Maldon U3A

Essex Rivers Group.

The group meets throughout the year to hear speakers and presentations on Essex Rivers.

All U3A Members are welcome – come along and share our enjoyment.

Co-ordinator:     Beryl McDonell     01621 842093.

Meetings 2008

"Barges" by Stephanie Valantine of the barge ‘Hydrogen’.

On the 27th March fourteen Thames Barge enthusiasts met in the rain on the Hythe to go aboard ‘Thistle’ to enjoy a very interesting and enlightening talk by Stephanie Valantine of ‘Hydrogen’ about the barges.   After navigating our way across two other barges we went below to the welcome warmth of a wood burner in the beautifully panelled interior.   Stephanie started by giving us a brief history of ‘Thistle’, having been built in Scotland, it is said she beat a steam tug on her maiden voyage to the Thames!   She went on to explain that some of the barges are privately owned; a few are owned by companies and some by charitable trusts ie Thames Sailing Barge Trust and the Cirden Trust.

We were amazed to learn that it costs approx £65,000 annually to maintain Thistle and Hydrogen and keep them afloat.   We were told that some barges are financed by the sale of shares in the form of debentures and because they are independent they do not qualify for lottery funding.   Maintenance, marketing and promotion is done in the winter months and from Easter most barges are earning a living by charters, week-end holidays and a variety of cruises, functions, Corporate meetings, weddings, anniversaries and parties. In order to carry out charters the barges are inspected annually to ensure they comply with safety requirements, qualified skippers and experienced crew are used although volunteers do much of the work.

The barges are an integral part of Maldon’s Profile and hopefully will remain so for many years to come in spite of adversities such as the rising costs of materials and the decline of skilled craftsmen to effect repairs; siltation of the river and the ever present competition from low cost holidays!

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Last revised 22nd April 2008 to provide this page.