Jo recounts his journey below:
Day 1: It started with a really early start and we put into the water at Little Venice on the Regents Canal. The first shock of the trip was the water that resembled pea soup as a result of all the weed that had been nurtured by the hot weather! This made it pretty hard and messy for the first 7kms and at times I thought we were on a clandestine operation. Sadly, this part of the canal system has become a dumping ground and we had the constant need to manoeuvre around gas cylinders, trolleys and glass bottles. Surprisingly we didn’t come across any unexploded WW2 mines! Eventually however got through the soup and made our way up the Grand Canal to Berkhamsted. Few issues finding the vehicle but managed to get to our stopover by 10.00pm. 68kms for the day.
Day 2: All good but for a few aches from the previous day. Following yesterday’s slog, the first part of today didn't get much better and the high walls (as a result of low water levels) on the 27 locks in the early session, took their toll. At times it felt more like a Tough Mudder obstacle course than kayaking.
After some food to recharge the energy levels, the second session went better and we made up some of the lost time. Finally, we ended the day just south of Wolverton. The 30 degree heat had made it thirsty work and one can be excused for having a refreshing cold one at the end of the day. 113kms under the belt for the 2 days.
Day 3: A long old day! We had some kilometres to make up from the previous two days but two long stretches of 20+ kms allowed us to get some rhythm going and in the end, we managed to push through for a credible 80 kilometres.
We travelled through loads of locks again and even a 4km hump over the hill at Blisworth Tunnel (as they wouldn't let us through), but nothing 2 old soldiers aren't used to! Next, we passed over 2 aqueducts - it was an amazing feeling to be looking down into a valley whilst paddling overhead. This was in stark contrast to the 2km journey through Crick Tunnel with nothing but our paddles and a head torch for company; pretty narrow and certainly different. Our main concern was that a narrow boat didn’t start coming through from the other side as we had no reverse gear!
Helpfully (not) the GPS died on us which made life even more fun and we ended up doing the last 15kms in the dark - including a small run down the Welford Arm. At that time of night with only a head torch for light, we could be forgiven for letting our imaginations run wild. Finally got off the water at 11.00pm and managed to grab some hot food and a few hours sleep.
Day 4: Started off well and we were soon going through the Foxton Staircase - two groups of 5 locks each, which made for a lengthy portage but saved so much time compared to the Narrow Boats. Next up was the Saddington Tunnel and once again we are forced to hump the kayak over the hill to get to the other side. This time however there was an added twist, the so called portage route ended up being a cross country expedition that resembled something out of an old black and white safari movie. Kayak above our heads whilst negotiating twists and turns going down a steep incline back to the canal. To add to our fun, at the bottom there was only a 4ft long ledge for us to get an 18ft kayak back into the water! Initiative kicked in and after much huffing and puffing we eventually got back into the kayak. After cutting through Leicester City Centre, were we genuinely nearly got mugged during a portage, we carried on up to the mouth of the Soar River. Time for food and sleep.
Day 5: Finally, the last leg - a relatively easy 20km. We finished on the canal near the Clock Warehouse at Shardlow Lock. All that remained was one last 5km hump overland to Beechwood Park in Elvaston. We finally arrived at 11.25am.
And Finally: Jo would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has kindly donated thus far and ask those that have not yet done so to consider donating a small amount to a very worthy cause. Forego a Friday beer, skip the takeaway or this week’s manicure. Any amount no matter how small will be gratefully accepted.
You can donate to this worth cause via Jo's Just Giving Page.