STUDENTS from a special school in Leek have been enjoying the Staffordshire Moorlands countryside - from on board a narrow boat.
The Beatrice Charity, which was established more than 30 years ago, gives children with special needs - a day trip out with a difference on board a narrow boat of the same name.
In term time between Easter and October much of The Beatrice's time is taken up with school trips, for which the charity does not make any charge to the students.
We caught up with ten students from The Meadows in Leek, as their recent day trip on board The Beatrice came to an end on the canal by The Flint Mill in Cheddleton.
The students, along with staff from their school and volunteers of the charity, had spent four hours touring along the local canal network enjoying the sights as well as stopping off for lunch.
Teaching assistant Helen Pope said: "I think this is a really good chance for the children to relax and enjoy the countryside.
"I think what the charity provides for schools is great."
Fellow teaching assistant Anna Thomas added: "We have all enjoyed the views along the way and we have talked about the water."
Derek Hilyer, a volunteer of the Beatrice Charity, said: "The children really appreciate a trip on board Beatrice.
"We have a team of around 15 volunteers who look after the boat and help during trips."
What the students said about their trip on board The Beatrice:
Abigail Thompson, aged 13, said: "This is my second time on here. It's fun being on here with my friends. It's nice to see the sights along the way. The best bit is seeing the ducks."
Ruth James, aged 12, said: "I like being on this boat. It is interesting seeing how everything works."
Kira Harris, aged 12, said: "I like being on the boat when it goes through the locks. It is quite weird going up and down to get through them."
Emily Prime, aged 14, said: "I live next to the canal but it's nice to see it from a boat instead."
THE Beatrice is 17 metres long, with a light, airy cabin and a large foredeck, both of which afford lovely views of the Caldon Canal in the Staffordshire Moorlands.
The Beatrice has a small galley for passengers to make their own refreshments. There is a toilet equipped for those with disabilities and a lift to help people with mobility problems to get down to the cabin.
The boat is based at Cheddleton Flint Mill, near Leek, where parking spaces are available.
Trips usually leave at around 10am or 11am and can last up to six or seven hours, with a minimum run time of three hours.
Groups chose their own route depending on time and the condition of the canal.
The longer routes run towards Froghall and back, or along the Leek branch - both which can include fascinating tunnels.
The shorter route runs to the Black Lion at Consall Forge or the Hollybush at Denford.
The crew, a qualified skipper assisted by a trained volunteer, is responsible for the effective and safe running of the boat, but the charity is happy to involve passengers in the working of the locks - of which there are at least six on each trip."
The Beatrice can accommodate 12 passengers on each trip, including teachers and those supporting people with disabilities. There is room for two wheel chairs in the cabin.
The Beatrice costs between £12,000 and £15,000 each year (depending on maintenance costs). Grants which the charity has received in the past have come from businesses and organisations such as Alton Towers, Sandycroft Construction, Thomas Wall Foundation, Wilfred and Elsie Elkes Charity Fund, former Leek Town Mayors Barry Cowie and Pam Wood, and Cheddleton Parish Council, to name but a few.
Last year the charity made 80 trips, taking 633 children and 264 staff. Both The Meadows School and Springfield Community Special School in Leek are regular users of The Beatrice, along with nine schools from Stoke-on-Trent, and five from other parts of North Staffordshire.
The charity also made 25 runs last year for care organisations such as residential homes and retirement communities.
The charity is always on the look out for fund-raising trips, donations, and new volunteers.
The Beatrice is also available for private hire for £100 any week day and £120 a day at weekends.
To find out more about the Beatrice Charity contact Derek Hilyer on 01538 386820 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. To arrange a trip on the Beatrice call 07815 915675.