A year of working, learning and relaxing on Surrey s waterways

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The contribution of the Swingbridge Community Boats

A year of working, learning and

relaxing on Surrey’s waterways

Reporting on Swingbridge activities August 2014 – July 2015

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The contribution of the Swingbridge Community Boats

A RESOURCE FOR OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES AND LEARNING

The work based on the Swingbridge1 and Swingbridge2 boats brings new opportunities for personal development to local people who face disadvantages and challenges in their lives.

Hundreds of people benefit every year from activities based on Swingbridge including disadvantaged young people, vulnerable adults, offenders and our own volunteers.

As well as running charitably-funded activities, the services of Swingbridge are also available to the wider public on a charged-for basis, involving more of the community and generating income to support our core work.

Summer boat trips make the River Wey accessible to people with limited mobility or other special needs, bringing them close to nature for a few hours.

And thanks to our Swingbridge environmental conservation volunteering programme, wildlife is benefitting from our work as well.

VOLUNTEERING IN ACTION

Volunteers contribute to every aspect of running our Swingbridge boats, on board and behind the scenes, from training young people to repairs and maintenance, from crewing to refurbishing the kitchen on

Swingbridge1 (this work was carried out in the depths of January 2015 during the quietest period of the year for training activities).

Volunteer involvement in supporting the management of the boats was formalised at the start of 2014/15 with a steering group, supporting Surrey Care Trust staff in looking after the day to day operations on the boats, developing their use and marketing Swingbridge-based activities.

We have around 60 volunteers supporting the work of Swingbridge with a core of people volunteering weekly.

TRAINING AND PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT

More than 260 people took part in training through Swingbridge activities during the year, learning boating skills or developing land maintenance skills through the Swingbridge-based environmental programme. Together the two boats form a training centre accredited by the National Community Boat Association (NCBA).

We now have three volunteers who are qualified as NCBA trainers. We continue to run a range of training courses, those accredited by the NCBA, as well as our own Swingbridge training courses. The main courses have been the Swingbridge One Day Boating Course, the NCBA Boat Handling Course and Certificate in Community Boat Management.

On the environmental side, much of the learning done on the Swingbridge2 boat is non-formal, acquiring land maintenance skills by “doing” as part of environmental volunteering working alongside experienced volunteers or our part-time staff trainer.

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The contribution of the Swingbridge Community Boats

YOUNG PEOPLE HAVE FUN AND LEARN NEW SKILLS

Young people from Lakers Youth Centre all gained Surrey Care Trust Certificates of Achievement after a training day on Swingbridge.

Providing an outdoors learning experience for young people has again been a major strand of activities on Swingbridge. Those who benefitted included students from our STEPS to 16 programme and clients of our mentoring service, as well as young people from schools and youth organisations. The activities are provided either free or at a modest charge with the main focus being on working with young people who face

disadvantage.

In the period covered by this report, a third of the 90young people who participated in Swingbridge activities gave us their feedback and we want to make sure more groups are invited to respond in future. Of the 33 respondents, 32 said they had fun, 31 said they would like to come on

Swingbridge again, 29 said they felt proud of themselves, 27 said they enjoyed being part of a team, 26 that they forgot about their worries, 22 that the volunteers made them feel special, 21 that they had learnt something useful and 18 that they made new friends.

We also had feedback from teachers and leaders on the quality of the service and the quality of experience.

“The experience of your trainers had a positive affect on our pupils who can display challenging behaviour – well done!”

This teacher said that all the students taking part had learnt new practical skills, enhanced personal skills, had a constructive experience of team working and left with a sense of achievement and pride in having made a positive contribution. Some of them had also shown leadership skills.

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The contribution of the Swingbridge Community Boats

“It enabled them to learn new skills, build up their self confidence, meet young people in the same position as themselves, create friendships and it has opened up new opportunities for some of those of took part.

Sandie Bolger accompanied a group of young carers from Lakers Youth Centre on a Swingbridge activity day.

