Our Patron

Meet our wonderful Patron who is a huge advocate for our work:

Anne Wafula Strike - Patron
Anne Wafula Strike MBE


(Mother, Paralympian, author, life coach, part time model and public speaker)

Having competed in wheelchair racing since 2002, Anne became the first wheelchair racer from East Africa to compete in Wheelchair Racing at a Paralympic Games and on becoming eligible to represent Great Britain, she made her GB debut at the Paralympic World Cup in 2006 and scooped a Bronze at The Paralympic World Cup in 2007 and three gold medals at the DSE Championships in Manchester. Anne has raced and won numerous medals internationally. She has recently been appointed as an executive director on UK Athletics Board.

Anne has since turned her focus to charity work and is a keen servant and spokesperson to disability awareness and equality issues. Anne played a pivotal role in The British Polio Fellowship’s 75th Anniversary Celebrations in 2014 and her powerful speech at Rotary’s International Offices in London in May 2014 to leading lights in the fight against Polio, led to her being invited by Sir Emeka Offor (Sir Emeka Offor Foundation, SEOF) to an international conference in Sydney, Australia to talk about her life.

Anne Wafula-Strike was made an MBE in the Queen’s birthday honours for her services to disability, sport and for her charity work. A past winner of the BBC’s ‘My Story’ competition, her autobiography ‘In my Dreams I Dance’ was published in 2010″.

“Climb the mountain so you can see the world, not so the world can see you”.


Our President

Meet our founder and president:

Derek Fenny - President
Derek Fenny


The birth of CanalAbility hinged on a forlorn character (Derek) standing on the bank of the River Stort, in the late 1970s, wondering what exciting schemes he could create to capture the imagination of unemployed young people. This forlornness disappeared when a narrowboat came round the corner and the idea of building one was created.

YOP Rose came into existence and helped many young people to learn practical skills. Subsequently it transferred to CanalAbility until its sale a few years ago. The next and most important stage was the realisation that the boat was totally unsuitable for anyone with a physical disability. So an unofficial group decided to form a charity to raise monies… And thus CanalAbility (formerly the Canal Boat Project) was formed and registered in 1991.
Read more about the history of CanalAbility…

Derek has lived in Harlow for 38 years and has served as a Councillor since 1995. Previous to that he was a maths & science teacher for five years. He has also been a Youth Worker and Youth Officer, and has also been a Community Education Officer for West Essex.

He was with Essex County Council for twenty nine year until his retirement in 1993. Derek is an active sports-person, and has served as Chairman for the Young Peoples Advice Centre, CanalAbility, Youth Bus Association and was the Chair of the Association of Essex Authorities until July 2001.

The Board of Trustees

Our Board of Trustees are responsible for the overall control and strategic direction of the Charity. They meet monthly throughout the year to consider, determine and review CanalAbility’s strategies and policies, to receive reports from the management team, and ensure the staff team achieves the strategic and charitable aims. Our Trustees bring to the Charity a depth and breadth of expertise with extensive backgrounds across a range of professional disciplines from legal and finance to professional services. All Trustees work for CanalAbility on an unpaid as well as voluntary capacity.

Our board is publicly signed up to the Governance Code (www.charitygovernancecode.org/en). This Code is a practical tool to help charities and their trustees develop high standards of governance.

Photo of Marc Balkham, Chair of the Board of Trustees for CanalAbility. He is wearing a dark blue top with a CanalAbility logo.
Marc Balkham

I became a trustee for CanalAbility in  September 2016 after meeting the people who work and volunteer in the organisation and being so impressed by how they work together to promote positive experiences for those living with physical and other challenges. The work of our organisation is crucial in providing amazing life-affirming experiences for those who would otherwise face enormous barriers to these kinds of activities. 

The feedback from our clients guides our activities and allows us to grow and develop our services. This is extremely important for trustees when considering the strategic direction we should take both in reacting to challenges and planning for the future. 

