Disabled anglers across Oxfordshire can fish independently with new wheelchair-accessible boat

Farmoor Reservoir launches new wheelchair-accessible boat
Andy Beadsley, director of The Wheelyboat Trust, using the new C16 Wheelyboat (Photo from Thames Water)Andy Beadsley, director of The Wheelyboat Trust, using the new C16 Wheelyboat (Photo from Thames Water)
Andy Beadsley, director of The Wheelyboat Trust, using the new C16 Wheelyboat (Photo from Thames Water)

A brand-new purpose-built angling boat - a Coulam 16 Wheelyboat – has been launched on Farmoor Reservoir (Farmoor 1), allowing disabled anglers across Oxfordshire to fish independently.

The new boat is the result of a joint venture between Sussex-based charity The Wheelyboat Trust, Angling Trust and Thames Water.

On Friday July 24 a small, socially distanced group of anglers and VIP guests from Thames Water, The Wheelyboat Trust and the Angling Trust gathered at Farmoor Reservoir to see the new Coulam 16 Wheelyboat set off for her first fish of the season.

The new boat set sail with Andy Beadsley, director of The Wheelyboat Trust on board, who was the first disabled angler to use the boat.

Farmoor Reservoir, owned by Thames Water, is the largest single area of open water in Oxfordshire, and is stocked with 25,000 fish annually.

The new Coulam 16 Wheelyboat, which will be based on Farmoor 1, will now enable disabled anglers, and wheelchair users in particular, to fly-fish independently for rainbow and brown trout. Farmoor 1 offers a ‘catch and release’ policy, whereas Farmoor 2 is a ‘take home’.

In 2019 The Wheelyboat Trust and the Angling Trust joined forces and invited fisheries and angling clubs throughout the country to apply for several part-funded Wheelyboats, which would allow disabled anglers with independent access to fishing sites across the UK.

The funds for this project were generously provided by The Peter Harrison Foundation and Lord Barnby’s Charitable Trust, and now, seven Coulam 16 Wheelyboats will call Oxfordshire, Northamptonshire, Somerset and four sites in Scotland home.

Will Barnard, Thames Water's Fisheries Manager, said: "Farmoor is open to everyone, and we're delighted to be working with The Wheelyboat Trust and the Angling Trust so that people who may not have been able to go fishing before can now come and enjoy a day on the water in the beautiful Oxfordshire countryside."

Andy Beadsley, director of The Wheelyboat Trust, said: “The launch of Farmoor 1’s Coulam 16 Wheelyboat is an extremely exciting moment not just for local disabled anglers who’re keen to fish on Farmoor 1 but haven’t yet been able to, but also for all those involved in this project, as now disabled anglers, like me, can fish independently here too. We hope their new boat brings joy and many successful fishing ventures to all on board.”

Martin Salter, head of policy at the Angling Trust added: “Thames Water have a fabulous and well run fishery at Farmoor providing high quality fishing all year round. It’s great to see the partnership with Wheelyboat Trust opening up more angling opportunities at Farmoor to people with disabilities. We are currently experiencing a big spike in the numbers of people going fishing and it’s important that no one is left behind.”

The new Wheelyboat at Farmoor 1 is the second accessible angling boat to call Farmoor Reservoir home, and follows another Coulam 16 Wheelyboat which was launched on the adjacent reservoir Farmoor 2 in 2010.

Coulam 16 Wheelyboats are widely used on fisheries large and small across the UK, and are hand built and fitted out to order by Jim Coulam of boatbuilders Coulam Ltd.

Some of the benefits to disabled anglers include:

- A hydraulic platform built into the floor for step-free roll-on, roll-off wheelchair access

- Drive-from-wheelchair tiller helm

- Space on board for three anglers including two wheelchair users

- Designed primarily for angling on stillwaters, on the drift or at anchor

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 www.wheelyboats.org.

The Wheelyboat Trust is a registered charity, dedicated to providing mobility impaired people, young and old, with the opportunity and freedom to participate in waterborne activities all over the UK. Its role is to help and encourage venues open to the public to acquire Wheelyboats for their disabled visitors and to help groups and organisations acquire Wheelyboats for their own use.

The Trust has designed eight different Wheelyboat models since its work began in 1984: Mk I, Mk II, Mk III, Mk IV, Coulam 15, Coulam 16, Coulam Wheelyboat V20 and their latest model Coulam Wheelyboat V17.

To date, the Trust has built and supplied over 200 Wheelyboats across UK and Europe.

Thames Water is the UK’s biggest water and wastewater services provider. Its key workers provide essential services around the clock to 15 million customers across London, the Thames Valley and surrounding areas.

The Angling Trust is the representative body for game, coarse and sea anglers in England and Wales. Its members support the campaigns and legal action they carry out to protect fish and fishing, and its participation programmes to increase the number of anglers fishing for fun and in competitions.

The Angling Trust is united in a collaborative relationship with Fish Legal, a separate membership association that uses the law to protect fish stocks and the rights of its members throughout the UK.