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The Four Cities Challenge - Archives

Wednesday, 1st May 2002


The Four Cities Challenge - Archives Written By Andy Oughton A group of seven young paddlers from PaddlePlus Canoe Club (based at Leicester Outdoor Pursuits Centre) spent the late May bank holiday weekend on the rivers and canals between Leicester, Derby, Nottingham and Lincoln. The 104-mile paddle was the first long distance venture the youth section has undertaken.

The idea to participate in a distance event grew out of last summer’s annual Wye Camp over the August Bank Holiday. Many of the younger paddlers expressed an interest in the Boy’s Club 100-Mile Canoe Test. Training and fundraising started in the Autumn with some longer themed paddles (Hot Potato Paddle, Pancake Paddle etc.) designed to stretch the young paddlers endurance and to get them thinking and working as a team. The paddles proved popular with all club members, sometimes attracting over 30 kayaks and open boats. In the final stages of planning to join the 100 Miler it became apparent that the group lacked enough bank support and transport. Rather than postponing the entry for a year, it was decided to have two of the group’s leaders act as bank support instead of paddling, and Adam Brewster, the group’s most experienced distance paddler, planned this alternative 100-mile route local to the club’s base in Leicester.

So it was that a compact group of seven lads and one young lady, aged between 13 and 17, and one parent (slightly older) put onto the River Soar at Birstall with Adam leading them off. A fleet of Green Arcadias had been borrowed from Holme Pierrepont club for the trip and LOPC’s crew bus, provided the wheeled backup. ‘Base camp’ was to be a movable feast, giving the bank support plenty to do each day.

The first day’s paddle of 22 miles to Ferry Farm Camp Site Thrumpton, on the bank of the River Trent on the outskirts of Nottingham, was more than most of them had done in a day, but they made good progress on an overcast and drizzly day. Various rendezvous had been arranged including a lunch stop for hot dogs.

The start of the second day was early, the trailer having been loaded with boats the night before, the group set off for Darley Abbey to paddle down through Derby (the second city) on the River Derwent and rejoin the Trent through Nottingham (third city) to Holme Pierrepont for the night, a distance of 29.5 miles. It proved to be a long day for some of the paddlers who all managed to find reserves of endurance and grit to keep them going.

The lunch-stop of a riverside BBQ, an afternoon game of grab the chocolate hanging from the bridge and the ice cream van on the steps of the Trent, in the centre of Nottingham, provided distractions from the days grind. The promise of hot showers and an evening meal in the local pub lured the group to the days finish.

Day three at ‘only’ 21.8 miles was to be the ‘easy day’ of the trip and spirits were up, the improvement in the weather was holding out. The bank support had trouble gauging the progress and missed the morning rendezvous but caught up with the group in time for lunch. The last night of the trip was spent just outside Newark at Smeaton’s Lake camp site alongside the old cause of the Trent.

Day four was the longest paddle of the weekend at 31.5 miles. The mornings launch was a subdued affair with the previous three days effort having a telling effect. The group got off to an early start and made good progress on the wide flowing Trent. Adam was pleased that the courtesy and willingness of the BW lock keepers was in abundance. The Keeper at Cromwell locked them all through and radioed on to Torksey to expect the group for a late lunch stop. The last 10 miles of the trip were on the contrasting water of the Fossdyke Canal to the centre of Lincoln (the fourth and final city of the trip).

There was no disguising the fact that the group were very pleased to paddle into the marina in the heart of Lincoln. They had all individually faced doubts and difficult patches during the paddle, but working together they had overcome them and got to the end. The endeavor has had a very positive effect on the PaddlePlus Club as a whole, getting out and covering more water, setting and achieving targets and generally producing a buzz about the clubhouse.

Already we’re talking about what to do next year and encouragingly, more adults are offering to assist in the logistics of such trips. The club would like to offer a big thank you to Adam Brewster who planned and lead the ‘Four City Challenge’, the backup crew (who hope to paddle next year!), Pierrepont and LOPC who lent us kit, and finally the paddlers who completed the challenge (who want to do backup next year!).

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