In this week's 'Spotlight on Volunteers' feature, we meet the hardworking crew that volunteer on the Ladybird Boat.

The Ladybird Boat takes disadvantaged, disabled and vulnerable people in the Cambridgeshire community a trip on the River Great Ouse.

On the trip, people get to admire the nature and wildlife in Huntingdonshire.

The Ladybird Boat has been in operation for 17 years now, and it's thanks to the hardworking volunteers that it continues to journey on our waters.

The Ladybird Boat's 2023 season finished slightly early, in September.

However, that's when the volunteers work kicks into overdrive, as this is when inspections and training take place.

The 23 tonne boat is inspected every year by the Maritime Coastal Agency, who look at the whole of the boat to make sure that it's safe for travel.

By the end of September, the Ladybird Boat was removed from the water and taken to a marina in Earith.

What do Ladybird Boat volunteers do?

The crew members, who are all volunteers, assist in trips up the River Great Ouse, and work throughout the seasons to make sure everyone has a great experience.

In the last season, volunteers helped on 140 trips, which carried 2,325 passengers.

In the off-season, volunteers do as much maintenance work on the boat as they can, which includes sprucing up the cabin and painting the outside.

However, things can get expensive for the organisation as the boat gets older. 

The volunteers said that 2023 has been "exceptionally costly" in terms of upkeep.

The Hunts Post: Work is carried out in the off-season on the Ladybird Boat.Work is carried out in the off-season on the Ladybird Boat. (Image: Ladybird Boat Trust)

The boat required a new main propellor, a bow thruster gear box, a repaint of the hull, as well as other repairs.

The Ladybird Boat is now at its base at Hartford Marina, where the engine has been removed, a new fuel pump fitted, as well as piping being replaced.

Everyone on the Ladybird Boat is a volunteer, so the crew rely on donations from passengers to keep the boat cruising.

What have the volunteers been up to?

Over the past few months, volunteers have been training in boat handling skills as well as emergency training, including "man overboard training".

The Hunts Post: The Ladybird Boat crews practice emergency training in the off-season.The Ladybird Boat crews practice emergency training in the off-season. (Image: Ladybird Boat Trust)

In February, the crew had a first aid refresher and are expecting their certificate from the Maritime and Coastguard Agency.

How many volunteers are there?

There are 35 volunteers working on the Ladybird Boat service. 

The volunteers normally give up their time once or twice a week during the season to accompany the passengers cruising down the Great River Ouse.

All of the volunteer roles with the Ladybird Boat organisation are unpaid, so the group relies on the work of volunteers to keep the service running.

The group are always on the lookout for volunteers to join them.

All of the training at the Ladybird Boat group is done by volunteers.

One of the requirements of volunteering at the organisation is that you are able to stand for long periods of time. 

What's it like volunteering on the Ladybird Boat?

Volunteering on the Ladybird Boat gives people a chance to meet lots of local people from all walks of life.

It's also a great opportunity to take in the surroundings of the Great River Ouse, with a chance to look at the local wildlife as well as the nature.

The passengers on the Ladybird Boat also "really appreciate" the hard work from the volunteers to make sure that they have a wonderful day on the Cambridgeshire river.

Bookings for the Ladybird Boat 2024 season are being taken now.

For more information, visit:


Any volunteer groups that would like to feature in our 'Spotlight on Volunteers' campaign get in touch at: