The Wey & Arun Canal is used to seeing visiting kayakers, but probably none like Dan Smith. The Army veteran was on a charity fundraising mission to kayak and walk the length of Britain in just 60 days, and when he reached the canal on Thursday October 18, the end was in sight.
Dan embarked on his epic Paddle of Britain to mark the 100th anniversary of WW1, setting off from Durness in Scotland on 29 August.
“Being ex-military myself, I’ve finally found a worthy cause to champion that’s got me laser-focused and super-motivated. With no surviving veterans left from the ‘war to end all wars’, I feel it’s more important than ever to remember those who paid the ultimate price for the freedom of future generations. My challenge is but a small token of my appreciation for their sacrifice.”
His epic journey not only involved paddling 720 miles of inland waterways but walking 190 miles, carrying his kayak and kit along the way when not in water and, as Dan aimed to be as self-sufficient as possible, camping, eating and sleeping in the wild. A specially-made harness and trolley was constructed to allow Dan to pull the kayak along on wheels when not in the water, a load that weighs in at 75kg.
The trip has tested every ounce of Dan’s strength and he admits there were times when he thought of giving up. One of the hardest points was at Rannoch Moor in Scotland, when he had to drag the boat over six miles of bogland and heather and against strong winds. “It was then that I started to think of get-out options,” he admits.
Frequently changing the tyres of his specially-built trolley was also a problem he hadn’t expected. “I had to keep asking for replacement inner tubes,” he laughs.
The reception of passers-by and the welcome of canoe clubs have gone a long way in keeping Dan going over the course of the nearly two months spent away from his wife and young children. “The main motivation is that this is a first and that I make a lot of money for such a good charity,” says Dan.
So what’s next for the adventure-seeker from Northumberland? “I will need another challenge, but I’ll have to let the dust settle with the wife first.”
Dan is expected to reach Littlehampton at 12 o clock on Saturday 20 October and is set to raise £14,000 for the Royal British Legion. For more information and to donate go to www.paddleofbritain.com.