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.
………….to buy that present for ”the friend who has everything”
Complete this and enrol them as a Hazel Sponsor. Hazelsponsorform
If appropriate, please also complete a GiftAid form GiftAidDeclaration_singleformforemail
Hazel the boat is up and running, starting her Well-Being trips for folk with poor mental health. Unfortunately they don’t all get funding plus Hazel will still need long-term care to keep her in the necessary tip-top condition.
Becoming a sponsor means that, for just £28 p.a., you or the recipient will get updates via our Newsletter and the knowledge that you’re helping with Hazel’s work.
In November 2015 “Forget me Not” went on dock at Ashton Packet Boat Co to have her skeg re-fitted, bottom caulked, shoeing and ice plating renewed and propeller rfurbished ready for lots more Hazel Rejuvenated towing and recycling trips in coming years.
Boat fans in the Northwest, here’s a rare opportunity to practise wooden boat maintenance skills on a genuine 1930s narrowboat!
Chris Leah of the Wooden Canal Boat Society is busy doing repairs to Forget-me-not while she’s out of the water at Guide bridge (near Ashton-u-Lyne). He could do with hands to help with caulking and putting the skeg back on over the next few days, and weather permitting, tarring the sides and replacing shoeing and ice-plating next week.
All of these jobs are fairly simple to pick up, amply assisted with cuppas, and I can personally reccomend the therapeutic effects of smacking things with hammers and glooping liquid tar around. Chris requires only that you let him know in advance if you intend to come and volunteer, by calling him on 07931 952 037 at least the day before.
For all our visitors who’d like to see photos about the history of the Society and our boats there’s good news – the link to our photos on Flickr (all 8,154 of them !!) can now be seen by clicking on the link on our front page. Then, when one album comes up, click up at the top left-hand corner to see Kit-Crewbucket’s list of albums.
Some great news for W.C.B.S. today – read it here from this website: http://www.marshchristiantrust.org/Historic_Vessel_Conservation
Marsh Volunteer Award for Historic Vessel Conservation
This Award is run in partnership with National Historic Ships, the official voice for historic vessels in the United Kingdom. This award regonises those who have made a valuable contribution to the conservation, or operation of historic vessels in the UK and is an opportunity to recognise and thank outstanding volunteers.
The 2014 winner is Chris Leah
Chris set up the Wooden Canal Craft Trust in 1987, which changed its name to the Wooden Canal Boat Society in 1997, to maintain and restore two boats which he had been working to repair for many years: Forget Me Not and Lilith. Over the next few years, the organisation gained a strong reputation and acquired four more historically valuable boats, often working with British Waterways to do so.
Chris has been central to raising significant funds for the organisation. He was key in securing support from Tameside Council, which provided a boat-yard for the organisation. On the first Sunday of every month, Chris takes two boats out into the local community near the Ashton Canal, and with the help of other volunteers collects donations, whilst giving people the opportunity to learn more about the boats.
Perhaps Chris’s most significant contribution has been to bring historic boats to people in the community. Volunteers reported that spending time on the canal and boats helped to alleviate anxiety or depression. This encouraged Chris to rebuild the vessel ‘Hazel’ as a wellbeing boat for people recovering from mental health problems, people with disabilities and those who are marginalised within their community, to spend time on the boat and even learn new skills.
Chris has committed vast amounts and time, energy and passion to the conservation of historic vessels and to the community. The majority of his work is done as a volunteer and his vision and beliefs have helped the Wooden Canal Boat Society develop into the successful society it is today.
We’ve just heard that Chris Leah has been short-listed for this award –
Marsh Volunteer Award for Historic Vessel Conservation
This Award is run in partnership with National Historic Ships, the official voice for historic vessels in the United Kingdom. This award recognises those who have made a valuable contribution to the conservation, or operation of historic vessels in the UK and is an opportunity to recognise and thank outstanding volunteers.
The announcement of the overall winner will be made at their award ceremony this month on the 21st October on-board HQS Wellington.
Please keep all your fingers crossed for Chris – he certainly deserves this recognition!