Solar-powered accessible tourist boat sets sail in Matlock Bath

It may not have been the perfect week for it, but a new solar powered tourist boat has taken to the river Derwent in Matlock Bath.

Paul Henshall, 64, who operates the rowboat hire station near the Grand Pavilion, developed the vessel, named Meghan, partly as a way to open up the river to a wider range of visitors.

Paul Henshall with his solar powered boat at Matlock Bath.

Paul Henshall with his solar powered boat at Matlock Bath.

He said: “I’ve always felt there were lots of people coming to Matlock Bath who couldn’t enjoy the full experience. If it was a grandmother in a wheelchair she would have to sit and watch the rest of the family go out on a boat.

“Meghan is socially inclusive, with space on board for nine passengers and silent running so there is no issue with noise and fumes which might be a barrier to someone with a condition like autism.”

He added: “It’s been running for a week now and we haven’t had the sunshine I was hoping for - but it’s been out with no problems and the reaction has been really positive.

“I normally give a talk about the history of Matlock Bath during the trip, and it’s nice to not have to shout over engine noise. Everyone can enjoy a peaceful ride and carry on their conversations.”

A longtime member of the Matlock Bath Venetian Boat Builders’ Association, Paul has previously built and then sunk a replica Titanic for the annual Illuminations parade.

Last year, he got the boat running on batteries which were charged on shore and then swapped during the trip, but he always had a plan to go one step further.

Even so, he says this latest venture tested all his engineering skills to new limits: “You can’t get this off the shelf. I bought the solar panel and controller, but everything else I had to design myself.”

“I’m a former electrician but I’ve still never encountered a technical challenge like it. The research took several months. Now it’s totally green.”

The boat station is open every day until the end of September. Trips cost £5 for adults and £3 for children. Carers can travel free if they are accompanying a group with disabilities.

For more details, call 07535 314452 or visit facebook.com/MatlockBathrowingboats.