A NARROWBOAT that has delighted elderly and disabled people with canal trips for more than two decades has sailed her last.

The Venturer narrowboat, which was launched by Prince Charles, has provided journeys along the Oxford Canal and River Thames since 1988.

It was most often used by care homes and special needs schools across the county, because it had been specially adapted, with full wheelchair access, a lift to the cabin and a disabled toilet and shower.

But now, after 26 years on the water, the boat has moored up for the last time, as Oxfordshire Narrowboat Charitable Trust can no longer afford to run her.

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Mike Stanley, of the trust, said: “When you see the children get on and their faces when they got off, it just made our day. It’s sad but we have had to let it go.”

“There are a number of reasons which have all added up, things have got harder financially and over the years it became really hard work.

“Our charges are low and when we put them up a few years ago quite a few of the homes who use us said they could no longer afford it.”

The boat was initially owned by BBC Radio Oxford – and was used then for disabled people – but was taken over by the Oxfordshire Narrowboat Charitable Trust about 20 years ago.

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Mike Stanley

Care homes such as Old Station House in Abingdon and St John’s in Oxford have enjoyed trips along the river in The Venturer, as well as the Marston Over 50s.

The boat was built by apprentices on a Youth Training Scheme programme in Birkenhead, Merseyside.

Mr Stanley, a retired Potato Marketing Board employee, received an MBE in 2007 for helping to provide trips for people with special needs, as well as his 30 years with the 10th Oxford Scouts in Marston and work to set up Scouting links in Russia.

The 76-year-old said: “When we took it over from the BBC it was failing. It was losing money hand over fist.

“I look back fondly over the years we had it running.

“Because we are a charity we can’t use it as a money-making scheme and it’s an expensive thing to run. It’s been heavily subsidised over the last few years.”

The trust had hoped someone would come forward to help them to continue providing the service, but in a meeting last week, they decided the boat had embarked on its last trip.

The boat’s future is uncertain, but Mr Stanley said he would probably put it up for sale and give the money to charities that had benefitted from the boat’s career.

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