel being in service as a well-being boat around Tameside.

This has brought us lots more work and, therefore, some opportunities. We shall soon be needing a part-time, paid, Community Boat Co-ordinator and we also need volunteer help with all the administrative work in the Society.

For volunteers who are able to help with administrative tasks we need people who have knowledge of spreadsheet maintenance to maintain our membership and sponsorship details plus who would also be able to help with the production of our regular newsletter to these people.

The paid position is as a COMMUNITY BOAT CO-ORDINATOR. An exciting role which has become available due to the success of the Lottery funded HAZEL PROJECT. The Project Manager worked within the funding to set up Hazel as a Well-being boat within Tameside and we now need a co-ordinator to carry on that work, liaising with the management team and our volunteers, to carry on Hazel’s work. DOWNLOAD DETAILS AND THE APPLICATION FORM HERE………Community Boat Co-ordinator_person specification Community Boat Co-ordinator_job description


Did you read that research shows fare rises are far outstripping wages?

Well, don’t worry !

We’ve teamed up with Trainsplit,a leading UK rail ticket site, to bring members a great saving on train travel. Their money saving booking engine uses a system called split ticketing.

This means that you save money but also we get a rebate from them.

So, next time you book a train ticket go to and support us as well as saving money.

Please do email us if you’ve any queries about this system;

WCBS is taking part in The National Trust’s Heritage Open Days events.

If you live near to Ashton under Lyne please can you volunteer to help us

man an information stall and show our boats off to the public.

Contact : Tony Hewitson –

Thank you.

OUR EVENT – Wooden Canal Boat Society Heritage Boats

The Wooden Canal Boat Society boats, Portland Basin Boatyard, Portland Street South, Ashton-under-Lyne, Greater Manchester, OL6 7SX

The Wooden Canal Boat Society have 6 heritage wooden canal boats based at Portland Basin. All of them are over 100 years old and were used in various places around the country during the canal system’s industrial heyday. Normally, due to volunteers working on the boats, we cannot allow public access.
We have rescued these and restored them, to differing degrees, for use in the community.
Our pride of the fleet is Hazel who has been completely restored and is now working as Tameside’s well-being boat for those suffering poor mental health. You will be able to see her in her modern state.
You will be able to see the back cabin on Forgetmenot as it would have been with a family living on her while she worked the canals.
You will be able to talk with our volunteers about the boats, their industrial past and their current work in the community.
Suitable for all ages as long as children are accompanied. Disabled access available on Hazel.

Opening Times

  • Saturday 10 September: 1100-1600
  • Sunday 11 September: 1100-160


Brown road signs are all around the area directing traffic to Portland Basin Museum. The canal is behind the museum and can be accessed separately. By bus, the 330 bus, Stockport to Ashton, stops opposite Asda and there is a small footpath leading down to the canal (not signposted but the only footpath) From Ashton town centre on foot, go along to Lidl, cross the road and follow the sign posts or find the footpath as above.

Organised by

Anne Louise Black

Anne Louise Black



Join us on board ‘Hazel’, our 100-year-old, fully restored wooden canal boat. Our wonderful relaxing cruises take in the beautiful Peak Forest and Macclesfield canals, giving you time to sit back and enjoy the peace and quiet.



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Facilities on board;

  •  Sleeps up to 10 people

  • Traditional back cabin

  • Fully fitted kitchen

  • Large bathroom/shower

  • Large lounge area

  • Log burning stove

Availability August 2016……………….


Cruise detail

Price (hire of whole boat)

Saturday 13th – Sun 14th  August 2016

Ashton-under-Lyne – Marple return on Peak Forest canal


Monday 15th – Friday 19th August

Ashton-under-Lyne-Marple-Whaley Bridge return on Peak Forest and Macclesfield canal


Saturday 27th – Sunday 28th August

Ashton-under-Lyne – Marple return on Peak Forest canal


All cruises are fully crewed. Cruises depart at 10.00 a.m

BOOK NOW! Ring 07860 944 969 or email

The Wooden Canal Boat Society is a registered charity; all profits support our wellbeing service providing relaxing cruises for people in poor health having a tough time. Registered charity number 1069820.




School holidays, family holidays, etc.etc. We know you’ve lots on your mind but please don’t forget these…..(and kids are welcome, under 16s must wear -provided-  life jackets and please ring Chris Leah on 07931 952037 first to ensure we bring enough)

On the first Sunday, Monday and Tuesday of each month we collect donations for sale in our shop or for recycling.

We need more help to do this.

You will get a free boat trip from Portland Basin to Droylsden and return, learn about our Society, meet other volunteers and get a chance to steer the boat.   In Droylsden we collect from the local houses.

Sunday trips are from 9.30am to around 4pm dependant on how much is collected.

****** Bring your own lunch ******

Trips on Mondays and Tuesdays are from 6.30pm to around 9pm


AUG SUN 7th       MON 1st      TUES 2nd      

SEP  SUN 4th MON 5th TUES 6th

  OCT    SUN 2nd  MON 3rd  TUES 4th

NOV SUN 6th MON 7th TUES 1st  

DEC SUN 4th MON 5th TUES 6th

Ring Chris Leah on 07931 952037 for more info.



Train of boats on a recycling tripEvery month we take our boats from their base at Portland Basin about one hour down the canal to Droylsden. There we collect donations from nearby houses which are later recycled or sold in our charity shop. On Sundays the trip is held during the day so there’s time to have a chat and some lunch after the collection before the trip back to base. On Monday and Tuesdays the trips are in the evening so the return is made straight away.

These trips are a wonderful introduction into canal life, working a boat, the industrial heritage of the canal system and to the Wooden Canal Boat Society itself. We encourage all new volunteers to come along and meet us in this way.