I was honoured to become Chair of the Board of Trustees in September 2019, initially on a temporary basis but then permanently. Six months before the Coronavirus pandemic turned the world on its head! 

Like so many organisations the pandemic was extremely challenging for CanalAbility but with the hard work and dedication of staff, volunteers and trustees we negotiated the trials and tribulations and came through in a strong position to resume our activities and push ahead towards a bright future. I would like to thank all colleagues who contributed to our success during this extremely difficult period in our history. 

Our main focus now as trustees is developing our strategic direction and meeting the needs of our clients. This includes financial stability, business continuity and the future of our fleet of boats. We shall be working hard with staff and volunteers to move CanalAbility forward to an amazing future, driven always by the requirements of our amazing clients.  

I have a history in project management, holding Prince 2 and Managing Successful Programmes Qualifications, which, I hope, give me the skills to help CanalAbility proceed into the future. I have, over the last 10 years, worked in the field of community music, creating and delivering projects for young adults with learning, physical and other challenges. I have witnessed the amazing benefits of creative and leisure activities on mental health and general wellbeing. These build creativity, confidence and self-advocacy and deliver experiences that resonate in participants’ lives long into the future.

Charles Fraser
Photo of CanalAbility Treasurer Ben Seaton
Ian Ramsay
Fleet and Mooring Director

Ian Ramsay proudly supports the team as our Fleet and Mooring Director. Having spent 20 years in the Merchant Navy as an engineer and later a chief engineer, Ian was responsible for maintaining the engines of ships carrying cargo for various organisations, and has travelled the world’s waterways, visiting South Africa, Saudi Arabia, Panama and the Suez Canal; as well as the UK. Running for up to seven days per job, the engines Ian serviced were the same length as a single boat on our fleet, although five stories high.

First becoming aware of CanalAbility in 2011, when he was searching for a holiday for a friend in a wheelchair, Ian’s group had such a great time, that he decided to join the charity as a volunteer; working hard to become a crew member, and then a skipper.

Alongside boating, Ian is a keen gardener, and hopes that his role as a trustee can help enhance the continued enjoyment of our customers and in particular promote a better service for the disabled and disadvantaged clients.

Ian loves the comradery of the organisation; which can be witnessed from the staff, fellow trustees, volunteers and the clients themselves. He receives genuine joy being part of a process that ‘makes every effort to improve the day of those with disabilities and disadvantages, to forget the difficulties of life”.

Charles Fraser
Company Secretary

Charles has a long history of boat related activities: RYA dingy  Racing 2 qualification aged 14, and has held a RYA powerboat level 2 since 2016. Growing up he spent numerous holidays on canal boats both in narrow boats in England & Wales, and the wider boats on the Norfolk broads and the South of France.

Charles qualified as a solicitor in 1997 and has been working at Longmore’s Solicitors in Hertford since 2015. He is currently also a trustee of Future Living Hertford, a charity specialising in day support service for those in recovery from addiction and domestic abuse. Previously he was a parent governor and then community governor of a local infant school, as well as serving for over 6 years on the Council of the Law Society of England & Wales and for over 10 years on the Law Society’s Wills & Equity committee.

Most of his spare time is taken up with supporting his 3 teenage/pre-teen children at their various activities and clubs – otherwise known as dad’s taxi, and when he does find time for himself: swimming or watching rugby.

Ben Seaton

Ben decided to become a trustee after learning about the valuable work that CanalAbility does to enable people with disabilities and special needs to enjoy the beautiful waterways across Essex and Hertfordshire. He hopes to use his previous experience and skills to ensure our charity continues to grow and can be enjoyed by future generations.

Outside of Ben’s responsibilities as our Treasurer he sits as the managing director of an art business and holds a full-time role at the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office.

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If you have mobility difficulties, or are a wheelchair user, you'll love our boats!

Each boat has a ramps & lifts to enable access via wheelchair and for people with impaired mobility, disabled toilet facilities and other adaptive technology to allow everyone to take an active part in its operation.

See the individual boats for details of their accessibility features.