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Could you help a Norfolk charity get historic ships afloat on the waves again?

PUBLISHED: 12:18 30 January 2019

Rescue Wooden Boats founder David Hewitt with one of the ships in for repair. Picture: Matthew Usher.

Rescue Wooden Boats founder David Hewitt with one of the ships in for repair. Picture: Matthew Usher.

ARCHANT NORFOLK 2015

A maritime heritage charity which uses traditional crafts to restore giants of Norfolk's naval past is recruiting volunteers to work in its visitor centre.

The ceremonial launch of the Lucy Lavers at Rescue Wooden Boats in Stiffkey. Picture: Matthew Usher.The ceremonial launch of the Lucy Lavers at Rescue Wooden Boats in Stiffkey. Picture: Matthew Usher.

Rescue Wooden Boats, based in Stiffkey, was founded in 2011 and has been painstakingly restoring historic ships - and sharing their stories - ever since.

And now the charity, which also offers education about maritime history in Norfolk and beyond, is appealing for enthusiasts to help bring its conservation message to a wider audience.

Liz Hankin, who has served as chairman of the charity’s trust since last summer, said: “The purpose of Rescue Wooden Boats is conserving our maritime history, particularly in Norfolk.

“We’ve got three areas: one is conservation of historical boats and restoring them; we have the heritage centre at Stiffkey; and we have our Dunkirk ship Lucy Lavers, which was our big restoration.”

Some of the exhibits on display at the Rescue Wooden Boats Museum at Stiffkey include an old photo of the Lucy Lavers lifeboat. Picture: Matthew Usher.Some of the exhibits on display at the Rescue Wooden Boats Museum at Stiffkey include an old photo of the Lucy Lavers lifeboat. Picture: Matthew Usher.

Mrs Hankin, from South Creake, said: “We took her back to Dunkirk for the 75th anniversary - it was a sight I’ll never forget.”

She added: “There’s still a huge interest in the boats. At the moment we’ve got another restoration of a historic crab boat called Pegasus on the go and we also have another Dunkirk ship - a whelker called Bessie.

“She went to Dunkirk from Wells, as she was owned by a fishing family, and the skipper took her across and came back.

“She was on a secret mission to pick up a VIP who never arrived.

The ceremonial launch of the Lucy Lavers at Rescue Wooden Boats in Stiffkey. Picture: Matthew Usher.The ceremonial launch of the Lucy Lavers at Rescue Wooden Boats in Stiffkey. Picture: Matthew Usher.

“It was believed he was captured by the Germans, but the boat came back to Ramsgate and Wells safely.”

But despite the traditional tools and techniques used to restore these historic vessels, Mrs Hankin said visitor centre volunteers don’t need specific knowledge - just a keen interest in Norfolk’s seafaring history, and enthusiasm for sharing it.

“I just have a love of the sea and sailing,” she said.

The maritime heritage centre is open at weekends and Bank Holidays from 11am to 4pm, and occasionally for groups wishing to visit during the week, with events including film screenings and talks, and the chance for visitors to see restorations work up close.

Lucy Lavers moored up in the quay at Wells. Picture: Ian BurtLucy Lavers moored up in the quay at Wells. Picture: Ian Burt

Shifts are two and a half hours long with two volunteers on duty.

Anyone interested should contact Liz Hankin at Rescue Wooden Boats, via email (info@rescuewoodenboats.com) or call 07500 616217 for more details.



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