The future of a 23-year-old community narrowboat moored in the Grand Union Canal near Abbots Langley, has been left in the balance as its owners desperately seek funding for essential repairs.

“Dick’s Folly”, a red, yellow and green wooden boat which accommodates 12, was created in 1989 by charity South West Herts Narrowboat Project, in a bid to offer day and evening trips to a variety of organisations including Mencap and special needs school groups.

But when the boat’s plumbing overflowed last month, the inside of the boat disintegrated, forcing members to strip the pine interior of Dick’s Folly.

The volunteer-run organisation now needs £50,000 to upgrade the interior, showers and engineering. They also hope to raise an additional £50,000 to spruce up the dock, which needs underpinning as water has started to erode the wooden structure.

Chairman Ray Cutler, 45 of Crusader Way, Watford, explained: “The narrowboat project was started by senior youth worker Dick Gettings – we renamed it from Lady Capel to Dick’s Folly after Dick died some years ago.

“The project is entirely run by volunteers – we maintain, clean and prepare the boat for users, look after the base, crew as necessary and offer training.

“As we give all our time for free, we are able to let community groups use the boat in return for a donation to cover running costs.

“Unfortunately, as the boat is getting old it has started to fall into disrepair. The sewage tank overflowed, which was rather messy, and ruined the interior. We’ve ripped out the inside of the boat, but now we can’t afford to refit it.

“We’ve managed to raise about £10,000 and have been applying for grants where and when we can, but we’re considerably off our target. We’re all happy to muck in and do the work, we just can’t afford the materials needed, and while the boat is left like this, we can’t offer community groups the chance to experience life on a narrowboat.”

The boat travels at about four miles per hour, and in a day it is possible to get to Hemel Hempstead and back to Abbots Langley.

According to the charity, a typical expedition on the boat offers outdoor activity, sailing skills, teamwork, self reliance, as well as a new perspective on the natural environment – represented by the canals of Britain.

The 25th Willesden Cub Scouts are one of many groups who have used Dick’s Folly.

Brian Stroud, Group Scout and Cub Scout leader, said: “One of the most memorable experiences for the children has been the weekend away on Dick’s Folly. The children had a fun adventure on the water and enjoyed helping with life on the narrowboat.

“It is a wonderful experience looking at all the aspects of nature, and it would be so sad if this did not continue.

“Children really benefit from these experiences - it encourages teamwork and they have memories they will keep forever.”

To help raise money for Dick’s Folly email or call Pete James 07905 307107.

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