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Gloucester Docks &
the Sharpness Canal


Willow Trust

Charity Number 328386

The Willow Trust is a charity that offers freedom for the disabled on the water by providing days out for children and adults with learning and physical disabilities and those who are seriously ill.

The Trust has two boats based at Saul Junction, and guests can enjoy the excitement of adventure and the therapy of tranquility in beautiful surroundings - all travelling totally free of charge.

The Two Spirits
The Willow Trust's first boat, Spirit of Freedom, started operating on the Gloucester & Sharpness Canal in 1991 from a base at the Castle just above Parkend Bridge. She was joined by Spirit of Freedom II in 1993, and the two boats then were based at Saul Junction.

     Both boats were specially built to take up to 30 people with the severest disabilities. They are both fully wheelchair accessible, and facilities include hydraulic lifts, disabled toilets, large windows, central heating and full safety equipment.

Willow Trust boats

Leonard Matchan
     In September 2003, the original Spirit of Freedom was replaced by a new boat named Leonard Matchan after the charitable trust that made a major donation towards the cost. The naming ceremony was carried out by Cmdr Cree, captain of HMS Gloucester, and the boat was blessed by the Ven. Hedley Ringrose, archdeacon of Cheltenham.

     Each boat is worked by a qualified full-time skipper and three volunteer helpers. Each year they carry around 7,000 disabled and seriously ill people and their carers on cruises lasting from about 10am to 3pm. Tea, coffee and squash are provided, and guests are asked to bring their own packed lunches.

Naming the boat Leonard Matchan

     Nobody pays to use the boats as the whole operation is funded through donations and fund-raising activities. These include sponsored walks, concerts, theatrical performances, golf competitions and the sale of Christmas cards. For more information, see the Willow Trust website. To enquire about booking a trip, making a donation or volunteering as a helper, contact Liz Rowland, The Willow Trust, 11a Whiteway Court, Cirencester, GL7 7BA, phone 01285 651661.

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