Somerset’s new community flood support boat needs a name – can you help?

Somerset County Council is today launching a competition to find a suitable name for the county’s new community flood support boat.

The new boat arrived in Somerset last month and will be based at the Maunsel Lock Canal Centre near North Newton where it will be kept on standby in case of future flooding emergencies.

At other times, the flat-bottomed Mk III Wheelyboat will be used to provide access to the water for groups of disabled people.

Members of the public are now invited to submit potential names for the boat until noon on Thursday 23 April. A shortlist of names will be announced on Monday 27 April and people will then be able to vote for their favourite.

Paula Hewitt, Somerset County Council’s Director and Lead Commissioner for Economic and Community Infrastructure, said: “I think we can all agree that ‘community flood support boat’ is not a very catchy name! That’s why we’re appealing for your help in finding a new one.

“Let’s not forget what this boat represents. A similar vessel provided a lifeline to residents who had no other way of reaching their homes during the terrible floods of 2014. It transported everyone from schoolchildren and commuters to His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales.

“When it’s not being used as a rescue boat, this Wheelyboat is fully adapted for wheelchair use and will be used to help disabled people access the water.

“This is a boat for the community of Somerset, so it’s only right that the community gets to choose its name. So whether you’re a pupil at school, a local resident who was affected by the floods or just a member of the public with a really good idea, please get in touch and let us know what you think it should be called.”

Perhaps you will be inspired by the floods, by the boat’s new role as a community resource, or by a place, person or other link to the county of Somerset? But it’s your call, so please get in touch with your suggestions – the more creative the better.

You can submit your suggested name in a number of ways. You can tweet @SomersetCouncil on Twitter using the hashtag #somersetboat, post on the Somerset County Council Facebook page or email pelliott@somerset.gov.uk.

The deadline for submissions is noon on Thursday 23 April. Following this, all the nominations will be considered by a panel of judges and a shortlist will be compiled. Members of the public will then be able to vote for their favourite with the winning name announced as part of the celebrations for the first ever Somerset Day on Monday 11 May.

The winner will be invited to a special naming ceremony at Maunsel Lock with the chance to helm the boat on the Bridgwater and Taunton Canal for themselves.

For inspiration, here are some facts about the community flood support boat:

  • The Mk III Wheelyboat has been purchased by Somerset County Council with support from South Somerset District Council.
  • Based at the Maunsel Lock Canal Centre, the boat comes with engine and trailer and can be mobilised almost immediately if an emergency flood situation arises on the Somerset Levels or elsewhere across the county.
  • It is flat-bottomed and fully accessible for wheelchairs, so its main role when not needed for emergencies will be to provide access to the Bridgwater & Taunton Canal for groups of disabled people and those with limited mobility.
  • During the severe flooding of 2014, the village of Muchelney on the Somerset Levels was cut off for 10 weeks and the only access was provided by a similar boat funded by Somerset County Council and helmed by crew from the Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service.
  • Over the 10 weeks, the boat made approximately 1,000 trips, covering roughly 650 miles – which is further than Land’s End to John O’Groats as the crow flies.
  • It is hoped the new boat will not be needed as since those floods considerable work has been carried out by many different agencies under the 20 Year Flood Action Plan to reduce the likelihood and impact of floods on the Somerset Levels and Moors.
  • This includes work to raise a road by more than a metre at Muchelney; new ringbanks in Thorney; major works at Beer Wall on the A372; 8km of dredging carried out by the Environment Agency on the Parrett and Tone; grants totalling £325,000 handed out under the Repair and Renew scheme; and the Somerset Rivers Authority has been created.
  • Somerset community flood support boat