A proud day for the crew at the Beatrice Charity

The Beatrice crew

The Beatrice crew - Credit: Archant

Four students from a Staffordshire Moorlands special school escorted a VIP when he arrived by boat to present a prestigious award to a local charity

Four students from a Staffordshire Moorlands special school escorted a VIP when he arrived by boat to present a prestigious award to a local charity.

The Beatrice Charity provides boat trips for disadvantaged children on the Caldon Canal. The Lord Lieutenant of Staffordshire, Ian Dudson CBE KStJ, presented the charity with the Queen's Award for Voluntary Service at a ceremony held in Cheddleton, Staffordshire, near the Beatrice narrowboat's mooring.

The students, from the Meadows School in Leek, are among those who have benefited from trips on the Beatrice. They arrived for the presentation on the boat, with the Lord Lieutenant and other civic dignitaries, as it ascended a lock outside the venue for the event.

The commemorative Crystal Award was presented to Pam Hallam, who received it on behalf of the charity. A certificate, signed by Her Majesty the Queen, was presented to Ryan Wilson, one of the Meadow's School students, representing the users of the boat.

Joan Wright, the head of the school, said: "This award is so well deserved. Even when you visit on a rainy day the volunteers are always so upbeat. The students always look forward to going."

The Queen's Award for Voluntary Service is equivalent to the MBE and is the highest award presented to volunteer groups across the UK. It is awarded to organisations who are making a positive impact on the lives of others.

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Derek Hilyer, Chairman of the Charity, said: "Being awarded the QAVS is a great honour for the charity and for all the volunteers who are, and have been, involved in running the Beatrice."

The Beatrice Charity was founded more than 40 years ago and the first boat was named by Princess Anne. The present boat, the third the charity has owned, has served for 20 years.

During term times, the boats offers trips, free of charge, for school groups. In 2018, it took 705 children on 94 trips. During holidays it carries other groups, including people from day centres and residential homes, at a modest charge to help meet running costs.

The Lord Lieutenant said: "Beatrice is a shining example of the organisations in the county whose volunteers improve the lives of others in our communities - we are extremely grateful to them all."

The Beatrice Charity was created in 1978 as the North Staffordshire Handicapped Children's Boat Committee and changed its name in 2001. It caters for people with all kinds of disabilities and learning difficulties.

The 56ft Beatrice can accommodate 12 passengers on each trip and is fitted an electric lift takes those in wheelchairs, or who cannot manage the steps, down to the airy, large-windowed cabin.

Each trip on the boat is operated by two volunteers, one being a qualified skipper and the other a trained crew member, who are responsible for the effective and safe running of the boat. Beatrice has eight skippers and 16 other crew members. The charity has seven trustees and has the benefit of a range of experience and expertise, in boating, teaching children with additional needs, the care of people with learning disabilities, finance, business and in running and working in charities.