Roy will be paddling in a wooden sea kayak and as well as raising money for charity, he aims to raise awareness of the impact of plastics in the marine environment and to promote outdoor sports safety.
The Top Down Kayak Challenge will begin on 26 May from John O’Groats, the point at which Roy will set out on his gruelling 900-mile journey.
“I believe the route has been completed in the other direction three times,” said Roy, “but to my knowledge this will be the first ‘top down’ attempt and the first time in a wooden sea kayak.”
Roy is no stranger to kayaking, having grown up on the River Dart in Totnes, he was playing with boats and kayaks almost before he could walk. Then life got in the way and after a 30-year hiatus, he returned to kayaking in 2010 and began sea kayaking in 2013 when he paddled from Seaton to Land’s End in eight days for charity. In 2016, he kayaked from Tower Bridge in London back to Seaton, also for charity, this time it took him 21 days.
He’s also a support kayaker for endurance swimmers and was on hand in 2020 looking after Fay, who swam for 12 hours straight, and Oly – who swam the entire 96-mile Jurassic Coast in nine days. In total, Roy and his kayak have helped to raise more than £20,000 for good causes.
Without doubt, there will be many difficulties in his next challenge.
“I’ll be paddling areas I’ve never been to and experience can count for a lot,” he said.
“The North Sea has its own reputation, as does the Irish Sea. A lot of the Scottish areas can have interesting tidal flows and the Bristol Channel is well known for its potentially nasty currents. Even inland waterways can have their moments in inclement weather, especially Loch Ness.”
Roy will also have around 128 locks to negotiate across five canals and a river. “The North Cornwall and Devon coasts can be hazardous too,” he adds. “It’ll be about planning and not taking silly risks.”
Roy will kayak the east coast of Scotland to Inverness braving whatever the North Sea will throw at him. Once at Inverness, he will then paddle along the Caledonian Canal, across the cold deep waters of Loch Ness, emerging on the west coast at Fort William.
From there, it will be the fast tidal flows of the Irish Sea to Liverpool, before entering the inland waterways on the River Dee. Following the canal networks and its many locks to Sharpness, Roy will then join the River Severn, Britain’s longest river and largest tidal range, onto the Bristol Channel which is well known for its hazardous tide flows and currents.
The final leg will be the rugged north coast of South West England to Land’s End, before back-tracking one mile to land at Sennen Cove and, after living in a tent for the majority of this 900-mile journey, a proper bed.
Top Down Challenge has two goals
1. Awareness of the impact of plastics in the marine environment
Roy wants to raise awareness and educate about the impact of plastics in the marine environment.
“By kayaking the sea, rivers, canals and lakes, I can show the effects of this pollution in all waterways,” says Roy who will be keeping a log as he goes. He will be promoting organisations such as Keep Britain Tidy and Clean Jurassic Coast.
Clean Jurassic Coast is a Ferndown-based not-for-profit Community Interest Company started by Roy.
With a network of volunteers he and his team collect plastics and other litter from the beaches, footpaths and surrounding area of the Jurassic Coast, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Roy also works for the Ocean Recovery Project, part of Keep Britain Tidy. ORP collects the hard plastics found in the marine environment, which then get cleaned, shredded and then get a new life as things like picnic benches and fence posts.
With regular beach cleans every week, Roy has found all sorts ranging from 50-year-old washing up liquid bottles to the skeletal remains of fishing line entangled sea birds – a hard hitting reminder of why this challenge is so important to him.
“This trip should inspire many people to be more aware about the effects littering and poor waste management have on the natural world,” he added.
2. To promote outdoor pursuit safety
The second goal is to promote outdoor pursuit safety with Ocean Signal and Plan B Charity. Plan B was set up by the family of Dom Jackson, a kayaker who was lost to the sea in 2017. Dom’s only means of communication was a mobile phone stored in the rear hatch of his kayak and he was unable to access it when the weather changed and he got into difficulties. Plan B, along with Ocean Signal, promote and educate the importance of carrying a means to call for help whilst outdoors.
Ocean Signal is a leading supplier of life-saving solutions, providing PLBs, EPIRBs, AIS, electronic flares and other safety devices for mariners and outdoor enthusiasts across the world, including the smallest PLB, the rescueME PLB1.
“Whether hiking, trail running or mountain biking, kayaking, paddle boarding or out on a boat or yacht, the outdoor world is a beautiful but unpredictable place and just knowing you can summon help is priceless,” explained Roy. “Anywhere where there is a possibility for injury or changes in weather – are you able to call for help? Mobile phones don’t always have a signal but a Personal Locator Beacon does. Using the designated 406MHz Cospas-Sarsat satellite system, a PLB offers the best chance of survival when things go wrong.”
Ocean Signal has supplied Roy with a rescueME PLB1 and also a rescueME EDF1 electronic distress flare to ensure he has the best chance of survival in an emergency.
Roy added, “If you are a lover of the outdoors then both of the above must have struck a chord and although there is no specific charitable fundraising, I recommend donating to Keep Britain Tidy, Plan B Charity or Clean Jurassic Coast.”
There will be more information on this in the upcoming weeks.
You can follow Roy on social media at @top.down.kayak.challenge on Instagram or Kayaking For Charity on Facebook.
For further information or sponsorship opportunities please contact;
Roy Beal Tel. 07413406005
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