“The benefit of a Swingbridge course for young people is that all the individual activities and tasks involved are not difficult, they are all quite simple, it’s not like climbing a mountain, but over the day, they all add up to quite an achievement.”

Surrey Care Trust Mentor Co-ordinator Siân Jones.

PEOPLE ARE INCLUDED AND VALUED

We ran a regular programme of training in boat-handling and crewing for new volunteers and refresher courses for existing crew members. Having people skilled in boatmanship is the foundation of everything we do on Swingbridge - for the safe operation of the boats and for passing on those skills to other people. Volunteers with our environmental conservation programme, based on the dedicated Swingbridge2 developed both practical and personal skills.

Swingbridge2 is in use throughout the year on the River Wey, the Thames and the Basingstoke Canal. Participating gives people, who may feel marginalised by society, an experience of making an essential contribution as a valued member of a team.

The pride and boost to self-esteem is amplified for those involved in our environmental programme by seeing the visible difference they have made to the environment and hearing the appreciation of people in the community.

We welcome people who need extra encouragement to get involved in volunteering with support from others in the team. We have had volunteers this year with learning difficulties and those coping with mental illness, addiction and the after effects of injury.

Swingbridge2 volunteers

“I have benefitted from the helpful and patient tuition from the volunteer crew. I enjoy working in the open air and have gained confidence from working in a team which I hope will help me find part-time employment in the future.”

George, 25, who has dyspraxia, is a regular volunteer with the

Swingbridge2 environmental programme. He also now volunteers at a boatyard.

We also ran weekly sessions throughout the year, providing work placements for offenders serving community sentences - 50 in total with 26 gaining Open College Network certificates recognising their new skills. Integrating offenders into the team to work alongside volunteers in a spirit of non-discrimination and respect, creates a setting for people to develop personal as well as practical skills and knowledge.

It’s a hands-on way to learn what conservation means in practice, with a great sense of achievement to be gained from playing one’s part in looking after local green spaces that people and wildlife need to thrive.

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The contribution of the Swingbridge Community Boats

BRINGING PEOPLE CLOSER TO NATURE

People from Disability Initiative on Swingbridge in summer 2015 – “We all want to do it again” Come & Relax trips along the River Wey on our Swingbridge1 boat give people from community

organisations and support groups – 763 people in total during the period of this report – the opportunity to spend relaxing, sociable time on the water, getting close to nature and learning about the local environment and history of the River Wey.

Many passengers have special needs and the wheelchair lift on the boat makes it accessible to people with limited mobility.

“Our residents enjoy being away from the home in pleasant surroundings. It is so nice for the wheelchair bound residents to get about on the river. They are delighted to be the same as the other residents.”

Sue O’Sullivan, Nower Care

“It is exciting to be on board a boat and to have the experience of going through a lock, under bridges, seeing other river craft, wild life, modern and historical buildings and much more. We learn about the river, the boats, water safety and much more. We always have a lot of fun, take photos and after our trip spend the following lesson remembering what we did, viewing our photos and writing a thank you letter. Each person has something very positive to say about the wonderful experience of being on the Swingbridge boat and some very happy memories!”

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The contribution of the Swingbridge Community Boats

PEOPLE BENEFIT

“It’s the best thing I have ever done. It’s been brilliant. It’s given me confidence and I have learnt a lot about plants and birds and helping the environment. I feel a lot happier – that I can achieve something now.”

Steve Price, 55, worked in the building trade until a car accident 9 years ago when he suffered a head injury, resulting in permanent memory loss and having to learn to walk and talk again. He hasn’t worked since his injury, and is unlikely to ever do so again.

For a long time, he had resisted suggestions he should volunteer to give him something in his life besides looking after his garden. Working for free did not appeal. He finally agreed to give environmental conservation volunteering based on the Swingbridge2 boat a try after meeting Swingbridge co-ordinator Chris Padmore. He started volunteering in early 2015.

Steve speaks highly of the support and knowledge of his fellow volunteers, the routine that his weekly commitment has given him and the sense that he is repaying the support and kindness he has received from other people during his years of recovery.

