one man, one boat, one paddle and one goal!! to kayak the length of england for water aid to raise as much money as possible, some 380 miles along a route which has never been attemted before in a world record attempt. read everything here and view updated pictures for the training and the journey itself as well as the aftermath!! please please make a donation and be part of this with me

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Day 11 the last stand!!

After a great night last night at the willow tree marina we awoke fresh and ready for the last day looking forward to gentle paddle into the city centre. The campsite in a west London park was actually suprisingly quiet and comfortable. With only one interruption as a couple walked past the tent at 3.30am surprised to see us there, as we were surprised to be there. But as we awoke and packed away the tent for the last time the mood was good and relaxed and with only 10miles to go there was no rush and we chilled in the marina having a relaxed breakfast and one last goodbye to Graham the warden.
As we jumped in the canal for what would be the last time a photo of big boat little boat just had to be took as much as I love the kayak I reckon next time it would be more comfortable and easier in the white one!
After letting our guard down and relaxing the aching muscles came into play making the last stint hard work and slow going, over the last 11days I felt today that I had given my all and it was now just the adrenalin and determination to complete this adventure that drove me forward. It amazed us how much greenery still lined the canals as we worked our way through London towards Little Venice and the finish.
We knew it would be a low key affair as due to finishing so far ahead of schedule people had been unable to get the day off work and cheer us over the finish line so as we pulled into Little Venice and stopped, we just sat and floated that was it all this work all this effort and now all this pain and like that... it was over! Mixed feelings welled up I was glad to finish at the thought of a shower and a bed for the night but at the same time sadness and emptiness, everything was building upto this moment and now it was here it was over!! Nothing left. Well I say nothing my brain went into overdrive as I started to plan the next expedition, something bigger, more dangerous and challenging to really push the boundaries of endurance kayaking. I hand now done 326miles in around 77hours worth of hard paddling, I can push it harder.
We jumped out the canal and parked ourselves in a lovely barge cafe drinking tea as we waited for Duncan Wilbur the wateraid representative to turn up and take our pic and sign to say it was completed, Duncan was well impressed and a great guy to meet at the end. He was really enthusiastic about what I had achieved and was well behind pushing it further so watch this space PaddleAid 2007 is on and going to be bigger and hopefully now everyone can get involved and try kayaking and set yourself challenges in order to raise money for a most worthy charity.
We must have sat in the same cafe for 5 hours waiting for the support team to arrive and take us away. My mum and sister had made the journey from the lakes to london to pick us up in only a few hours, a journey that took me 77hours over 11days, but we were glad to site them and loaded the kayaks up ready to make the way home a journey of which I would share my part in driving, no rest for the wicked. At this point I would love to give abig shout out firstly to my paparazzi sister for her great piccies, updates on my myspace and apparently some great navigation through London, secondly to my mum who over the course of the last few weeks drove hundreds of miles to drop off and pick up my dad to be with me and of course my dad for being there at the beginning and the end without any of them this would not have happened and the money would not have been raised so a huge thankyou, the effort you have all put in has been amazing!!

As for me, well now I am off to Spain to look at rocks and recharge but this is only the beginning I have plenty more ideas for next year and will definately be back with a bigger challenge and a new record to break. So watch this space and keep checking in to see any developments. Have a great summer and keep on paddling who knows where it will take you!!!

