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The Big Essential Kayak by Ben Stoddart

The Big Essential Kayak by Ben Stoddart

25th September 2019

On the morning of Saturday 7th of September Essential Cuisine colleagues gathered at Sandy Lane car park to take on their 2019 summer charity challenge. This year the task ahead was a 12-mile kayak along the river Dee from Farndon to Chester! After a thorough(ish) health and safety brief we were kitted out and ready to enter the water, somewhat ungainly.

After half an hour of ensuring everyone was on the water safely, astonishingly we all managed to stay afloat! As a group we headed along the river…  “This is great” “What a lovely day for it” “Great fun doesn’t even feel like a challenge” phrases that were prominent at the start, less so by the end.

The kayak challenge quickly turned into an orienteering one. Unaware to our organiser several trees had fallen across the water creating a beaver dam, with steep banks either side and no clear path through, it appeared the challenge was over before it began. Bruce had other plans, with dedication to the cause Bruce started hacking his way through the fallen trees and single handily inspired the group to tackle the obstruction. With sheer determination, 40 minutes passed and one by one the group made it over the obstacle.

Sploosh! “Kerry and Wayne have gone in, I repeat Kerry and Wayne are in the water” the group all turned to help, not many saw what happened but the whole ordeal sounded rather traumatic. Whilst Kerry was back in the boat with a new partner in Neil, Wayne was left bobbing down the river! Laughter turned to concern as his life jacket was the only thing keeping Wayne’s head above water. Surrounded by boats Wayne was thrust back into a kayak, this time to partner Karim for the rest of the journey.

Time for a spot of lunch on the beach. Most people managed to get ashore safely, Rebecca chose to stay in the kayak whilst Sophie fell bum first into the sand. Harry was on the pork pies and jelly babies were being offered around. Barring the beaver dam and the capsizing incident, the group was relatively unscathed at the half way stage.

Harry and Heather started to slow, rumours of heavy drag from the crocodile were being passed from boat to boat and after the croc tried an escape mission it was time to deflate the reptile. A valiant effort from Harry and Heather! The group stayed together relatively well although as the bodies tired it was clear that Rebecca, Sophie and Ash and Bryn comfortably had the best technique as they effortlessly set the pace, a great example of teamwork on the kayak. Class clowns Rhys and Jordan were bouncing from side to side colliding with everything in sight, 10/10 for speed and energy from the factory boys!

Personally, it started to feel like I was wading through gravy (pardon the pun). The oar was getting heavier, the arms were waning, and after a minor blip concluding in me being separate from the kayak it started to feel like we were never going to make it to Chester.

The Jackie (river boat, not CCE) came past providing waves and entertainment but it was short lived as we just slogged ourselves further down the river. The group started to spread out, chatter was dissolving until a “Come on, you can do it!” shout was heard in the distance. A glass of prosecco in one hand a thumbs up in the other it was a real boost to see Julie cheering the group home!
Jelly legs, sore lower backs and damp bodies arrived one by one at the finish line. 12 miles, completed. Donations were still coming in as Essential passed the £2000 mark for St Luke’s Hospice, whilst the team enjoyed their success, Neil helped the man load the kayaks as if he’d only gone for a light stroll whilst others frozen still fearing body seizures.

We would like to thank you everyone who has already supported our big charity challenge. We are passionate about the work St Luke’s do for our local community. The palliative care they provide is vital for those in need.

You can still donate to the fantastic cause here: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/heather-wilde3

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