All aboard Wooden Spoon to help Trust make a difference

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As classrooms go, I don’t imagine they get much better than this – a canal trip on board the Seagull Trust’s Wooden Spoon.

Quietly gliding along the canal, almost at water level, you see things from a new perspective, allowing you to take a closer look at the natural world that thrives there.

Reeds go slowly by, revealing colourful ducks, shy moorhens and, perhaps, an imperious swan or two.

You might see a heron, or if you’re very lucky, a flash of the beautiful kingfisher.

The roof slides open and, with a gentle breeze, it’s fresh, relaxing and utterly absorbing.

The Wooden Spoon Seagull offers a great experience for school children or adult groups and it can accommodate up to 36 people comfortably.

On deck, things are a little more 21st century.

There are sockets to plug in laptops and fold-away desks to lean on.

There’s even a screen with up-to-date equipment and a modern audio system that can be used for lectures and presentations.

In short, there’s everything you could want in a floating classroom.

Everything, that is, except people to use it.

And that is puzzling the Seagull Trust because the boat is free for schools to use and pupils who they do take out have a fantastic time.

“The views are amazing,” said the charity’s Jon Hutt.

“There’s so much you can see from the canal and as you are almost at water level, so the wildlife you can see is amazing”

The Wooden Spoon Seagull is owned by Seagull Trust Cruises, a charity which exisits to provide free cruises for people with special needs on the Scottish canals.

However, the vessel belongs to the enterprise arm of the charity and it had hoped it would help contribute to its income.

Bigger than the other boats, which take parties of 12, the Wooden Spoon can accommodate around 30 children and their teachers.

Gordon Daly, a Trust director, said: “We spent quite a lot of time consulting with education chiefs and others before we went ahead and got the Wooden Spoon.

“We were assured it would be a great asset.

“The children who have sailed on her have had a great time, so it is disappointing she’s not better used.

“The boat is ideal for Primary 3 or 4 upwards.”

The boat – which is fully accessible, including the toilet – was kitted out thanks to the generosity of the Wooden Spoon, the children’s charity founded by rugby supporters to help disadvantaged and disabled children.

She was named by the Princess Royal in 2011 and is now moored at the Falkirk Wheel.

The fully trained volunteers who crew the vessel are happy to take the boat wherever on the Forth and Clyde or Union canals it is needed.

That means schools and groups in Linlithgow and as far as Edinburgh could benefit, as could pupils along the Forth and Clyde to Glasgow.

“We don’t mind taking the Wooden Spoon along to meet pupils near their school,” said John.

But this generous offer is only half the picture.

Gordon explained: “What would really help us as a charity is if people hired the Wooden Spoon for outings.

“Everything we do as volunteers, we pay our own way – for example, this boat came from Inverness and I had to go there several times to check on things and arrange to bring it to Falkirk but I never claimed a penny.

“Every penny we get goes towards running the Seagull Trust and we do get huge support from the community – but there are only so many coffee mornings and the like you can run!

“We really hoped this would be a source of income.”

So the Trust wants to hear from groups who are looking for a trip with a difference.

With each hire comes a fully qualified crew. You can also arrange catering, which can be brought on board, and the itenerary is up to you.

“We do know the canal quite well,” added Jon.

“People are very interested to hear about the archaeology, history and, of course, the wildlife so we are happy to tell them – if that’s what they want.”

The feedback the volunteers have had has always been very good, so they would love more people to spread the word about it.

The Wooden Spoon promises not only a day out with a difference – but also one that makes a difference, helping the Trust.