Darren Parkin, Ever Wild Outdoors’ editor and bushcraft instructor, became the first ever canoeist to solo paddle the 109-mile Avon Ring in a record-setting four days and 10 hours.
The route through Warwickshire, Gloucestershire, Worcestershire and the outskirts of Birmingham covers 109 miles, four waterways, and 129 locks… plus a number of terrifying tunnels and aqueducts. Darren completed the circuit for charity in just under four and a half days in June 2021. Check out the video diary kept by Darren and his wife Jeanette, as the challenge unfolded.
Darren made the sterling solo effort to raise money for both the Canal and River Trust, which supported the challenge, and for Cancer Research UK.
Darren’s parents-in-law, William and June, were diagnosed with cancer within 24 hours of each other in April 2020, during the first national coronavirus lockdown. While William’s surgery was a success, June’s battle is ongoing.
Darren set off in the family’s Canadian canoe – known as “Gini” – from his home town of Stratford-upon-Avon. Initially going with the flow of the River Avon and portaging some difficult locks in heavy rainfall, the upstream section of the River Severn really sapped his strength and enthusiasm.
The more sheltered canal sections of the Avon Ring – the Worcester and Birmingham Canal and the Stratford Canal – brought their own unique challenges, such as lengthy tunnel paddles and long flights of locks that had to be portaged. Portage means to transport a canoe between navigable waters.