HRH The Princess Royal Visits Museum to Launch New Educational Programme

HRH The Princess Royal has today visited the River & Rowing Museum (RRM) and took a boat ride on Rivertime Boat Trust (RBT) to launch a new educational partnership programme for young people and adults with special educational needs and disabilities.

The education programme has been rolled out with support from the charity Give Them a Sporting Change (GTaSC), of which HRH The Princess Royal is the Guardian.

The new educational programme has been jointly developed by RRM and RBT to promote education about the River Thames and the natural environment.

On arrival, HRH The Princes Royal was introduced to a number of dignitaries which included Henley Mayor, Councillor Sarah Miller and Founder of Rivertime Boat Trust, Simon Davies.

During her visit to the recently refurbished museum, HRH met with local children from Manor Green and Stony Dean Schools who were enjoying a hands-on immersive learning experience with five interactive activities around the river.  The activities included identifying and handling of old artefacts, river maps (learning river words and photographs of things they will see on the Rivertime boat trip), how locks work with a working model and a sandbox where you can create different landscapes and see the impact of rain and flooding through a projector directed down on to the sand landscape.

The Princess took time to talk to the young people and the Museum’s Educational Team.  Megan Sealey, Education Development Manager at RRM introduced each of the activities. At the artefacts table HRH picked up an old reconstructed rowing seat cushion that represented the type of cushion used on a trireme (an Ancient Greek warship).  She commented about using cushions when riding a horse.  At the sandbox, HRH was very interested to see what the sandbox did and saw a demonstration in action. She laughed when one of the students was asked where they would like to flood and they replied, Ruislip.  One of the pupils who is non-verbal at the lock activity was very keen to say hello to The Princess and typed this into his tablet to which the Princess Royal waved and then asked how she was.  HRH replied by saying, “That’s very kind of you to ask.”

Megan said afterwards, “It’s wonderful that HRH took the time to come and see our new partnership and got a better understanding of what we are going to be teaching and what they are going to be learning on the Rivertime boat.”

Following the Museum classroom activities, The Princess Royal then took a short boat ride aboard Rivertime with students. Her Royal Highness was particularly impressed with Rivertime’s ramp and hydraulic lift, a specially designed feature of the vessel that accommodates wheelchair passengers.

Chris Barrett, Chair of Trustees of Rivertime Boat Trust, said: “The Rivertime Boat Trust and the River & Rowing Museum have worked together for 15 years but the launch of this unique Educational Programme for neurotypical and SEND children represents a significant milestone for both parties. It will enable children to develop an understanding of important issues of the day, such as the protection of wildlife, green living, and climate change, in a unique and hands on activity that we hope enriches and inspires them.”

Simon Davies, Founder of Rivertime Boat Trust added, “I talked to HRH about an event she came to five years ago at Bisham Abbey for Rivertime. She asked me how I built the Rivertime boat. She’s an amazing woman.”

David Worthington, Chair of the Trustees at River & Rowing Museum, said: “To have HRH The Princess Royal formally launch such an exciting new initiative is testament to the positive impact that our new joint programme will have on young people and adults with special education needs and disabilities. Our ‘Learning outside the Classroom’ accreditation allows us to raise awareness of important issues related to our vision to bring the river to life for all.”

Steve O’Connor, Director of the River & Rowing Museum added, “It’s tremendous to have The Princess Royal here.  It’s a real testament into the hard work that has gone into launching the partnership between the Museum and the Rivertime Boat Trust.  We’ve worked alongside each other for years but now the two charities have an official partnership.  It’s fantastic to launch that and have the event here today.  It’s been outstanding and a real kick-start to our 25th anniversary.”

Anne Wadsworth, OBE, of Give Them a Sporting Chance said: “Give Them a Sporting Chance is delighted to join the Rivertime Boat Trust and the River & Rowing Museum to teach children with special needs about the natural environment, and the history of the River Thames, and to enable them to enjoy the pleasures of the river for themselves. We hope every child who participates in this programme will have a life enhancing experience.”

Richard Pinches, a volunteer at the Museum was introduced to HRH.  He said, “She asked me how long I had lived in Henley and I replied all my life.  She then asked were you keen to join the Museum when it opened and I said absolutely.  I also said that my father used to work with her when she came to the Hambleden shoot with Jackie Stewart.”

This was the second visit to the Museum for The Princess Royal.  She last came in 1999.  After unveiling a plaque to mark her visit and the launch of educational partnership she signed the visitors’ book.  The late Queen Elizabeth II officially opened the Museum in 1998.

Princess Royal said, “It’s real pleasure to see how well you’ve embedded the Museum in both Henley and a much broader basis nationally.  It has done exactly what everyone hoped it would do.  Linking with Rivertime Boat Trust and I hope also in the future with Give us a Sporting Chance will also raise the profile of the Museum and the importance of the river in some many different ways.  Working in partnership I always believe is key to getting long term continuity and embedded in programmes like this because without that you don’t the support locally.  Without the support of the volunteers you wouldn’t be able to function at all.  I know Her Majesty very much appreciated this Museum when it was opened and I think she would be thrilled to see how much it has evolved and the added value it has created in the passage of time.  I’m sure the next 25 years will be no different.”



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