Land’s End to John o’Groats is a famous challenge with cyclists, hikers and runners, reaching from the southernmost tip of Cornwall to the northernmost point of mainland Scotland – the entire length of Britain. It has never been attempted before on a SUP.
And possibly for good reason! The route will take in over 1,000 miles of paddling, coastline facing every direction, exposed to wind, ocean swell and tidal races around innumerable headlands. For the last few years I have been building up to this challenge; it’s been the one always at the back of my mind – four months of challenging paddling, camping on beaches and eating mostly rice.
Why? – To connect people throughout Britain to the issue of plastic pollution. I want to highlight that in the UK we are never too far from plastic affecting our waterways and coastline. Eight million pieces of plastic enter the ocean each day. It is estimated that by 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish by weight.
Plastic pollution has received a lot of press recently, and big steps are being taken to help reduce its impact, but we need to continue this momentum in order to effect long lasting behavioural and policy change. The majority of plastic pollution is single use plastic items such as packaging which is used for a matter of minutes before being discarded. Since 80% of marine litter originates from land-based sources, the more we use on land, the more has the potential to contaminate the ocean. By incorporating some canal and estuary paddling as well, I hope to strengthen the connection between plastic pollution in land and that in the ocean, documenting its potential to head out to sea down inland waterways.
We can all be a big part of the solution. In the UK we use 38.5 million plastic bottles every single day. Switching to a refillable water bottle and refusing to buy plastic water bottles will have a huge impact on the amount used on land. There is a growing movement of individuals, charities, businesses and communities who care deeply enough about this problem to be making changes to the single-use plastic we use on land. Collaboratively this is making waves and putting pressure on governments and companies to follow suit.
I hope to bring some positivity and to highlight solutions to the plastic pollution crisis – to grow the number of voices demanding that we stop using so much unnecessary plastic. The Surfers Against Sewage Plastic Free Coastlines campaign is making huge steps in local communities to reduce demand for single use plastic, exercising our pride at being able to come together as a community to protect the environment. I’m looking forward to linking up with these groups the length of the country. To join the resistance against single use plastic, or to get involved in your local Plastic Free Coastlines community, visit www.plasticfree.org.uk
People protect what they love
We are blessed with some incredible coastline in the UK. I hope that by helping to reconnect people to the beautiful outdoor spaces surrounding our island, we can nurture a desire to protect them. The oceans sustain our life on Earth with the oxygen they produce, and we simply cannot afford to be destroying them at the rate we are. Our lives and choices on Earth are so intrinsically linked to the natural world.
I will have a live tracker so you can follow my progress, and hope to have people join me at beaches along the way for mini beach cleans and to talk about how we can all be part of the solution. I will also be welcoming any food parcels! I aim to use no single use plastic on the trip, this is going to be a challenge in itself, and I’ve been busy making four months of rations – I look forward to seeing how that goes!
From previous expeditions I know how tough this trip is going to be. It’s a blooming long way, and a long time to maintain motivation and perseverance, especially in our famous UK ‘summer’ weather, which can turn ugly at the drop of a hat. My friends and family have always pulled me through my previous expedition hardships, when my brain and body power is depleted from constant battling through wind, currents, swell, cold, rain, fog, hunger … they’ve always offered whatever support they can, physical or emotional. This expedition is in memory and in honour of my closest friend, and biggest fan, who at the end of last year lost her battle with depression. I will be raising funds for Vetlife, a charity very close to her heart, and the Samaritans, both of whom offer invaluable lifelines in times of difficulty.