Day 10 Fathers Day

Day 10 was fathers day and so it was good to wake up after a really good nights sleep and spend it paddling with my Dad, however with all the preparation and the fact I had been kayaking for the last two weeks I had forgot it was fathers day. As my dad slipped it in and reminded me of the day I decided that my gift was the fact that he was paddling for the weekend and that I would treat him to lunch, so with a chuckle we set off on the day from hell!! We already knew today would be hard as we made on last push to get us as close to the finish as possibe and with being the edge of London we were well aware of the number of locks facing us. Usually I would trolley up and walk round a massive series of locks to saves in and out repeated action. We started off walking round the locks but the trolley we were given to test for a danish company finally let us down as the wheels fell apart leaving just a plastic wheel to try pulling along for distances. This was a big let down. Now we faced paddling for a few minutes reaching a lock dragging the kayak around the lock then clambering back into the boat and paddling again for a couple of minutes until the next life draining ordeal. The going was slow with the hours passing and the miles still remaining. The good nights sleep seemed so distant now as we dragged around the 15,16,17 whatever number it was lock. Tempers were short and it all seemed like so much hard work. Every now and then though we were lucky enough to get a miles paddling in and see some of the canal side developments being built along the canal. These seemed to be a common theme through out the London boroughs. Also glimpses of some mansions came into view beautifully modeled by my dad as he paddles past one in Hemel hampstead. Just as the trolley had broke so it would seem was our spirit. With midday approaching and only a few miles completed we decided to pull in and take an early lunch to help revive ourselves. As we found a nice pub and dragged the kayaks the couple of hundred meters into the beer garden we greeted with the enews that no pub food was being served today, the fitting response to an already frustrating morning. Eventually we did find a lovely pub the coy carp and settled for lunch, where we had the nicest soup spinach and creme fresh! very nice followed by a good roast dinner A great fathers day treat. As we eat we consulted the map and found that we were about 28miles away from the finish so although a stressful morning it had been we had covered some good distance. Even more spirit lifting was the fact that there were now only four locks left between here and the finish and they all fell in the next 3miles!! Great news. So we decided to push on and find a great camp in London near the finish. As we head back out towards the boats I felt satisfied and full from a great lunch and relaxed as it was almost done now. This was wind down, as I dropped the boat into the canal and started to climb in I fell forward and lost my balance tipping the kayak, thankfully I caught it just in time and fell into the seat to wave of water filling the boat. I had survived the first possible fall for the entire trip only a short distance from the finish! No time for complacency that would have been major embarrassing.
We pushed on and finally arrived at the last lock where the celebratory picture of thumbs up wa staken. From here on in it was just straight forward paddling. At the lock here it was nice to see some signets only a few days old. Now I know I hate swans but these signets were just so cute, what made the picture even better was the lovely ramp that someone had built and put up for the signets to exit the canal. When talking to the residents along the tow path apparently the swans had been nesting there for years but unfortunately they had lost all their young last year as the signets couldnt climb the steep canal side to get out and all died. So to see this ramp built was a lovely touch.
As we put our heads down now and moved forward counting down the miles until we reached Little Venice there was a sense of great achievement, after
consulting the guide we decided on aiming for willow tree marina as our last camp, around 10miles away from the finish line setting up a nice leisurely finish on the last day. The other thought behind this marina was the mention of showers as it had now been four days since my last shower and frankly I stank! So the emphasis was on reaching this marina and of course hoping we were welcome to stay.
Along the way as we pushed for the marina we came to the last junction and a great sign which said we were only 13miles form paddington which was the otherside of the finishing destination. So everything felt good, and a posing session was in order as we both enjoyed having the picture taken with the sign. As we paddled through west London the scenery was getting more industrial and as we paddled through an area that was highly populated by Asians it was great to see the community spirit as the families sat along side canal and waved us past enjoying the evening sun.
The marina was soon reached all that remained was the hard task of being given permission to stay, as we paddled in it struck me how there was no grass around so was worried even with permission there maybe no where to camp after all. I approached a few people sat around a table at the side of the canal and introduced myself saying what it was I was doing. Instantly the marina owner Graham chirped up and said that I should have phoned he could have gotr some money rounded up for us. As I laughed and said thankyou for the offer but actually I was hoping for just a shower and somewhere to sleep for the night everyone laughed and welcomed us in. Graham instantly jumped up and showed us around the marina, saying we were free to use any facilities and welcome to stay. After showing us around he insisted I had a shower then joined them for a while to talk about what it was I was doing, I hope the insisting was about joining them and not having shower although I could understand why it would be the shower ;p After cleaning up and feeling a lot better we joined Graham, Lee, Mike, Laura and heather for cheese and bread. Everyone was amazingly friendly and well interested in what we were doing and for Graham nothing was too much trouble making for an amazing evening which was fitting abd reflective of the journey as a whole. Everyone had been so friendly and helpful and on the last evening this was no different and a great memory to take away from the residents of willow tree marina. Thanks to everyone for an amazing evening and especially the warden Graham for all your help.

Day 9 Doris Day on the canals?

