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Bristol to London on a SUP - The State of Our Rivers

It was a privilege to spend the last ten days supporting three young ladies (@annekafrance @harrietalvis and @beckiikirsty) and two dogs paddling Stand Up Paddle Boards (SUP) from Bristol to London. A number of ‘Guest Paddlers’ joined on some days and some stayed for longer! I think the team will forgive me for saying that for the most part anyway, they left Bristol really as SUP novices. Work pressures left little time for training but they showed great drive, grit and determination in paddling 260km in less than ten days and negotiating 106 locks along the River Avon, Kennet & Avon Canal and the River Thames.

The purpose of the trip was to highlight the state of England’s Rivers ahead of #WorldRiversDay on 26 Sep 21 prior to the release of a Rivers Trust report about ‘The State of our Rivers’. This adventure was made possible by the generosity of NRS Europe and Escape Watersports who provided equipment including the SUP boards and advice. Supporting technical data was gathered by Proteus Instruments.

Tip Toe’s role was onshore coordination and safety. This included monitoring of the weather, tides, sunrise and sunset, moon rise and moonset, navigation issues and warnings, tracking and monitoring Speed Of Advance (SOA) to ensure daily goals were reached and the team could be off the water before sunset each day. Key information for the next day was prepared and distributed to the Group using Whats App and email; the associated document called the ‘Daily Gust’ became very popular.

Whilst it was disappointing for the Team to see evidence of some Canal Barges and Liveaboard vessels ditching waste into the waterways, people’s generosity and support along the way was much appreciated. A family near Marlow provided a room for the night and transport to and from the river, accommodation and very welcome hot showers were provided by @AlbanyOutdoors at Kingston Upon Thames. Cups of tea were provided by couples living on Barges along the way.

Probably due to the lack of rainfall, the river flow in the Thames did not provide the extra push anticipated – this meant harder paddling in the last few days. The team finally entered the tidal Thames with some trepidation after hearing stories about how challenging the tidal Thames can be but the weather could not have been kinder. With light following winds, the team paddled the ebb tide to the finish at Putney Bridge.

Go and enjoy your local rivers! Report any pollution you see. In the UK this should be to the Environment Agency in England (0800 80 70 60), Natural Resources Wales (0300 065 3000) or the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (0800 80 70 60). Those boating and using the tow paths, please leave only footprints (or ripples), take your rubbish with you and only deposit trash at approved collection points.

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Great effort raising the profile of the state of our rivers.

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