These are the details of trips for the rest of 2016 (however do ring Chris Leah on 07931 952037 first especially if there are a few of you coming)

SUNDAYS leaving Portland Basin at 9.30 am, probably returning around 4pm depending on how many donations are collected. Bring your own lunch.

MONDAYS & TUESDAYS leaving Portland Basin at 6pm, probably returning around 9.30pm

 SUNDAY                        MONDAY                      TUESDAY

JULY                      3rd                                  4th                                  5th

AUGUST               7th                                   8th                                 9th

SEPTEMBER        4th                                  5th                                 6th

OCTOBER            2nd                                  3rd                                4th

NOVEMBER          6th                                   7th                               8th

DECEMBER          4th                                   5th                                6th

HOW WE STARTED: a potted history of the society

In 1974 Chris Leah was a student at Chester College, living on boats to save money. He bought a full length wooden narrow boat called “Lilith” for one hundred pounds. The boat needed repairs and Chris set about doing them. Before long Chris had acquired a second boat “Sarah”, later renamed “Forget me Not”. In May 1987 the Wooden Canal Craft Trust was formed. Initially this was a small group of friends who wanted to build a future for “Lilith” and “Sarah”.

The 1989 British Waterways Bill threatened to introduce new regulations that would make the work of the Wooden Canal Craft Trust virtually impossible and force most owners of historic wooden craft to destroy them.

The Trust petitioned against it and their case was put at the Lords Committee stage and several witnesses called. 

This, and negotiations over the next two years, resulted in substantial changes in the legislation together with the beginnings of a recognition of the importance of the floating heritage by British Waterways.By the Spring of 1995 The Wooden Canal Craft Trust owned six boats, Elton, Forget Me Not, Hazel, Lilith, Southam and Queen. Over the next couple of years the Trust changed and eventually was wound up with its assets going to the new charity we have today and our first boat had moved to the Portland Basin Museum. In 1999 Tameside Council provided a much-needed boatyard site at Knowl St in Stalybridge and there the first major renovation was started – on Hazel – resulting in the modern well-being boat that we now have.


All our boats are now based on the canal behind Portland Basin Museum in Ashton under Lyne. Come along any time and say hello to any volunteers working on them.

HAZEL is one of the few surviving wooden boats from the Northern parts of the canal system. She was built at Runcorn in 1914 and is the last complete example of a Runcorn “Wooden Header”. These boats were deep, 6 plank boats, intended for use on the Bridgewater canal and connecting waterways. Being narrow beam they were able to work up to Ashton or down to the Midlands. Drawn by a single horse, woodenheaders could carry a good 30 ton load if the water was deep enough. Originally known as “Mull” she worked for the Salt Union, carrying coal, salt and chemicals to and from the Northwich area. It is possible that she may have brought some loads up the Ashton canal. In 1929 she was sold to Agnes Beech who renamed her “Hazel” and used her to carry coal from Leigh to Northwich and Runcorn. From 1948 she became a crude passenger trip boat. In 1951 she was fitted with an engine and converted into a luxury cruising houseboat and for many yearsshe was home to a series of families and travelled extensively around the canal network until she was donated to the WCBS in 1988,

LILITH was built in 1901 and spent her first 70 years carrying goods in and out of the Coombeswood Tubeworks on the Dudley No 2 Canal near Halesowen. She is a joey boat, built for short distance carrying work on the complex Birmingham Canal Navigations. Originally she had no name, being known simply as number 9, and no cabins. The hull is of a very simple shape and has been almost completely renewed since 1974. Similar craft were once used for short distance traffic on the Ashton Canal, carrying coal from the pits to canalside mills where it was used to fuel the mill engines. Unfortunately no examples of these local boats survive. In 2001 she celebrated her centenary by carrying the first load for 80 years over the summit of the Huddersfield Narrow Canal.

Dating from 1917 QUEEN is probably the oldest surviving wooden motor narrow boat. She is typical of boats of her period and is a remarkable survivor, having been discarded 3 times since 1947. Originally called “Walsall Queen” she worked for Hildick & Hildick, a Walsall based company of which little is known. From 1926 she worked for Harvey Taylor of Aylesbury. The post war decline in traffic resulted in her being abandoned and sunk in 1947, but she was rescued for pleasure boat use two years later. In 1994 volunteers recovered her from deep water in Buckinghamshire where she had been abandoned. With help from the Waterways Trust in 2002 she had essential conservation work carried out to ensure that the old boat survives long enough to be fully restored.

FORGET-ME-NOT was originally built as a horse drawn boat in 1927 and belonged to Number One ( owner boatman) Henry Grantham. He supplied coal to industrial premises and was always something of an innovator. In 1929 he had “Forget me Not” motorised, then two years later he had the stern end rebuilt with a counter. In 1941 Mr Grantham retired and the boat was sold to the Samuel Barlow Coal Company who used her for similar work and gave her the name “Sarah”. She was sold and converted to a houseboat in 1959, becoming derelict by the mid 1970s. In 1987 she was hauled out of the water for restoration work to begin. Relaunched in 1994 she has now reverted to her 1930s appearance. An original Bolinder engine has been renovated and fitted.

SOUTHAM and ELTON, built in 1936 and 1937 respectively, were 2 of the fleet of 62 wooden butties ordered from Walker Bros of Rickmansworth as part of the fleet expansion programme of the Grand Union Canal Carrying Company.Intended to work with new steel motor boats, these craft were all named after towns. They mainly worked on the Grand Union main line between London and Birmingham but could travel to any part of the narrow canal network and carried a wide variety of commodities.They were both sold by British Waterways in the early 1960s . “Southam” was motorised and fitted with a full length cabin. “Elton” continued with limited carrying work for her new owner. Eventually both boats became sunk and were rescued by volunteers.