The Ethel is a registered community charity barge based in Sheffield, which looks to unlock the confidence of children and young adults with mental and physical disabilities.

Based in winter at Victoria Quays and at Thorne Marina in summer we take our visitors on day and residential trips along the South Yorkshire Navigation Canal.

Confidence is often lacking in children with certain disabilities. Take autism for instance. For most youngsters with this condition, boarding a large barge for the first time is a very daunting experience. We sometimes have to wait for quite some time before we can set off as a child just can’t take that initial first step straight away. But during the cruise, we see their confidence growing and interaction with other children starts to take place. By the end of the voyage the child often doesn’t want to get off Ethel!

Can you imagine a young boy or girl going home to mum or dad and saying, “I’ve operated a lock and steered a 60 ton barge today!” WOW! What an achievement. Unfortunately some of our kids don’t have the physical or mental abilities to steer Ethel. We may only get a smile from them, but as far as our crews are concerned we have still come some way to unlocking that child’s confidence.

Ethel is currently looking for volunteer crew personnel. If you think you could make a difference to the lives of these children, please give Ethel a call on 07949 194065 or visit our website at