A charity which offers disabled and disadvantaged people the chance to go boating on the Broads has won the prestigious title of UK National Parks Volunteer Group of the Year.
The Nancy Oldfield Trust at Neatishead has for 30 years provided residential holidays and day trips on the water for disadvantaged people from all over the UK.
Some 65 trained volunteers take visitors sailing, motor boating and canoeing, maintain the boats in winter and help the five members of staff with administration and gardening.
One group from Sprowston Community Hub are both volunteers and visitors. One week they go motor boating and sailing, the next they maintain the garden.
Centre manager Stephen Bradnock said: “I am thrilled that our volunteers have been given the recognition they deserve because they are absolutely essential to the existence of the Trust and enabling people with disabilities to experience and enjoy the beautiful Broads environment. We rely completely on our volunteers yet they are a very modest group of people. They richly deserve this recognition.”
The Trust, which strives to bring a sense of excitement, freedom and adventure to its visitors’ lives, will receive a £1,000 bursary for future volunteer activity. Stephen plans to ask the volunteers how they would like this money to be spent.
The Trust has eight sailing boats and three motor cruisers, one of which is electric, with wheelchair lifts, toilets and a galley. It also has Canadian canoes which are rafted together for stability. Volunteer RYA instructors take clients sailing on nearby Barton Broad while all motor boat drivers hold the RYA Inland Waterways Helmsman’s Certificate.
Last year the Trust spent £200,000 renovating its specially adapted holiday bungalow and converting an old garage into a classroom and reception area. The money was left in a legacy and a donation from Norwich MENCAP.
The volunteer awards are an annual opportunity for the UK's National Parks family to recognise the efforts of those deemed to have gone above and beyond the expectations of volunteers in helping to protect, maintain and enhance the environment and heritage of their area.
This year's judging panel comprised television presenter and outdoor enthusiast Helen Skelton, TV presenter Julia Bradbury, National Parks UK Director Kathryn Cook, and Simon Vingoe, the UK marketing manager for National Parks brand partner Merrell. The UK National Parks volunteer awards are supported by Merrell, Natural Resources Wales and Natural England.
This is the second award to be made to Nancy Oldfield Trust this week. The Trust also received the first Martin Broom Trophy in recognition of its long record of providing sailing opportunities for the disabled.
It was presented by the Norfolk and Suffolk Boating Association in memory of “a wise, tireless and unassuming worker for boating on the Broads” and was presented by Martin’s widow Jennifer.
For more information on the Nancy Oldfield Trust visit http://www.nancyoldfield.org.uk
To learn more about the winners visit www.nationalparks.gov.uk/aboutus/jobs/2014-volunteer-awards