After a restless nights sleep with the big hard lads of Stoke Bruene seeing to that my dad and I decided to just pack up and leave. My dad obviously now joining me refreshed after a few days off and myself now 9 days into the expedition really feeling it, was going to make for an interesting day.
Today was to push past Milton Keynes, Leighton Buzzard and reach the oustskirts of London so we set off at a good pace. Catching up on the weeks gossip and the adventure so far it felt nice to have some company. We passed through some great scenery along the Grand Union with a beautiful bridge on dispay as well as a rather interesting and innovative way of using barbwire, lining the locks as we made our way south. The morning was hard going with my arms aching something chronic now and I hadnt been able to use my fingers properly for a couple of days due to gripping the paddle for so long.
We gently made our way to Milton Keynes and after a breakfast which consisted of some nuts and a chewy bar we decided to stop for an early lunch and headed into a canalside Toby Carvery. As we headed in I asked a lady sat outside if she could watch our drinks whilst we filled our plates to over flowing with the roast dinner on offer. As we came to sit in the sunshine the couple were just getting ready to leave but on seeing the platefull with which we returned the question was raised " how much was that then?" after quoting the price the fella raised an eyebrow "grab your stuff again we are staying!" so having filled their plates we sat together and had a great lunch discussing the canals and what we were doing kayaking the full lentgh of them as always this comment got the usual "really? WHY?!"
After lunch we pushed on hard feeling revived if not a little bloated after such a huge meal. The hard graft was made easier with a little cat and mouse game with a barge which was lead by paddington bear sitting proudly at the front. As the open canal stretched ahead we would burn past the barge stopping for a quick chat then at the locks we would stop and relax as the barge caught up. Having being on the canal for 9 days I realised I had yet to see a lock work so took this opportunity to watch and chat to the couple on the barge. As she found out what we were doing she disappeared into the boat and returned with some money to the cause, so a perfect photo opportunity. The pose was struck and with the big glasses and sun hat it was like doris day had graced us on the canal. Brilliant form and a great laugh at the locks. As we pulled away and followed the barge I was again called to the rescue but this time it was to salvage a stray sandal and not a sheep. But was a pleasure to help a damsel in distress.

The miles were coming off now in a relatively easy and normal day with nothing to really report through out the afternoon. A few locks, some swans and a nice icecream stop all pretty normal stuff. As always the people on the barges were overly friendly and as we walked around a lock we stopped to chat to a moored couple. As you would expect as we started chatting at the side of the canal 10miles or so outside of London this couple were from the lakes and lived just along the road to us! Is a small world. Skip and Barbara were great making a cup of tea and setting the table and chairs up so we could chill. My dad was over the moon to find skip was a motorbike enthusiast the same and at 72 had just got a new bike with a bit of a kick.
Pressing on refreshed after the evening brew and donation we pushed through the locks in the pretty town of Marsworth and through the woods that followed in order to find some land that was flat enough to camp on and ended up at a small marina outside of Berkhampstead. We had reached the edge of London! After the great Sunday lunch we had enjoyed earlier in the day, the aptly named marina seemed perfect for the night, cowroast was our resting place.

Day 8 BAAAAAAA! can you see a theme?

Awaking nice and early to a cup of tea from Alan was a true blessing and allowed me to get away early and make a real good run to reach the Grand Union Canal. This would be the last canal that I had to navigate so was a big marker. Nearly done and the prospect of a hot shower and bed at the end gave me new enthusiasm and helped numb the pain that my arms and fingers in particular were facing. As I continued along the beautifully scenic Oxford canal another random animal encounter took place. As I paddled towards a barge which looked moored on the opposite side to the towpath an elderly lady called out, "young man can you help please?" well I was intrigued and of course willing to offer assistance. As I rounded the back of the barge a sheep was entangled in the canal side brambles in the water. Apparently the sheep had fallen off the bank into the canal and become tightly tangled and unable to move. A little aprehensive I paddled close to the sheep and slowly reached out to pat its head. Amazingly the sheep remained extremely calm and didnt try anything funny. I slowly started removing the brambles from around its neck but it was hard going and slow whilst maintaining balance and trying not to scare the sheep. Eventually the barge residents chirped up "would you like some scissors?" well yes that would be kind of helpful thankyou, 20 seconds later the sheep was free and wading around the corner to safety. Well I say safety knowing sheep it would probably end up caught the same 5 meters down!! Oh well I had done my good deed and felt pleased with myself. As I paddled for Braunston and the start of the Grand Union I finally sited my first sign for London which sent shivers down my spine and a sense of achievement filled me. Today had been a good day so far and long may it continue.
I was under no illusions though if I really pushed it today I could get around my last two tunnels the Braunston and the Blissworth. These two bigger than the already conquered Harecastle. After a spot of lunch in Braunston I was ready to tackle the tunnel. As you will already know I am not allowed in the tunnels and need to trolley up and navigate over them. So on came the wheels and up I climbed above the tunnel. This time it was a straight forward path over the tunnel according to the map so no chances of getting lost. Although the climb was steep the path was nice and the views made it worth while, I was really enjoying the break from the strain on my arms and pushed forward over the rolling hills towards the other end of the tunnel with ease.

