Basingstoke Canal


Madam Butterfly



History of ABA



History of the ABA
formerly Boats for the Handicapped Association

Cllr Stocks wearing her Council regalia
welcoming Lady de Knayth in her wheelchair
at the launching of the Mildred Stocks in 1986

In 1985, Councillor Mildred Stocks, Founder and President of the Association, was elected Chairman of Hart District Council, and for her chosen charity decided to raise money for a project which would interest and involve people across the whole  district.

Following meetings with many members of the community, Mildred was approached by two canal enthusiasts, David Gerry and David Millett, who explained the problems facing elderly and disabled people accessing the day boat John Pinkerton operated by the Surrey & Hants Canal Society.

Having experienced life in a wheelchair for some 6 months in 1971 herself, she appreciated the limitations facing those whose disability severely limited their mobility and in particular the ability to visit and enjoy the countryside. Thus the idea of providing a day boat designed to provide wheelchair access took shape.

Mildred Stocks under way

The project was launched in July 1985. Through a contact at the Royal Aircraft Establishment in Farnborough it was agreed to build the new boat with the help of their Apprentices and Youth Training Scheme personnel, a government initiative providing young people with the opportunity to learn basic skills in Metalwork, Woodwork and Electrical work.

Various fund raising activities took place, including the involvement  of the 2nd Battalion King Edward Vll Own Gurkha Rifles (The Sirmoor Rifles)  based in Church Crookham, who presented Mildred with a cheque for £2000 – every Gurkha having given a £ top of page

Madam Butterfly being launched in 1995
In early 1986 a Registered Charity known as Boats for the Handicapped was formed. During this period 6 members of the Canal Society (David and Judith Gerry, Stan and lris Knight, David and Rosemary Millett) had joined with Mildred to plan the construction and running of the day boat and to look ahead to the further provision of a holiday boat. In July 1986 following a competition held to select a name, the day boat was launched by Lady de Knayth and named The Mildred Stocks.

After 9 years of fund raising, the Association achieved their aim to provide a holiday boat on the canal. In July 1995 Madam Butterfly was launched at a cost of £63,000. Prunella Scales and Timothy West attended the naming ceremony as Patrons.

In 1997 it was decided that a replacement craft for the Mildred Stocks was required. The Association applied for a Lottery grant and obtained £34,750, to which the Association added £l0,000, and the new day boat Dawn was ordered in July 1998, and launched in April 1999.

Dawn being launched in 1999

The design details of Dawn were prepared by one of the Association's  disabled members, using computer design facilities at Farnborough College of Technology, who together with BAe  Systems also supplied technical support and reprographic services.

In the year 2000, following consultation with interested parties, it was decided that the Charity should be renamed to  recognise a wider disability user base. At the AGM in March 2001 the membership approved the change of name to Accessible Boating Association (ABA).to top of page


A New Engine for Dawn at 10 Years Old

Dawn at Barley Mow
In 2009 another milestone was passed in the history of Accessible Boating when our boat Dawn celebrated its 10th. Anniversary. Over the last ten years we estimate that she has carried over 10,000 disabled and elderly persons from the surrounding districts on day trips on our beautiful Basingstoke Canal.

Dawn's new engine 2009
Needless to say, this has taken its toll on the engine, which apart from sounding like a bag of bolts, was also contributing more than its fair share of carbon emissions. Thanks to a generous grant from Hampshire County Council, and donations from Rushmoor Rotary and Rushmoor Volunteers, we were able to replace the engine at the beginning of 2009. The new engine is much quieter, and complies with all the latest emissions standards.

The majority of our clients using Dawn are charities themselves, providing much needed services to the disabled and elderly. ABA has trained their volunteers to operate Dawn on the many trips they make each year.

As an example of those we serve, ABA volunteers get great pleasure from working with “Parity”, a local charity for disabled children and young adults. To see the youngsters' faces after a trip on Dawn is a joy, and makes the work all the more worthwhile.

A New Engine in Madam Butterfly for 2011to top of page

Madam Butterfly, our holiday boat, was launched in 1995 and entered service the following year. In the intervening years she has allowed countless families to have holidays together with their  elderly or disabled loved ones. The hydraulic steering is particularly welcomed, as it allows the disabled person to steer the boat from their wheelchair and become an active member of the crew.

