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Canalability - Canal Boat Day Trips and Holidays for People with Disabilities

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.

Marc Balkham

Marc Balkham’s decision to become a trustee for CanalAbility came after meeting with the people who work and volunteer in the organisation and how they work together to promote positive experiences for the local disadvantaged and disabled community.

His work, alongside the charity predominately includes: managing local authority IT System support teams and acting as TimeBank Co-Ordinator for Voluntary Action Epping Forest. This helps him structure a network of individuals who trade their time and skills as currency, which he uses to rope in volunteers.

In addition, Marc has an extensive history in project management, holding Prince 2 and Managing Successful Programmes Qualifications, which give him an expert view of how to help CanalAbility proceed into the future; as well as helping with its long-term goals towards development and expansion.

His other big passion is music; and as a musician Marc runs music and percussion workshops and a band for young adults with learning difficulties. The latter of which earned him a Jack Petchey Outstanding Leader Award. He also teaches guitar and plays in a covers band, specialising in alternative rock and indie classics from the 1960s to the present.

Ian Gates

Ian Gates joined CanalAbility as a trustee in 2019. He first became aware of the organisation as a hirer, seeing at first-hand how the specially adapted canal boats enabled families with disabilities to experience the pleasures of the river by enjoying boating holidays together.

It was following one of these trips that Ian expressed a keen interest to support the organisation as a volunteer in whatever capacity. As a qualified accountant, he was quickly navigated away from deckhand to the role of treasurer, though has not given up entirely on his sailing aspirations!

His role is not only to ensure that the charity meets all its statutory obligations but also to provide regular input and guidance on how the charity is managing its assets. During his career in business systems he has worked in many different industries and in many countries and will endeavour to bring these experiences to the benefit the charity.

Ian is a keen sports fan, although his football and rugby boots were hung up a long time ago to be replaced by the spikes of the golf course. Some also claim to have seen him in fancy dress at televised darts events, but he strongly denies all such accusations.

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”.

Anastasia Hayden Trustee
Anastasia Hayden

Anastasia Hayden CanalAbility Trustee

Anastasia was born in Russia and saw firsthand how a lack of support and funding affects local communities. This was especially effecting the most vulnerable part of the population.

She has lived in the UK for many years now but only moved to Harlow in 2017. She knew she wanted to contribute to the community by volunteering in a small local charity. As a young professional Anastasia also wanted to offer a specific set of skills and knowledge but was not sure where to start.

Anastasia contacted Harlow volunteering center and shortly after was put in touch with Canalability. She was straight away drawn to our organization – staff and volunteers work together as a family, there is truly inspirational bond.

Outside the charity Anastasia works as a Health and Safety Officer for a higher education organization. As well as being a H&S professional, she has experience in HR and holds a degree in economics.

In her spare time, Anastasia goes running or to the local gym, loves “experimental” cooking and making new dishes (as well as good old favorites).


Charles Fraser
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.