A specially designed disabled access boat has cast off at a Northamptonshire reservoir in memory of angling legend and former president of Cobblers Bob Church MBE.
Disabled anglers will be able to fish independently at Pitsford Reservoir aboard the 'Bob Church MBE' - an angling boat built for wheelchair users and funded by Mr Church's family and admirers.
The brand-new boat launched at a small rule-of-six ceremony at Pitsford on Monday (September 21) where it was christened by Bob's widow Jeanette with a bottle of bubbly.
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Bob Church, who passed away in September 2019, was president of Northampton Town FC in 2006 and was awarded an MBE for services to fishing in 2015.
He won Gold at the World Fly Fishing Championships in 1987 and again in 1988, was a renowned angling author having written over 20 books.
a pioneer of reservoir trout fishing, developing
In fact, the 'Bob Church MBE' will sail on the very waters that Mr Church used to pioneer reservoir trout fishing and develop flies and techniques that are still used today.
In his later years, as his health sadly deteriorated from Parkinson’s disease, Bob relied on the old Mk II Wheelyboat at Pitsford Reservoir to get out fishing on the water he so loved.
Now, the latest accessible angling boat – the Coulam 16 Wheelyboat – will replace Pitsford’s older Mk II in a fitting tribute to Bob.
National Charity The Wheelyboat Trust will then refurbish the old Mk II and will find it a new home.
Andy Beadsley, director of The Wheelyboat Trust, was the first disabled angler to take to the water on the 'Bob Church MBE'.
He said: "As a wheelchair user myself, I know from first-hand experience how important it is for disabled anglers to have hassle-free and independent access to their favourite sport.
"In his later years, Bob came to know this too and I think he would have very much approved of a new Wheelyboat being provided at Pitsford in his memory. Huge thanks to Jeanette who has been instrumental in raising the funds, and to everyone else who has contributed too.”
Jake Williams, Anglian Water’s Head of Parks and Conservation says: “We are delighted that the Church family have chosen to have a Wheelyboat in memory of Bob here at Pitsford Reservoir.
"Bob was a huge part of the angling family at the reservoir and was well respected by everyone. We hope many more people with limited mobility will be able to use the boat to gain access to the water as a lasting legacy to Bob’s passion and love for the sport.”
The new boat is includes hydraulic platform for step-free wheelchair access and a drive-from-wheelchair tiller helm. Three anglers can fish together in comfort, including two wheelchair users, who have access to the entire reservoir in a boat that is easy to helm, safe to operate and has roll-on, roll-off access for boarding.
Without specially designed Wheelyboats, the opportunities for disabled anglers to fish on large waters like Pitsford Reservoir are very limited, owing to the often steep banks and fluctuating water levels.
The Wheelyboat Trust relies on donations from individuals and organisations and their work could not continue without the ongoing generosity they provide. To donate and help The Trust get more disabled people out on UK waters, or to find out more about, visit their website.