Canoe challenge takes in top mountain pass

Canoe challenge takes in top mountain pass

A 600km canoe marathon taking in the Irish Sea - and the Lake District’s highest road pass - is about to be undertaken by an outdoor studies lecturer determined to make a point.

University of Cumbria’s Richard Ensoll will be setting off on June 22 in an open canoe from the South West coast of Ireland before heading to Dublin and then crossing 200km of tricky water dominated by busy shipping lanes.

The aim is to reach his Ulverston home via the town’s canal. Accompanied by fellow paddler, Tom Bradshaw-Dickinson, the two plan to finish at Tom’s Lazonby house, a journey taking them over 454m Kirkstone Pass.

University of Cumbria students are accompanying them on stretches of the journey and will help drag canoes over the steep mountain road. However, the Irish Sea leg will be unsupported.

Richard said that behind excitement was a fundamental reason for the three-week trip, explaining slow, challenging journeys had the potential to highlight environmental issues and find ‘meaningful connections with self and others’.

He added: “In times of environmental degradation and fragmented relationships, we hope this expedition will increase the understanding of what extended canoe journeys on our doorsteps might bring.

“Perhaps we can influence outdoor providers to do something similar with their clients, encouraging high-quality experiences which are local, low carbon and deeply connected to place.”

Both experienced canoeists, similar adventures have included a loop from Ulverston via a carryover Coniston Old Man, paddling down the Duddon Valley, around Walney Island, Barrow and across Morecambe Bay.

Richard said his canoe commute from Ulverston to University of Cumbria’s Ambleside campus was ‘a bit different’ and took a whole weekend to get to work on Monday morning.

The forthcoming mission brings its own challenges as the two face potentially high waves and tides in their exposed 17ft craft.

“With two long sea crossings, each one will need 20 hours of good weather,” he explained.

“We could find ourselves on the east coast of Ireland for a week waiting for the right conditions.

“It’s great to have the backing from our students and I look forward to sharing the findings of what promises to be a challenging quest on many fronts.”

The pair are expecting to hit the English coast at Walney around July 1.