Darren Parkin, Ever Wild Outdoors’ editor and bushcraft instructor, will be the first canoeist to attempt a solo paddle of the Avon Ring this month.
The gruelling route through Warwickshire, Worcestershire and the outskirts of Birmingham covers 109 miles, four waterways, and 129 locks. Darren, aged 49, is planning to complete the route by himself in just four days.
Darren is picking up his paddle to raise money for both the Canal and River Trust, which is supporting the challenge, and for Cancer Research UK.
Darren’s parents-in-law were diagnosed with cancer within 24 hours of each other in April 2020, during the first national coronavirus lockdown. William and June Scott, of Nuneaton, Warwickshire, battled their respective illnesses and are on the road to recovery.
The solo canoe challenge will begin in the early hours of Friday June 18 in Darren’s home town of Stratford-upon-Avon. Initially going with the flow of the River Avon, Darren will then take the family’s Canadian canoe – known as “Gini” – upstream on the River Severn after Evesham. While this stretch of the challenge is the flattest, with only one lock to navigate, the oncoming flow of the river can be very demanding for a solo paddler, especially on a windy day.
The Worcester and Birmingham Canal presents one of the toughest stretches of the Avon Ring canoe challenge, with flights of locks and a number of long tunnels, including the 2.5-kilometre Wast Hills Tunnel, which Darren will have no option but to paddle in the dark.
The Stratford-upon-Avon Canal will see Darren on the home stretch of his challenge, as he tackles further flights of locks and a handful of aqueducts, including Edstone Aqueduct – England’s longest aqueduct at 145 metres.
The challenge is timed to coincide with the summer solstice, this year on Sunday June 20, so that Darren can take advantage of maximum daylight hours in which to navigate the 109-mile ring of rivers and canals.
Darren said: “As a family we enjoy day paddles on the river, and my wife and I took the canoe for 50 miles on a break along the River Wye, but I have never attempted this sort of distance as a solo canoeist, with so many obstacles to overcome.
“It is going to be a backbreaking, gruelling and epic challenge. I’m sure there will be blood, sweat and tears. But I will take strength from the inspirational way that June and William tackled their own cruel and arduous challenge in 2020, when they couldn’t even have a reassuring hug from friends and family. And I hope that we can raise a terrific amount for two charities that are very dear to so many people.”
Regular updates on Darren’s progress will be posted here on Ever Wild Outdoors.