THE ENVIRONMENT BENEFITS

Swingbridge environmental conservation work at various locations on, and adjacent to, the River Wey, River Thames and Basingstoke Canal helped keep green spaces accessible and attractive for people and habitable for birds, mammals, amphibians and insects. Along the River Wey, work in wetlands has, and will continue to, increase the amount of habitat in a condition that favours all kinds of creatures, including declining species such as reed bunting and reed and sedge warblers.

Places that have benefitted included:

 Woking, Byfleet and New Haw: Work on the Basingstoke Canal and River Wey saw general litter clearance from bank and water, planting new mooring bollards, cutting back vegetation from the banks to improve sightlines for boats and bank restoration using the traditional skill of spiling, weaving supports out of strips of hazel. There were various purges of invasive species that prevent native plants from thriving, such as floating pennywort (Hydrocotyle) and Himalayan Balsam. A huge swathe of Tree of Heaven, which spreads by seed and root, was removed from the Wey at Byfleet.

 Desborough Island at Weybridge: The Swingbridge team has been working for a number of years with the not-for-profit organisation Thames Landscape Strategy, contributing to its 100-year programme of conserving and enhancing the natural and manmade character of the river between Weybridge and Kew. Desborough Island is on this stretch, a wildlife haven for water waterfowl and other birds, insects, wildflowers and grasses. The efforts of the Swingbridge team have included the unglamorous but essential work of towpath clearance, which can compared to painting the Forth

Road Bridge, except vegetation grows more quickly than rust! Without clearing the path around the

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The contribution of the Swingbridge Community Boats

 Kingston The team worked on the river by Canbury Gardens, Kingston’s Green Flag Award winning park. Work included cutting back swathes of St John’s Wort (Hypericum), a plant famed for its medicinal properties but also for crowding out other species when left to grow uncontrolled. Densely growing saplings were also thinned out and damaged ones removed. Cutting down the lower branches of larger trees opened up views to the river.

 Guildford and Shalford Among the projects were cutting back broom at St Catherine’s Meadow along the Wey to encourage regeneration of new compact, denser growth that provides a safer habitat for ground-nesting birds and a massive purge of brambles encroaching on the footpath and riverbanks at Shalford Meadow. Restoration of a 20-yard section of a long neglected hedge, bordering National Trust pastureland has created a growing exhibit of what can be achieved with traditional skills and the recycling the debris from clearing overgrown vegetation. It is also providing a wildlife habitat for mice, voles and songbirds, with its dense growth creating a secure nesting area, well-protected from predators.

“Swingbridge has supported the National Trust on the Wey Navigations for over 10 years. Their volunteers bring enthusiasm and show an appreciation of their surroundings, which creates a bond with waterway. Swingbridge’s work for us has included a variety of countryside skills – soft bank revetment using weaved hurdles, hedgelaying, woodland management including coppicing and pollarding, vegetation clearance and control of invasive species. The results are consistently excellent and their time spent assisting us is invaluable.”

Mark Walker, Head Lengthsman, River Wey Navigations

Hedgelaying alongside National Trust grazing land Bank repairs on the River Wey

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The contribution of the Swingbridge Community Boats

THANK YOU TO OUR PARTNERS AND FUNDERS

 Basingstoke Canal Authority

 The Carers Trust

 The Coleman Charitable Trust

 CP Charitable Trust

 The D’Oyly Carte Charitable Trust

 The Golden Bottle Trust

 Guildford Borough Council

 Guildford Sea Cadets

 The Hamamelis Trust

 The Hobson Charity

 Kent, Surrey & Sussex Community

Rehabilitation Company

 National Trust

 The Ratcliffe Charitable Trust

 The Shanly Foundation

 Surrey Army Cadet Force Association

 Thames Heritage Trust

 Thames Landscape Strategy

 The Whirlwind Trust

 Woking Borough Council

This report amplifies the Swingbridge section of the Surrey Care Trust Trustees Report and Financial Statements 2014/15, which gives a broad account of the work of the charity during the year. A copy of this can be found on our website.

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