MB also doubles as our training boat for the National Community Boats Association, where our trainers hold courses for our own volunteers, and other outside charitable organisations who require a Certificate in Community Boat Management (CCBM)

Out of season, our dedicated team of volunteers maintain the boats and update  their equipment, particularly items required for our elderly and disabled clients. This year alone they have completely replaced the flooring in the main cabin, and rebuilt the bed and storage system. One of the projects that we have had in mind for some time is to replace Madam Butterfly's outdated engine with a new model that meets current emissions standards. Unfortunately due to the current financial restrictions, and a relatively poor season last year due to closures on the Canal, it was placed on hold.

Wendy Walker
Last year, suddenly out of the blue, we heard from the family of John and Wendy Walker that they wished to leave us a donation in the memory of their late mother Wendy. A canal enthusiast all her life, Wendy was a member of the Canal Society and a founder member of “Boats for the Handicapped” when it was originally formed, and regularly attended our AGM meetings in the early days. As far as we are aware, she also had at least one trip on the Mildred Stocks before she moved to Manchester to be nearer to her family. Her daughter Maggie has told us that, even in her later years, she retained her interest in canals and was regularly taken for boat trips on the canals in the Manchester area.

The new engine being fitted to MB
ABA has used this donation to purchase a new engine for Madam Butterfly, which has been fitted in time for the 2011 cruising season together with a commemorative plaque in memory of Wendy.

This will certainly give the boat a new lease of life for at least another 15 years, and we extend our grateful thanks to Maggie, David, and Peter Walker for their generous top of page


ABA Celebrates 25 Years

ABA 25th Banner

Husband and wife canal-boating ABA patrons Timothy West and Prunella Scales, attended a celebration at Colt Hill on Friday 16 September 2011 to mark the 25th anniversary of the founding of the ABA. Greeted by current President and founding chairman Mildred Stocks, they toured the boats and met many of the volunteers who contribute so much to helping the charity serve the local community.

To mark the occasion, commemorative plaques were added to both boats and a framed photograph of Dawn and Madam Butterfly on the canal was presented to the two top of page

Madam Butterfly and Dawn dressed overall Mildred Stocks (L) and Chairman Ken Blockwell (R)
presented a framed picture to our patrons
A good turnout for the occasion Our patrons looking at the new display boards
Ken Blockwell and Prunella Scales handing over
a commemorative plaque to attach to the boat
ABA volunteers with our Patrons

Mildred Stocks and Prunella Scales
in the main cabin of Madam Butterfly
admiring a photo book of a trip by one of our hirers

Our patrons with ABA President MIldred Stocks
and past chairman Tony Carter

Annual Maintenance 2012to top of page

A dedicated team of skilled volunteers maintains the ABA boats. This year it was time for Madam Butterfly to visit the dry dock for a repaint below the waterline and a change of propeller shaft.

Graham fixing the propeller to the new prop shaft Shiny repainted Madam Butterfly

Annual Maintenance 2013

This year it was Dawn's turn to visit the dry dock for an external strip and repaint, change of propeller shaft, change of rudder bearings, and other maintenance work.

The engineering team hard at work A new coat of paint below the waterline

2016 Season Report

Dawn had 83 trips during the season and Madam Butterfly 5 plus 3 day hires. In addition to this we ran 9 trips on Dawn which could be booked on an individual basis rather than having to hire the whole boat. We plan to run more in 2017. We ran Santa Cruises again this year in conjunction with Galleon Marine, which were very successful.

Once again we were very grateful for the generous contribution from the Basingstoke Canal Scout Challenge.

Peter Bridle

The sudden death in February 2017 of our long-term Bookings Manager, Peter Bridle, has robbed the Association of an incredibly loyal and dedicated volunteer who made a very significant contribution to the day-to-day operations of the charity over many years. He has proved to be a hard act to follow and is sorely missed. Our sincere condolences go to Liz and his family and friends.

For further information about the ABA please contact the Honorary Secretary.
See contacts page for details.
to top of page