All aboard for children invited to explore the Thames by narrowboat

AHOY THERE: Carol Richards, on board the narrowboat Biddy’s Dream, runs Dovecote Aloat, the project she set up in Greater Leys so children could explore the waterways of Oxfordshire

AHOY THERE: Carol Richards, on board the narrowboat Biddy’s Dream, runs Dovecote Aloat, the project she set up in Greater Leys so children could explore the waterways of Oxfordshire Buy this photo

First published in News

CHILDREN from across Oxford have a chance to explore the county’s waterways again over the coming months.

Dovecote Afloat, which aims to help young people experience the Thames and Oxford Canal, is taking bookings for April and May.

Using a 60ft narrowboat called Biddy’s Dream, schools, charities, individuals or organisations can take small groups out on the water.

Carol Richards, children and families services manager at Dovecote, set up the scheme in 2011.

She said: “We can take the children out of the city, and just give them freedom and a chance to learn about nature. They get to learn about places and see parts of Oxford they wouldn’t normally get to. It’s an opportunity to give them new experiences.”

Dovecote Afloat is part of The Dovecote childrens’ centre, based in Greater Leys. It looks after disabled children, as well as running after-school and holiday play schemes.

One group which has used Biddy’s Dream is Donnington Doorstep Family Centre, taking a group of girls out on the water in the summer of 2012.

Youth services manager Marie Nolan said: “We had a very small pot of funding and wanted to do something positive for a group of nine young women aged between 11 and 19. We really needed to do a lot of bonding and self esteem work with them.”

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After paying £200, the group had the boat for the day and Ms Nolan said: “We went for a cruise around the Thames.

“We had food and games and beauty sessions – facials and massages and so on.

“It was perfect, absolutely fabulous.

“It was a really fun way to get young people interacting with nature and their surroundings.”

She added: “It was really well-equipped for us, and with the help of the helmsman, all of the women got to learn about steering and how to operate the locks.”

Rian Duffy was one of the girls on the day out.

Now 19, she said: “It was a really fun girl’s day out.We did a lot of mucking around and a lot of dancing.

“It was actually really educational as well.’’ The boat was part-funded with a £50,000 grant from Oxfordshire County Council’s Aiming High for Disabled Children fund.

Other donations came from Blackbird Leys Parish Council, Oxford Round Table, the Co-operative Group and Oxford Citizens’ Housing Association.

The boat is moored on the Oxford Canal in Kidlington.

For details, contact Carol Richards on 01865 712299 or email leysdvpc@hotmail.com

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