In the interest of the safety of our crew and our guests, and in line with Government legislation and guidance, we have currently suspended all Beatrice trips. The cabin on Beatrice is a confined space where social distancing would be difficult. We have been in touch with our regular users and will continue to update them. Subject to the ongoing situation and future government advice we hope to be able to resume trips later in the year. Any news will also be posted here on the Beatrice website. You may wish to follow our Facebook page to get early notice of our return to service.
Contractors have been working to improve our home stretch of canal, the Caldon Canal between the bottom of Hazelhurst Locks and the Cheddleton Flint Mill, where the boat is moored during the summer season. Where banks on the off side (the side opposite the towpath) have crumbled they have been reinforced using soft pilings made of wood and fabric. They have then been back-filled by dredging silt from the canal, so it is a win-win for the navigation. Work has also re-commenced with the eventual object if replacing the bridge at the foot of the locks. The bridge had to be demolished after it partially collapsed during repairs to the adjoining lock during the winter of 2019/20.
A New Year Message
At the end of every season we usually announce how many trips we have made on Beatrice, and how many people have experienced the delight of boating with us out on the Caldon. In 2020, of course, we were not been able to run any trips and our volunteers have been denied the enormous pleasure of going out on the boat. This enforced inactivity is in stark contrast to the difficulties faced by staff at our schools (and at the caring establishments we serve out of term-time). Teachers and teaching assistants had to organise, from scratch, complicated arrangements for learning at home, and then they most willingly welcomed children back to school, but in challenging circumstances: and all year increasingly acute welfare issues have had to be faced.
The work that Beatrice volunteers normally undertake is vital; but we must not underestimate the contribution made to our success by teachers, teaching assistants, and care staff. Without them there would be no Beatrice and, while crewing the boat is great fun, the care of our passengers can be demanding, to say the least. In short, running Beatrice is an equal partnership and this is to be celebrated.
Although Beatrice has been largely inactive in 2020, we have been steadily improving the boat, renewing the website, overhauling the trip booking system, and working on the policies of the charity and its governance procedures. Many charities have been devastated by the loss of income arising from the pandemic but, happily, our finances were sufficiently strong to cope.
We hope you have a safe New Year and that we can welcome you back to Beatrice as soon as possible.
A water bird took advantage of the pause in Beatrice’s operations to take up residence on board. While Beatrice was stationary on her winter mooring due to the Coronavirus pandemic, a Moorhen built her nest on the front deck of the boat, enjoying the peace and quiet and lack of interruption. She laid and hatched an egg. She was discovered as one of Beatrice’s skippers visited to carry out a check. Our squatter and her brood have now flown the nest and departed, but we wonder if she will return this year.
Beatrice received the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service at a ceremony on 4 October 2019. The Lord Lieutenant of Staffordshire, Ian Dudson CBE KStJ, presented us with a domed crystal and a certificate signed by HM the Queen. This award recognises over 40 years of service to children with special needs, and to adults with disabilities. It is a reward for the wonderful work of many volunteers who have given their services freely and cheerfully. The picture shows The Lord Lieutenant on the boat with a party from the Meadows School, Leek and two of our trustees.