This year is the 25th anniversary of the Assynt Crofters’ Trust taking ownership of the beautiful North Assynt Estate in the Highlands of Scotland, comprising of 21,300 acres with over 200 lochs. As part of a week-long celebration, the Trust will launch their new Coulam 16 Wheelyboat on Loch Drumbeg. The lochs are only accessible to the fit and able-bodied and therefore Assynt Crofters’ Trust is launching their new Wheelyboat to be able to offer all the Trust’s visitors, regardless of age or ability, the opportunity to fish and watch wildlife in this stunning setting.
The fully accessible Coulam 16 Wheelyboat will be launched on Saturday 30 June, as part of a day’s fishing competition for all anglers to be involved in, either on shore, or on the boat. The purpose-built fishing boat is ingeniously modified for wheelchair access and is an essential facility on larger waters. This project with Assynt Crofters’ Trust is an important development, as it will create opportunities for mobility impaired anglers in a remote and pristine environment fishing for wild brown trout. Anglers will not be the only beneficiaries, however, as the Wheelyboat will also play an important role as an accessible boat for wildlife tourism.
This joint project with Assynt Crofters’ Trust and The Wheelyboat Trust would not have been possible without the fundraising efforts of both charities. The Wheelyboat Trust contributed almost half of the total funds and provided a total of £5,000 from grants raised from Anne Duchess of Westminster’s Charity, Christina Mary Hendrie Charitable Trust, Mr J Collins, Mrs J Howman, JTH Charitable Trust, Lord Leverhulme’s Charitable Trust, Souter Charitable Trust, Sylvia Aitken Charitable Trust and Mr K Williams. Assynt Crofters’ raised their contribution from Assynt Fly Fishing, Living the Dream, Pudding Boy Productions, Scottish Hydro Electric and Scottish Water.
Assynt Crofters’ Trust manages many of the lochs for trout and salmon fishing and fishermen return year after year, as the fish are wild and in great condition. As well as the fishing, there is the unrivalled opportunity to spot wildlife such as red deer, pine martens, golden eagles and red and black-throated divers. Wheelchair users and those who cannot walk long distances will now be able to access the beautiful Loch Drumbeg, with its many tree clad islands and wild brown trout, providing some of the most appealing fishing and wildlife-watching opportunities around.
Developed by The Wheelyboat Trust and Coulam Ltd boatbuilders, the Coulam 16 Wheelyboat easily accommodates two wheelchair users and a companion/boatman. The wide open deck is accessible throughout and disabled anglers can drive the boat. Boarding is via a ramp from the bank, or a pontoon, onto a hydraulic platform and removable handrails keep the angler secure while boarding and disembarking.
Andy Beadsley, Director of The Wheelyboat Trust says, “There is so much more to fishing than just catching fish – being able to take part easily, safely and often independently are important factors that benefits Wheelyboat users’ mental and physical health and well-being. The Coulam 16 Wheelyboat looks and performs like all other fishing boats, providing the performance of a purpose-built angling boat, but also being able to be used by anyone, disabled or not, appealing to all as a genuinely dual-purpose craft. This is extremely important for us at The Wheelyboat Trust – giving disabled people the same and equal facilities of the able-bodied. It is fantastic to see a Wheelyboat at Assynt Crofters’ Loch Drumbeg as it is a stunning location that can now be able to be enjoyed by all.”
Ray Mackay, Vice Chair of the Assynt Crofters’ Trust said, “The Assynt Crofters’ Trust is celebrating the 25th anniversary of taking ownership of the North Assynt Estate this year. We have managed to keep the entire estate together and enabled the ordinary people who live and work on the land some control over their own economic future. The lochs on the Estate are absolutely stunning and the addition of our new Wheelyboat gives everyone the ability to enjoy and utilise this amazing environment. It is also wonderful to see the freedom a Wheelyboat gives all its users, from the less mobile and disabled, to the young and elderly. This launch will be the first event in a series to celebrate 25 years of the Assynt Crofters' Trust.”
The Wheelyboat Trust relies on the support of individuals, companies and charitable organisations to fund its activities. Donations can be made in a variety of ways including online at www.wheelyboats.org/donate.html.
About Assynt Crofters’ Trust
In 1989 Edmund H Vestey renamed the coastal crofting strip - comprising thirteen townships and a total area of 21,300 acres (9,000 Ha) - as North Lochinver Estate and sold it for £1,080,000 to a Swedish land speculator. In none of these transactions were the interests of the people who lived and worked on the land considered to be relevant.
In 1992 Scandinavian Property Services Ltd went into liquidation, with a Swedish bank as the main creditor. The estate which had been sold to Scandinavian Property Services in three lots was now to be broken up into seven lots, no concern being shown for the impact of this process on the crofting activity of the inhabitants.
Within three months, a feasibility study and business plan had been put together with financial help from the Crofters’ Union and Caithness & Sutherland Enterprise and so the Assynt Crofters’ Trust came into being.
On July 1 there appeared the first of many reports in the national press about the audacious attempt of a few motley crofters in the remote NW Highlands to win back the land of their forefathers.
The campaign caught the public imagination, donations began to roll in and negotiations began in earnest with the Liquidators. After having had two offers to purchase the Estate rejected by the selling agents, a deal was agreed in December 1992 - almost exactly 6 months after the original public meeting.
The Assynt Crofters' Trust is the owner of the North Assynt Estate which consists of some 21,000 acres and includes the Townships of Torbreck, Achmelvich (part), Clachtoll, Stoer, Balchladich, Clashmore/Raffin, Culkein Stoer, Achnacharnin, Clashnessie, Culkein Drumbeg, Drumbeg and Nedd.
The Trust has enabled the ordinary people who live and work on the land to have some control over their own economic future
Today the Estate is in the possession of the crofters, free of debt and administered by a Board of Directors elected by democratic vote by each of the thirteen townships making up the Estate who serve for three years.
For more information, visit: http://www.theassyntcrofters.co.uk/
About The Wheelyboat Trust
· 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 Wheelyboat Trust was founded in 1984 when it was originally called the Handicapped Anglers Trust. The first Wheelyboat built received its official launch from HRH Prince Charles at Fishmongers' Hall in London. In 2004, the charity was renamed The Wheelyboat Trust to reflect its broader aims and the clear need for Wheelyboats beyond the fishing lake for disabled, elderly and infirm, families and community groups for recreation and sporting pursuits.
· The Trust has designed 7 different Wheelyboat models since its work began in 1984: Mk I, Mk II, Mk III, Mk IV, Coulam 15, Coulam 16 and Coulam Wheelyboat V20.
· To date, the Trust has built and supplied 191 vessels across UK and Europe.
· For more information, visit: www.wheelyboats.org
About Coulam Ltd boatbuilders
· Established for 25 years, they are one of the largest small boat builders in the UK having designed and built over 1,000 commercial boats.
· Specialising in small day hire boats, they have expanded with help from The Wheelyboat Trust into larger commercial craft.
· All boats are individually built in GRP to customer’s own specification.
· Their own engineering and stainless steel fabrication shop allows them to custom make fittings and components and almost everything else.
· They supply custom built trailers for all types of applications and are a leading floating pontoon manufacturer.
· For more information, visit: www.coulam.co.uk