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Volunteers wanted to skipper boats through ‘Constable Country’ along River Stour on Suffolk/Essex border

PUBLISHED: 10:52 12 March 2018 | UPDATED: 10:53 12 March 2018

An electric boat on the River Stour. The River Stour Trust is looking for volunteers to drive the boats. Picture: RIVER STOUR TRUST

An electric boat on the River Stour. The River Stour Trust is looking for volunteers to drive the boats. Picture: RIVER STOUR TRUST

Archant

Ever wanted to skipper a boat through ‘Constable Country’ along the picturesque River Stour on the Suffolk/Essex border? Well now is your chance.

The restored Stour lighter John Constable. Picture: RIVER STOUR TRUST The restored Stour lighter John Constable. Picture: RIVER STOUR TRUST

The River Stour Trust is looking for volunteers to join its team of skippers and crews operating its fleet of electric boats - which offer trips along the historic waterway at Sudbury, Dedham and Flatford.

The boats are operated by volunteers and carry thousands of people each year – from Easter until the end of October – which helps the trust raise vital funds to continue its work.

The trust is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year and has completed a number of successful projects preserving the river such as restoring four of the 13 derelict locks on the 25-mile waterway, retaining vital river access points and building a riverside visitor education centre.

Annual events on the river include the Sudbury to the Sea canoeing weekend, which attracts more than 500 entrants from all over the world.

An electric boat on the River Stour. The River Stour Trust is looking for volunteers to drive the boats. Picture: RIVER STOUR TRUST An electric boat on the River Stour. The River Stour Trust is looking for volunteers to drive the boats. Picture: RIVER STOUR TRUST

The trust says the 21ft boats are easy to operate, with maximum speeds of 4mph, and anyone who can handle a sailing boat or motor boat will be able to pilot one, but full training and familiarisation with the river will be provided.

There is also the opportunity for volunteers to join the elite team operating the restored 19th-century River Stour lighter.

The lighter is 50ft long, with two powerful electric drives, and it is a test of skill to manoeuvre the 160-year-old craft through locks, with only inches to spare.

A spokeswoman for the River Stour Trust said: “The river is peaceful, with just swans and occasional rowing boats to negotiate, and people will find themselves drifting back 200 years to the days when it was a busy commercial waterway, with 50ft lighters towed in pairs by horses through 13 locks from the sea at Manningtree to Sudbury.

“The boats operate from Easter until the end of October on weekends and occasional weekdays, but people can volunteer for as many or as few days per year as you wish.

“Travelling along the river affords you the chance to see its many delights and parts of the local countryside that are inaccessible by foot or road.

“What better way to spend a pleasant day than on this beautiful and historic waterway.”

The trust also needs people to look after the shore side of the operations, taking bookings and money and meeting the many visitors from around the world who visit the river.

For more information, contact 01787 313199, email administrator@riverstourtrust.org or visit: www.riverstourtrust.org

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