As with everything though when you get complacent life throws you a little challenge to keep you on your toes!! What started out as a nice path soon turned into a jungle from hell with sweltering heat from the sun and towering nettles the going got real tough. The trolley wheels became jammed with weeds and fell on five occasions leaving me to wade through a sea of nettles in shorts and sandals to pick up the kayak and place it back upright as I dragged with all my remaining energy to get free from the undergrowth. This was certainly a challenge I could live without. As I got hotter and frustrated the path finally widened again and the ordeal was over the tunnel had come close to defeating me but I conquered it and as one last effort to get my own back on Braunston and its tunnel I deposited a little present in the field hehe

With the Braunston tunnel down and conquered I set my sights on the Blisworth tunnel and the little village Stoke Bruene on the otherside where I had agreed to meet my dad. Ready for a weekend paddle together. As I paddled the last stretch I met a lovely couple in a canalside bar who were keen to hear about what I was doing and even donated towards the cause as I sat and chatted another barge I had been kayaking and chatting with from Braunston pulled up and offered to buy me a beer ( the people not the barge that is I try not to talk to barges but you know how sometimes it just happens.) As I left the bar and the couples I was told only 2 miles to Blisworth and the next tunnel so I set off at a good pace ready to get there early so could rest before seeing my dad. As I maintained the pace I thought I was covering some distance surely I should be there? Asking a gent canalside he assured me it was still 2 miles to go. Couple of miles later another walker confirmed it was still 2 mile sto go to Blisworth, eventually after more like 9miles I made it to the tunnel entrance. SO much for only two miles! My dad was now already waiting on the otherside of the tunnel and after the Braunston fiasco a local couple walking their dog said the easiest way to Stoke Bruene was by road. So off I trotted for 2and half miles along the lanes with kayak in tow. Some funny looks that night! And into the village to meet my parents. We had already decided to camp here for the night and after meeting alovely lady and her friends in the bar my camp for the night was to be her lawn, thanks to everyone in the bar that night for being so friendly, especially Michelle for letting us camp in her front garden. Stoke Bruene looked like a lovely village an dthe lawn was extremely comfortable. Unfortunately the nights sleep was ruined by the druken walk home of some local lads who decided to talk about fighting very loudly for an hour at 2am. Although they did talk and shout a lot no punches were thrown, seriously you would have save time an dlet the village sleep by having the fight! it would have been over in seconds and everyone could carry on as normal! oh well suppose you get stupid drunks everywhere!

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Day 7 MOOOO!!!

Today was spent kayaking the Coventry canal and got underway nice and early with a 7am start feeling refreshed after a good nights sleep a shower and some great pub grub. As for the coventry canal itself it was extremely pretty with plenty of rolling fields and some bridges and.... well not much really, was a pretty mundane day didnt even see much in the way of canal side.
Was looking like a hard day of just head down and paddle with little to entertain myself and with England playing later everyone looked like they were staying off the canal in preparation meaning hours passed with out seeing anyone when thankfully the funniest moment of the trip to date spared me from boredom and let me enjoy a giggle for the rest of the day.
To date I have been attacked by swans and geese but finally today a new nemesis raised its ugly head. As I paddled along the canal a distant cow perked up and stared me down, I shrugged this off and carried on. Next minutet the cow lets out an almighty MOOOO and started to charge down the field towards the canal and my boat. Random I know. However the cow charged me and as I later found out they have smaller legs at the front compared to the rear and therefore struggle down hill. As the cow charged and hit the bank it stumbled forward head first into the canal with an almighty splash. As I picked up the pace and paddled past in tears of laughter I thanked the flailing cow for a humorous midday event. Thankfully the cow did make it out fine and unscathed but will think twice before charging me again LOL.

