QE2 Activity Centre launches new wheelchair accessible boat
A wheelchair accessible boat has been launched at QE2 Activity Centre at River Hamble Country Park in memory of the man who was the inspiration for the whole centre.
The Peter Gardiner will give thousands more people with additional needs the ability to get out on the water.
The boat, built by CML Ltd at Marchwood, was officially launched with the customary breaking of a bottle of Champagne by two of Peter's sisters, Kate Dawes and Sally Whitcombe.
Peter, who passed away a year ago aged 66, was born at a time when it was common for babies with Down's syndrome to be put into institutions and their life expectancy was only 20 to 30 years.
But Peter remained at home with his loving family, parents Phyl and Chris and older sisters Elizabeth, Kate and Sally and joined in activities including canoeing, sailing and horse riding.
For The Queen’s Silver Jubilee in 1977, Eastleigh Borough Council asked residents to submit project ideas and Peter’s father Chris, who had worked for YMCAs around the country including Fairthorne Manor, put forward his suggestion of an activity centre for disabled people. The centre was opened in 1978 by Princess Margaret.
Being able to get afloat on the River Hamble has been a mainstay of the centre’s work, with canoes, kayaks and motor boating on offer.
At the end of 2020 it was apparent that the centre needed to replace its ageing pontoon boat and an appeal was launched. £40,000 was raised in just four months.
Centre manager Phil Oates said: “We had tremendous support from a wide range of funders. We are particularly grateful to the families of four stalwarts of the centre, who have, sadly, passed away in the last couple of years. Bequests and donations in memory of not only Peter but Godfrey Olson, Caroline Oates and Helga Baker were all put towards the boat.
“We had donations from several grant making trusts.
“We organised our own sponsored walk during lockdown – from QE2 to Timbuktu – a couple of dozen of our regular visitors walked the equivalent of the distance from Hedge End to Mali between them.
“The boat will be used on the Hamble River, alongside our existing ‘wheelyboat’ the James Male, and our fleet of canoes and kayaks. It will enable us to continue to take children and adults with disabilities for meaningful, fun activities for many years to come.
“And it will ensure that the name of Peter Gardiner, the inspiration for the centre, will be remembered for a long time.”