Wells lifeboat appeal is on course to reach target

Allen Frary. Picture: Ian Burt

Allen Frary. Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: IAN BURT

A major fundraising appeal for a new lifeboat is on course to reach its target after members of the public took the daunting task of raising £250,000 to their hearts.

The Wells lifeboat station launched its Shannon Appeal to raise the money towards the £2m build cost of a new Shannon class lifeboat in June.

Since then, people have rowed, swum and baked in aid of the cause, and so far more than £138,323 has been raised.

Station chairman Peter Rainsford said: 'We wouldn't have achieved it without the generosity of donors both large and small.

'The donations have all been greatly appreciated whatever their size, like CAMRA and RNLI Peter-borough Branch who between them raised nearly £36,000, or Year 5, Focus School, Swaffham who raised £102 at their open day on a cookie stall, or crew member's wife, Amy Emerson, who rowed 10 miles on a rowing machine at our Lifeboat Open Day and raised more than £920.

'Then there was the £570 raised by David and Sue Beales who asked for donations to the appeal instead of presents for their golden wedding anniversary and Alan Jackson who took on the challenge of an over 70s Channel swim and many more.'

As part of the fundraising drive, a series of dinners, entitled The Talk of Wells, was launched. The appeal also has its own beer, the Shannon Ale, which has been brewed especially to help raise funds for the new lifeboat.

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Meanwhile, Whin Hill Norfolk Cider is currently fermenting a special vintage of cider to support the cause and plans to produce 200 bottles of Shannon Cider which is expected to be ready at Easter.

Seventy-five-year-old swimmer Alan Jackson fell agonising short of completing an ambitious cross-Channel record attempt after his team was beaten back by bad weather just four miles from the French coast. Nevertheless, the team still raised more than £650 for the appeal.

And the Times, and its sister title the Eastern Daily Press, has also contributed, donating more than £2,500. The donation was made as our way of saying thank you to the heroes who put their lives on the line for all of us. It was presented during a celebration evening at The Golden Fleece in Wells, held to applaud the work of the Wells RNLI.

The RNLI's Shannon class is a ground-breaking design that is a generation ahead of our existing Mersey class lifeboat in technology terms.

Designed to reach emergencies more quickly and more safely than its predecessors, it is the first RNLI all-weather lifeboat to be powered by water-jets rather than conventional propellers, giving it speed, shallow draft and unprecedented agility while still being able to cope with the roughest of conditions.

The new lifeboat is expected to come into service in late 2016 or early 2017.

To find out more about the Shannon Appeal and to help raise funds, go to www.wellslifeboat.org/shannonappeal.

Are you fundraising for the appeal? Email kate.scotter@archant.co.uk