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109-mile solo canoe trip for Stratford dad will set a new record

Darren Parkin pictured this week on the Avon at Bidford preparing for his Avon Ring canoe challenge. Photo: Mark Williamson B32/6/21/8354. (48028281)
Darren Parkin pictured this week on the Avon at Bidford preparing for his Avon Ring canoe challenge. Photo: Mark Williamson B32/6/21/8354. (48028281)

DAD-of-three Darren Parkin is bidding to become the first canoeist to complete a solo navigation of the Avon Ring.

The 49-year-old outdoors instructor plans to tackle the 109-mile route to raise funds for two charities dear to his heart – the Canal and River Trust and Cancer Research UK.

Darren kicks off his challenge in the early hours of Friday, from his home town of Stratford and will follow the River Avon to Tewkesbury, where he will then take his Canadian canoe upstream on the Severn.

The gruelling route will take him through Warwickshire, Worcestershire and the outskirts of Birmingham, a journey he’s aiming to complete in just four days. His wife Jeanette – herself a stand-up paddleboarder – will be leading the support team, and will join him at various points on the journey on her board.

Darren said: “As a family we enjoy day paddles on the river, and my wife and I took the canoe along the River Wye for a few days, 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.”

Darren’s parents-in-law William and June Scott were diagnosed with cancer within 24 hours of each other last April and are currently on the road to recovery. Darren added: “I will draw 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.”

In order to maximise daylight hours, Darren has timed the challenge to coincide with the summer solstice this weekend, but there are stretches that he will have to navigate wearing a head torch and with bicycle lights attached to the canoe – the Worcester and Birmingham Canal has a number of long tunnels, including the 1.6-mile Wast Hills Tunnel.

The Stratford-upon-Avon Canal will bring him home, although there will be further flights of locks and a handful of aqueducts to overcome, including England’s longest, the Edstone Aqueduct.

Follow Darren’s progress at www.everwildoutdoors.com, the organisation he and Jeanette set up to inspire a love of the outdoors, regardless of age or ability.

To donate to Cancer Research UK, visit https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/avonringcanoechallenge. For the Canal and River Trust go to https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/everwildoutdoors1.

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