'She would have loved it' -Skipper's portside lunch for sister's carers

Mark Ashley-Miller and  Leanne Whitbread with Lindsay, (left) Hannah, (centre) Bertie, (right).

Mark Ashley-Miller and Leanne Whitbread with Lindsay, (left) Hannah, (centre) Bertie, (right). - Credit: Aaron McMillan

He is on a mission to sail into every port in the UK and Ireland - but his visit to north Norfolk has held a special significance. 

Mark Ashley-Miller has used his time in Wells-next-the-Sea to give back to a charity that looked after his sister.

The skipper, who is currently halfway through his mission to meet Britain's 300 harbourmasters, is enjoying a summer holiday in Norfolk.

In Wells, he hosted lunch for Leanne Whitbread, who cared for his sister Catherine - known as Cathy - who had Down's syndrome and died in October 2020 aged 61.

Mark's sister Catherine, or Cathy as she was known to her friends. 

Mark's sister Catherine, or Cathy as she was known to her friends. - Credit: Mark Ashley Miller

Mr Ashley-Miller, 58, also hosted Bertie, Hannah and Lindsay, who Mrs Whitbread also cares for in her role as a support worker for learning disability charity Mencap.

He said of the care Mencap gave his sister: “It was a huge improvement in her life because she had a more normal life.

“They were able to go shopping, look after themselves do many more trips, just have a less institutional life and a much more normal life that you and I have. Norwich Mencap is an amazing organisation.”

Mark Ashley-Miller hosted Lunch on his boat for Lindsay, (left) Hannah, (centre) Bertie, (right).

Mark Ashley-Miller hosted Lunch on his boat for Lindsay, (left) Hannah, (centre) Bertie, (right). - Credit: Aaron McMillan

Mr Ashley-Miller, who grew up in Reedham Ferry on the Norfolk Broads, held the lunch on his boat, the Good Dog, while docked at Wells.

The Good Dog at the port of Wells.

The Good Dog at the port of Wells. - Credit: Aaron McMillan

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He said: “It keeps the connection of my sister going, seeing these people being looked after the same way, and enjoying life in exactly the same way, and having such a good quality of life."

Mark Ashley-Miller and  Leanne Whitbread with Lindsay, (left) Hannah, (centre) Bertie, (right).

Mark Ashley-Miller and Leanne Whitbread with Lindsay, (left) Hannah, (centre) Bertie, (right). - Credit: Aaron McMillan

When she was born in 1959, Cathy had a life expectancy of 15 years.

Mrs Whitbread looked after her for 12 years in a bungalow where she lived with others, including Bertie, who joined them on the boat.

She said Cathy would have loved to have been there today.

Leanne Whitbread, a support worker for Mencap.

Leanne Whitbread, a support worker for Mencap. - Credit: Aaron McMillan

“Cathy would have absolutely loved it,” she said.

"When she passed away we were all absolutely heartbroken.

"She was such a sweet little lady and she just had so much character. She was just so funny. She loved everyone and everyone loved her. I have 12 years of amazing memories of her.

"She loved seeing everyone happy and being together. Cathy would love to think we were here.”

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