1 woman. 22 days. 400 miles.
Adventurer and Ordnance Survey #GetOutside Champion, Lizzie Carr, has completed the challenge of a lifetime: to become the first person to successfully stand-up paddle board (SUP) the length of England via its connected waterways, using entirely human powered means. The challenge also had an important environmental purpose, as Lizzie plotted and mapped out plastic pollution along her route.
On Sunday 5th June Lizzie reached the finish line of this 650km (400 mile) endurance challenge that had seen her paddle for 22 consecutive days to cover the distance – the equivalent of 15.5 back-to-back marathons. She was also carrying 30kg of equipment on her paddle board, including a tent and food and supplies.
Commencing from the most southerly point of the connected waterways network - Godalming (River Wey) in Surrey - on Wednesday 11th May, Lizzie travelled upstream through River Thames onto Oxford Canal before heading onto Coventry and Stoke on Trent canal. She then continued north to reach the Manchester via the Bridgewater canal before finishing in Kendal, Cumbria – the most northerly point of the connected waterways network – some 400 miles later.
Lizzie took up paddle boarding just two years ago after being diagnosed with cancer as a low impact way of regaining strength and fitness. She decided to take on this challenge after being appalled by the volume of plastic pollution in the canals and rivers.
Lizzie Carr said: "Paddle boarding the waterways has been the adventure of a lifetime full of challenges and unknowns but, more than that, it's highlighted how beautiful this country is and has demonstrated to me that we need to reclaim our waterways as an iconic piece of history to respect and cherish. Nearly 80 per cent of plastic pollution in the world’s oceans comes from inland sources, so focusing on cleaning up canals and rivers is where a real difference can be made to help to resolve the global problem of plastics choking our seas.”
Lizzie has captured over 1200 examples of plastic pollution on the waterways and seen everything from hot water bottles and traffic cones to dummies, plates, push chairs and trolleys.
Using a GPS system that geo-located her images and plotted them on a map Lizzie has already started to build a clear picture from her single journey across the length of the country (www.lizzieoutside.co.uk/plotting-plastic-pollution) that she will continue to add to. She is also inviting people to share their findings using #PlasticPatrol too.
“After being diagnosed with cancer the water was where I could gather my thoughts, seek comfort and find restoration. Paddle boarding was an important part of my recovery process and was where I found happiness and perspective during a difficult time. I feel incredibly protective of our canals and rivers and this journey was my way of giving something back and do my bit to help preserve them. Nature doesn’t need us, we need nature, so it’s important that the real and immediate threat we're facing from plastic pollution globally is looked at and addressed on local levels before it's too late.”
Lizzie’s feat of endurance saw her travel through nine counties and portaged 193 locks, as well as crossing 6km of tunnels and aqueducts standing over 25ft above the ground. She also confronted a number of challenges from unpredictable weather, as she paddled through torrential downpours whilst upstream on in River Thames and battled against headwinds and crosswinds reaching up to 18mph throughout the route.
Lizzie concludes: “There are so many adventures to be had without needing to travel to far-flung destinations. The UK has some of the most challenging and varied terrain that rivals almost anywhere in the world. It’s certainly not a soft option and the unpredictable weather means you just never know what to expect – I’ve had the greatest adventure of my life - and I haven’t left England!”
The challenge was tracked on Lizzie’s website (www.lizzieoutside.co.uk) and regular updates about the journey were post daily on social media (www.twitter.com/lizzo010) and (www.instagram.com/lizzie_outside) using #SuperSUPEngland and #Plastic Patrol. Messages of support have been received globally from as far as Australia, New Zealand and Africa and America.
Lizzie supported two charities as part of this challenge, WaterTrek and WaterAid, splitting all proceeds equally between them both.
Initial findings from #PlasticPatrol:
X 1662 plastic bottles
X 851 plastic bags
X 835 food wrappers
X 40 footballs
X 24 toys
X 16 shoes
X 9 lighters
X 7 dummies
X 3 chairs
X 2 plastic helmets
X 2 plastic cones
X 1 hot water bottle
X 1 bin lid