AS I pushed on it got to 5pm before I finally found a pub canal side which was open and serving so completely shattered having not eaten since 6.30am I tucked into a sandwich and watched the buildup to England v Trinidad and Tobago, and enjoyed a cold drink. As the match kicked off I was left with the dilemma of chill out and watch the game or complete more miles. After 15 mins of the match it was obvious what had to be done, so I jumped in the kayak and began to paddle, only to later find out I had made the right decision as the match had remained boring through out the 90mins, at the end of the coventry canal the Oxford canal loomed which would take me all the way to the Grand Union and onto London and here the first major sign post, 77miles to Oxford!!

With renewed energy from the sign I hit it hard and paddled further down the Oxford before sighting a nice patch of grass canal side which was full of moored barges in the middle of nowhere, so was nice and quiet for the night. Spotting a couple around from one of the barges I asked permission to camp in front of their barge and was pleased to not only receive a plot but also a cup of tea, a nice chair and some great company for the night with Alan and Hazel. Alan used to do a lot of kayaking as well as climbing with the army so we swapped stories over a cup of tea and chilled for the evening before passing out after a hard days work still chuckling at the charging cow.

Day 6 Deflated

After Garys great bit of work turning around the boss decision last night and allowing me to stay at Festival park, I got a great nights sleep and felt refreshed and ready to hit it hard in the morning. Having rushed to pack up my tent and loaded the kayak as to not outstay my welcome, I popped the kayak on the trolley and headed for water but nothing happened, the kayak just fell off, strange. I took another five minutes to load the kayak back on and again of it fell without the trolley so much as moving a mm. So off I trot to check the trolley to find a punctured wheel where a massive thorn had gone through the tyre!! Gutted! Without the trolley there was no way to get around the tunnels or flights of locks as the kayak was just to heavy to walk for 2miles dragging it or carrying it! At this point Gary was up and about and doing the morning rounds to check everything was ok with the marina and spotted my anguish. Amazingly he had an old bike repair kit and said not to worry. He shot off and came back with a pump, repair kit and most importantly a cup of coffee! Great news.
Having looked at the wheel we were both struggling to take it apart and access the inner tube. Now this is where I hold my hands up cos I am useless at anything like this!! Put me in a kayak and say paddle 320miles fine, but ask me to repair a punctured tyre no chance! Barry the marina owner then turned up for the day and thankfully was an expert at tyre mending and had the trolley up and working in no time! Although he was a whiz with tyres he didn't like cameras so the piccie is of Gary my other tyre hero!! Thanks guys for the help!

After the delay in sorting the tyre I set off a little later than planned but feeling good after a coffee and the fact that my trolley was now fully operational. Heading through Stoke was a pleasant experience as being a stokey myself was nice to see the development happening along the canal and hopefully pushing it forward into the naughties from what appears to still be the fifties! The canal banks were lined with the pottery houses which once made stoke so great with royal doulton canalside and numerous other kilns standing out.
Leaving an industrial rustic beauty to this stretch which was nice as it broke up the fields and green in a pleasant way. As I motored through stoke and downwards through more locks the oustkirt town of Stone was reached which was extremely pretty canalside and finding a lovely little Italian restaurant decided to park the kayak up and head in for the lunchtime special. 3 courses for £7.50!What could be better.Salad, Lasagne and chocolate cake with icecream left me feeling ready for the afternoon and ready to attack the trent and mersey canal hard and head for the Coventry canal at Fradley Junction, this would mean another 38miles done today.

