Blackboys woman completes seven-day kayak challenge

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Penny Humphrey, 65, from Blackboys and Sussex GP Dr Karin Olivier have now completed their challenging seven day kayak journey from the upper reaches of the River Thames to Teddington Lock where it becomes tidal.

The pair paddled a gruelling 125 miles to raise money for Echo - the Evelina Children’s Organisation - which funds research on heart conditions affecting people from pre-birth onwards.

Penny, mother in law of popular former Uckfield town councillor Duncan Bennett, said her husband died recently from a heart condition and she was undertaking the trip in his memory.

They set off on July 13 from Lechlade, Gloucestershire. Penny said: “We had no idea that the week would be the hottest for seven years - we were very glad of our Marquis motorhome every evening. The first day was exciting, at every bend the river produced new sights and wildlife, grey geese, Canada geese, swans, cormorants, cattle standing knee deep watching us go by.”

Slathered in factor 50 sun cream, the couple paddled 18 miles from Sandford to Wallingford on the third day and then hit their hardest day to the Reading Boat Club.

Although passing motorcruisers were considerate, Penny said some swished by at speed almost swamping the kayak in their wake.

On day five from Reading they headed through Henley days after the Regatta when marquees were being taken down and ended that night at Hurley Lock.

Penny said: “The locks are all kept beautifully and full of colourful flowers, the lock keepers very helpful.”

On day six they came into Windsor and met Becky Kelway from Echo waiting with cold drinks and a red balloon.

“It was great to see Windsor Castle and it dawned on us we were likely to make it to Teddington despite the heat and the aches and pains.”

That day they covered nearly 20 miles, followed by their final 20 mile stint to Teddington Canoe Club.

Penny said: “We probably didn’t do enough training beforehand, Karin working for a busy practice and me, well no excuse really! I did ask myself whether I was crazy to do this at age 65 and not particularly fit and I doubt I will do it again but the sense of achievement has been worth every ache and we are nearing our £2,000 goal for a very, very worthy cause.”