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

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.


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