A girl of 14 braved choppy seas and the world’s busiest shipping lane in a kayaking expedition that has raised more than £7,500 for charity.
Emily Tolhurst, 14, who attends Stamford High School, paddled across the Channel with her father Ben on Wednesday, August 28.
They completed the 24-mile crossing from Dungeness to Boulogne in just under six hours and were accompanied by a second kayak manned by Peterborough Paddlers Club and a support boat provided by the Full Throttle adventure company.
The intrepid pair set off in a heavy mist from Dungeness Point shortly before 7am and braved strong tides and a challenging four-foot swell. They also had to avoid tankers and cargo ships in excess of 100,000 tons before arriving cold and wet at Boulogne harbour in the early afternoon.
Emily’s mum Niki said they got up at home in Elton at 4am on the day and made jam sandwiches and orange squash – supplies you are advised to take for a quick sugar rush and easy digestion in difficult conditions.
Emily said the experience had been nerve-wracking, especially being so close to such enormous ships.
“But once we crossed the shipping lane, seeing nothing but open sea was pretty scary too,” she said.
“Waves would crash over our heads occasionally and we were against the current.
“After about four hours the pain we had anticipated suddenly hit me and my hands ached from gripping the paddle.”
Mrs Tolhurst said they were very proud of Emily.
“It was very challenging and it’s a brilliant achievement,” she said. “The Full Throttle crew said it was the most challenging conditions they had seen all year.”
For Emily, whose father is an experienced kayaker, this had been a childhood ambition. She said in a Year 6 primary school project that she wanted to kayak the Atlantic.
Her mother persuaded her to downgrade slightly to The English Channel.
She began learning with Peterborough Paddlers at Ferry Meadows last year and this Easter decided on the challenge. Since then she has been training with her father on the River Nene. They also kayaked 20 kilometres around the Majorcan coast on a recent holiday.
Mrs Tolhurst said her daughter was not that great at the sport until she decided on the fundraising challenge.
“She then trained every single week and has become very good at it,” said Mrs Tolhurst.
“She will certainly continue and has already decided on a new expedition – to kayak to Holland in two years time,” she said.
From Boulogne harbour the Full Throttle crew picked up both kayaks and returned the party to the English coast.
Mrs Tolhurst said: “You’re not allowed to land. You arrive in the harbour and can touch the wall but that’s it, you then have to leave.”
The money raised is going to the Nene Valley Care Trust, a charity that supports young people moving out of children’s care homes. Emily’s grandmother, Priscilla Padley, a former magistrate and county councillor, is founder and chairman of the trust.
Emily will be presenting a cheque to the trust committee at a lunch in Elton on Sunday, September 29.