Along the trent and mersey the monotony of paddling was broke by the presence of a lone cyclist Mick who had been paroling the tow path looking for a barge to buy. Mike slowed to my pace so we could chat away as he used to regularly kayak the canal here too before hopping on the river trent and playing in the flow. This is where I realised a couple of things, yes I was faster than the walkers and barges yet a lot, lot slower than the cyclist I had failed and chose the wrong mode of transport, I would have finished by now but then everyone cycles so at least is something new! And secondly why didn't I head onto the trent and use the flow to move me quicker? Oh well to late now. I was perked up when I noticed that thankfully I was the only idiot in England that was camping on the tow path and as Mick told me how he scoured the area with a metal detector looking for old Anglo Saxon treasure and was currently going through the process of selling a rare broach he discovered in the area to the British Museum the afternoon flew by. At school I was never really into history but I have to say Micks knowledge and stories behind what has been and can be found was most interesting. As Mick left me I realised it was only a couple of miles now until I reached Fradley Junction and tonight's camp. Once there the facilities were great a shower toilet and most importantly pub!This shower was great as it had been a couple of days since the last one and I don't mind admitting I needed it although this did let me know where was hurting as I relaxed and undid the good work my brain had achieved in helping me forget. Nevermind a lovely mixed grill and chat with some local bargers Andy and Janice in the pub soon made me forget my aches and an early night was in order.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Day 5

Last night was a great surprise I was expecting to be staying at Claire's house but unfortunately her mother was taken ill with flu so an emergency back up was put in to place to stay at Claire's friend's parent's house. Something I was extremely nervous about at first but with the prospect of a hot shower and a bed I was still excited. Upon arrival I met the family who were lovely and set me up with a lovely cup of green tea and some carrot cake whilst I fell asleep in the shower. It was a lovely evening followed by an amazing sleep awoken to egg on toast ready for another big day! After a great breakfast and a quick photo opportunity (had to get the new pipes in for you David! ;p) I thanked them for their amazing hospitality and set off again along the locks and onto the Macclesfield canal.

On the Macclesfield it was lovely to just have open canal and no locks after such a hard previous day! My arms were aching now and spasms were shooting through my forearms but on I pushed. Helped by the spectacular scenery and amazing smells from first the Hovis factory seen left and numerous mansions which lined the canal with such splendour!
One such masion which lay within the Queens
swan reserve the place of my first real danger on the canals. Until now I respected and adored swans due to their regal and majestic nature with such grace and beauty. But alas today I found out that they are cowardly and intimidating with a higher source of protection for their bullyish behaviour!!! Yes today a swan finally attacked me! Up until now I had paddled warily around swans keeping a safe distance but still enduring the hiss. This swan was no different to the others as I quietly glided past, but as I got ahead he pushed his head back and puffed out his chest mimicking the movements of my kayak thrusting forward everytime the boat moved. As I started to speed up so did the swan. Was this intimidation or intimacy? I was confused but very nervous as you can imagine! It seemed as I paddled quicker the swan had admitted defeat as it dropped back so I picked up the pace to get away and relaxed as I looked over my shoulder to see it 100m behind. As I turned to paddle forward my ears pricked up as a slapping noise thrashed the water as the swan ran across the water in half flight straight for me! It was the most intimidating and scary thing I have seen! As it neared in and dived its head forward I thrashed out with the paddle and caught the swan across the face. It backed off. Then came again this time another blow scared it off for good but as I delivered the blow this time my ears pricked up to hear an elderly woman at the edge of the canal scream out "You can't hit the swan it belongs to the Queen!!!!" as I hit the swan I thought fair play but this arm belongs to me and I want it to stay this way so forget the queen!!
After my encounter I just wanted to move forward and get back to paddling to forget the ordeal! As I moved forward I met a lovely boat of bargers aboard the Fifi so a big shout out to these guys!! They were well impressed with what I was doing and made great banter and helped me forget the ordeal as we laughed the story off together so thankyou fifi, hope you are still having fun exploring the canals!
As the day drew on into late afternoon it dawned how well the miles were building up and as I reached the Iron rich red waters of the Harecastle tunnel in Kidsgrove I realised I was well ahead of schedule. Push on I thought lets get over the tunnel and hit the other side tonight. Obviously with the tunnels there was no going through in a non motored boat especially seeing this tunnel was over a mile and half long.
After dragging myself out again the spot on staff at the British waterways office Harecastle put the kettle on broke into the choccie biccies and chilled out with me as I explained what I was doing.
The guys then took the time to explain the route needed to navigate the top of the tunnel apparently it was straight forward. Head up the main road find a park walk for 2 miles then head right at a round a bout then there you are, Easy!! Yet I was lost in Kidsgrove for two hours carrying my kayak through the town centre to many bewildered locals. Eventually a couple of kind locals pushed me in the right direction and I finally found the park and pushed on for the othe end of the tunnel.
As I raced for the right end of the tunnel with relief and excitement to actually be back on the canal and in the boat I raced across the wet path and down the path to slip and lose my balance to head knee first into the gravel cutting my knee and rolling down the hill hence the boring picture yet definitely important to illustrate my tunnel nemesis!!! I HATE TUNNELS! And swans!!!

