Anneka Rice at the accessible boathouse 25 years ago.

TV host, Anneka Rice, was welcomed back to Calvert Trust Exmoor on the 25th anniversary of the boathouse opening constructed by the Challenge Anneka team in 1993.

The ‘Boathouse’ episode of the popular 90s television show, which was aired on BBC One, saw the indomitable television presenter Anneka and her team challenged by two West Buckland School pupils to convert a derelict cattle barn into a fully-accessible boathouse within just two days.

Siblings, Ben and Amber Gatehouse from North Devon wrote to the BBC television programme in 1992 to appeal for the new boathouse facility, including critical improvements to access so that disabled people ability could get out onto the lake and go sailing.

Ben said: “We truly hope our letter written naively to Anneka has and will continue to be an asset to the Trust in providing life changing holidays. We still remember vividly the shock and surprise of Anneka walking into our school assembly. At the time we were amazed by the local businesses’ willingness to help a great cause in such a short time frame.”

Hampered by Devon’s typical heavy downpours and patchy phone signal, the 72-hour construction challenge made for edge-of-seat viewing as the team approached the deadline and completed the project just in time to celebrate with a regatta on Wistlandpound Reservoir, where the Boathouse remains in service today.

Anneka on the shores of the lake where the boathouse is located.Anneka Rice said: “I remember being bowled over by the beauty on that final day when we’d gone through all the rain and the project was completed, there was a wonderful regatta, the sun came out and we all had lumps in our throats just seeing all those smiling faces.”

Anneka’s return last week saw her walk the original zig-zag path down to the boathouse and explore the extensive facilities that have been added since 1993. “It’s quite emotional seeing it again. A couple of decades on (and the rest), it’s still going strong. It’s amazing!”

25 years on the boathouse still in full use and remains as asset to the charity in providing boating activities to disabled visitors.  Find out more about Calvert Trust Exmoor here.

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