It has become known as Britain’s magical waterland and a small charity is quick to attest to the magical effect the Broads has on its disabled and disadvantaged visitors.

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More than 6,000 adults and children take to the water each year thanks to the Nancy Oldfield Trust - and the back-to-nature experience puts a broad smile on nearly everyone’s face according to administrator Caryl Wright.

But the growing success of the charity, set up 28 years ago by Richard Kenyon as a memorial to his parents Nancy and Oldfield, has created an urgent need for more volunteers to take people out on its fleet of sailing and motorboats.

Ms Wright said: “We have 30 volunteers at the moment but some are more active than others, and it is difficult to find volunteers at weekends which is the time a lot of visitors want to come. It means that occasionally we have to cancel groups.”

The most urgent need was for drivers for their three motor cabin cruisers, including the electric-powered White Admiral.

She said: “We have recently lost two of our drivers and we need to start thinking about next summer. We pay for volunteers to take their inland waterways helmsman’s certificate.”

There was also a need for instructors for their seven sailing boats who would be put through the RYA instructor course by the charity. “For people to pay for that would cost a lot of money,” she said.

Even on a midweek day, the trust’s peaceful base in Irstead Road, Neatishead, on the edge of Barton Broad, was a hive of activity.

A party from Essex, staying in the trust’s holiday bungalow, were already out sailing on Barton Broad, while volunteer Dave Barber was taking a group with learning disabilities from the Oaks and Woodcroft homes in Mattishall, near Dereham, out from Ludham Bridge on a motorboat.

Meanwhile, back at Neatishead, retired local government worker Rodney Lake, 68, of Horning, was preparing to welcome his regular sailing party from the Norfolk and Norwich Association for the Blind.

He said: “I would thoroughly recommend becoming a volunteer. If you like sailing I’m sure you will love doing it. You really notice the effect the Broads has on visitors who come here. Ninety-five per cent enjoy it.”

For information on volunteering call the trust on 01692-630572 or visit www.nancyoldfield.org.uk

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