Finally I made it back onto the canal and set my course for festival park marina which looked like a good place to camp for the night a little haven within the mass sprawl of Stoke on Trent. As I got closer the pain in my arms and shoulders told me how much I was ready for the rest but as I pulled up in my kayak the resident marina security informed me that I was not allowed to stop on the marina, my heart sank stuck in the middle of Stoke with no where to stay and darkness falling. I pleaded my case to who I learnt was Gary and as he realised what I was doing decided to check with his boss and allowed me to stay. Gary then was brilliant letting me out of the marina to eat and staying around to unlock the gate and let me back in. Thanks Gary.
Whilst out for tea I went to the Toby Carvery a lovely and simple meal and enjoyed a great chat with John and Gill Bailey, who had been narrow boating for 30 years who were lovely and really enthusiastic toward the cause donating money and circulating the information around the Caulden canal route. Thanks John and Gill hope you're well and enjoying the Caulden.

Day 4 Breakfast in the village

Day four and an early start after a goods night sleep in Boothetown marina and a hot shower mmm! Simple things in life! It was 7am when I hit the water and the mist was just clearing as I had the canal and the run to Manchester all to myself. The crisp morning air felt close as the clouds started to pile in and rain was in the air. As I neared Worsley on the outskirts of Manchester the sky turned black and there was a clatter of thunder in the air as lightening flashed down around me. This posed a very interesting question, What do I do in a thunderstorm? On one hand I am sitting in a plastic boat holding a carbon fiber paddle but at least low on the other hand the canal banks are lined by trees and beyond that open land and of course the obvious point is never walk under a tree during a storm! So am I safer on water or under a tree what to do?
I decided the best cause of action was to try outrun the storm so I picked up the pace as lightening touched down everywhere around me instantly followed by deafening thunder I pushed as hard as I could until the storm passed, looking back on the situation I have decided it would have been a great photo paddling through the lightening but probably not the ideal time to take one whilst outrunning the storm LOL

The scenery started to turn more industrial as the city approached and the aqueduct over the shipping canal offered a great view. As Manchester grew nearer the number of locks increased leaving me too portage around them draining energy and taking time. The main canal in Manchester runs straight through the city centre and through the gay village. The canal was beautifully kept but due to a large number of locks in quick succession out came the trolley and the walk was on. As I struggled to lift the kayak around the various locks and across bridges as the towpath changed sides many people offered assistance but alas unfortunately I had to decline as for the record to stand all portages must be done by myself.
As I struggled through the village a hotellier came running over to help and after explaining the situation he happily sat back and watched me struggle across the bridge. Bob was the owner of the Union hotel and pub/club in the village and quickly offered me breakfast to help refresh what must have looked like a wary traveler and frankly an odd one for the centre of Manchester. After parking the kayak on the dance floor I was whisked away to the kitchen of the hotel and set up with a continental breakfast and fresh water. Bob told me of his days traveling and was great company for breakfast, thanks for the food and support if you read this Bob will be back to buy you a pint ;p

