Ely ‘Willow Man’ Lee England starts to rebuild life and business thanks to £1,000 of donations

Lee England - known in Ely as 'The Willow Man' - and Maria Stableford.

Lee England - known in Ely as 'The Willow Man' - and Maria Stableford. - Credit: Archant

More than £1,000 has been raised to help an Ely man rebuild his life and business after his houseboat sank to the bottom of the river in July.

The boat that was donated to Ely 'Willow Man' Lee England.

The boat that was donated to Ely 'Willow Man' Lee England. - Credit: Archant

Maria Stableford, of Littleport, created a JustGiving page to help raise funds so that Lee England – known locally as ‘The Willow Man’ – could get back on track after losing his boat, which was the base for his business and home.

Since then, 30 people have donated to the page, and one “amazing, kind-hearted local gifted his boat to Lee. The boat is structurally sound but a shell with an engine.”

The donations will go towards buying Lee carpentry tools and supplies so that he can build the rest of the boat, then start making his willow business.

Maria said: “The fundraising page has now ended and Lee is so very grateful for all the donations: a boat, food, supplies and funds so that Lee can now re-establish his life and willow business.

“The money which has been raised will pay for Lee to make his boat water tight, warm and allow him to fit a kitchen. He has started on his boat and aims to kit it out by the winter.”

“We had donations from amazing locals and from Hunstanton and even as far as America.

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“What a super and incredible community that we all live in. It just goes to show that even river dwellers are considered part of a special community in Ely, surrounding villages and further afield.

“Over the coming months photos will be posted of Lee’s progress in making his donated boat more habitable. I will post these pictures on the Facebook page Ely Willow Man - Support.”

Writing on the JustGiving page at the time of the sinking, Maria said: “For many years, Lee has been living and selling his amazing willow sculptures and structures from the roof of his boat.

“He is fondly thought of and he loves talking to visitors to the river about his fine work.

“Sadly, his life was turned upside down. In one moment, he lost everything – his home, his business and his willow tools.

“He had built his boat himself and it had meant the world to him.”

Maria also lent a helping hand by visiting local shops and businesses, collecting food and other donations.