Launch of new boat at Blithfield welcomed by disabled anglers

9 May 2011

One of the Midlands' top trout fishing spots, Blithfield Reservoir at Abbots Bromley, hopes to attract many more disabled fishermen keen to get out on the water, thanks to the delivery of a specially designed and built wheelchair accessible boat.

The Wheelyboat, designed and developed jointly by The Wheelyboat Trust and specialist boatbuilders, J.M. Coulam, was launched at the reservoir this week, after grant aid was made available from the Peter Harrison Foundation, which assists disabled and disadvantaged people to take part in sport.

There for the launch was Director of The Wheelyboat Trust, Andy Beadsley, and a trustee of the charity and former member of the England Disabled Fishermen's team, Danny Peet. Said Andy: "Normally disabled people are restricted to fishing on the bank, but with a big water like Blithfield, bank access is limited – and particularly for trout fishing, because unlike coarse fishing, you have to look for the fish, so the more mobile you are the better; if you're stuck in one place the chances of catching any fish are limited, so you have to get out on the water."

The Coulam 16 Wheelyboat is based on an existing reservoir fishing boat design and has been adapted to provide wheelchair users with step free access on board via an external ramp from the pontoon and a hydraulic platform located in the boat. It is extremely stable and the disabled angler can sit at the bow or the stern and helm the boat if desired.

"The boat looks and performs in exactly the same manner as all the other boats in the fleet, so that disabled anglers can finally enjoy their fishing on Blithfield Reservoir on equal terms with all other anglers," added Andy.

The reservoir is owned by Walsall-based South Staffs Water, and the new boat will be available for hire by members of Blithfield Anglers and day ticket guests. To make it even easier to use, the pontoon has been modified to accommodate wheelchairs getting on and off the boat. The boat lodge is also accessible by wheelchairs and has a disabled toilet, while parking is available within a few metres of the pontoon.

Said Tim Fletcher, Blithfield Estate Manager: "We're extremely proud to have this boat available. Its innovative design makes it easy to use for disabled fishermen or more elderly people who want to be able to get out on the water and experience the wonderful trout and pike fishing we have to offer here. We hope to see it out on the reservoir regularly and welcome disabled anglers to come and give it a try."