Feeling mighty refreshed after a great breakfast the push was on for the nights camp which was planned to be Marple on the Macclesfield canal. As I trugged along the Ashton canal the biggest set back to date was just waiting. A bridge loomed before another lock so out I climbed dragging the kayak and heading for the bridge to discover the tow path bent back on itself as it crossed the bridge, there was no way a 15 foot kayak was turning this corner. Watched by barges and local walkers who chuckled as I maneuvered first one end then the other til the kayak was wedged well and truly in the U bend I gave up! Out came all the gear and the kayak was hitched onto my back so I could lift it over the railing and onto the grass above. The whole rigmarole took over an hour and made me hit a real low as the kayak was repacked ready for the next stint to yet another lock! Relief and some normality was reached when finally the Ashton canal and what seemed like 30 locks was behind me and the trek was on down to Marple along the Macclesfield canal. The scenery became more rural and the field sstarted to roll by as good mileage was achieved before the infamous Marple Flight was reached with its 18 locks, luckily I was only going half way down to the old mill where I was due to stay for the night canal side at my coarse mate Claires house. As part of the deal though I had to help with a girl guide treasure hunt and although these girl guides are hard work and mischievous I do have to say I questioned the leaders attempt at punishment on the girls!!! Good swing Claire LOL
I was well excited now day four and my first bed for a few nights and maybe even a little football should be a great night!

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Little Venice

Just a quick message to let all my supporters know that I am currently just outside London about 12 miles from the finish line. I hope to be in Little Venice tomorrow morning so I look forward to seeing any of you who can be there!

Thanks to all those who have donated so far and those who are waiting til I finish to donate!

I will update my bog with pictures of my journey soon!!!!

Keep watching


Thursday, June 15, 2006

Quick Update

I will be posting further details of each day when I complete the journey.

I am at Brinklow at present, no battery power to send more details.

Hoping to be in London at Little Venice on Sunday or Monday check out Myspace for more details.

Will try to post an update here on Sunday morning communications being well.

Hope to see you there at the end.


Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Day 3

Being as we were a day ahead of schedule we agreed that a more restful pace was needed today after the effort we had put in yesterday.

Mr Don made the day start right by bringing us an early morning brew. Is this hotel catering or what? Thank you Mr and Mrs Don!!

We sat and ate breakfast; tuna fish sandwiches left over from the goody bag, and planned the day. We aimed to reach Wigan where my mum could meet the old man and take him home in preparation for work the next day when my mobile phone rang. It was DJ Spoony from Radio 1 and I was live on the early doors club. Well done Spoony for calling!

Having completed the Ribble crossing, the most dangerous section, we packed away and loaded the kayaks for the days journey.

We set off at 8:00am, a very leisurely start compared to yesterday, and headed south knowing that there was a series of swing bridges to be negotiated. Undeterred by the need to get out and carry the kayaks around the bridge we set off waving and thanking Mrs Don for her kindness and hospitality. Thank you Mrs Don. Unfortunately Mr Don had gone to the village to get supplies and we had missed him

Surprise, surprise, as Mr Don was a lone figure waiting watch our departure. An act of great kindness I hear you say or perhaps we really did smell bad and he wanted us to leave sooner. Thanks Mr Don we really appreciated all your kindness and support.

Paddling down the canal the scenery was beautiful and we chatted to many people along the way who offered their support for the cause. We also decided to play ‘Swing Bridge Limbo’ an old kayaking favourite as we lay back on the kayaks to drift beneath the low bridges and secure a nose scraping safe passage.

The trip to Wigan was pleasant and quite sedate compared to yesterday’s adventures but we plodded on heading further south towards our goal.

We arrived in Wigan early and at one of the locks we met the ‘Wigan Lads’. They were brill. They chatted to us about the expedition and even volunteered to carry the kayaks around the lock. I, Dan, explained that it was not allowed for me but one lad helped me dear old dad. At his age he needs it! The lads were so friendly and were a pleasure to be with and we parted as friends. Cheers to the ‘Wigan Lads’. Sorry cannot mention your name Nayaim. Whoops I did!!

At Wigan Pier we encountered the high towpath. The towpath being at least 1m above the canal water level it was difficult to get out. Two guys in barges opposite must have wondered what was happening as they watched the sight of two bodies precariously balancing in their kayaks. As we clambered up onto the path they ventured to ask what our cause was and offered advice and a cheery support of the venture. They turned out to be Phil, the motorcycling vicar and Malcolm a guy who takes disabled children on similar outdoor adventures. Such pleasant people you find on the canals of England. Again thanks to Phil and Malcolm for their support.

Paddling on we headed for Leigh where Malcolm had informed us that a marina would make a good place to stay in preparation for the passage of Manchester and a place where the old fella would depart to return to work the following day.

After this night it would be a solitary journey until Friday when the old fella makes a come back. I may have to slow the pace again for him.