28 days, 240 miles, 280 locks or swing bridges, 28 groups, 260 people aged 3 to 80 from wheelchair bound to able bodied, 112 shifts of voluntary helpers giving over 1200 hours freely. And so the Rotary Club of Abingdon Vesper completed the 23rd annual “Barge Trips” on the beautiful Kennet and Avon Canal.
Each Saturday a specially designed barge, adapted to accommodate people with physical disabilities, would depart from the pretty village of Great Bedwyn with the first group, changing at Hungerford, Newbury, Woolhampton before turning round at Aldermaston to return to Great Bedwyn the following Friday evening. Guests were encouraged to help steer the barge or operate locks and swing bridges. Groups were recruited locally and included Kingfisher, Fitzwaryn, Pegasus Schools. John Masefield Cheshire Homes, Be Free Young Carers, Barnado's Homes, Home Farm Trust, Mabel Prichard and Abingdon Young Stroke.
The Rotary Club of Abingdon Vesper provided trained skippers and crew, assisted by spouses, partners, family and friends. They also pay the full cost of hiring the barge from The Bruce Trust, from profits made from fund raising, but mainly at their annual Food and Drink Festival and Dragon Boat Racing events.
The reactions on the day, comments in the daily log, and the thank you notes we receive make you realise how much our guests both enjoy and gain from the time spent on the barge. The volunteers crewing also get a great deal from the days by helping those less fortunate than ourselves.