Army veteran Dan Smith has ended his epic Paddle of Britain challenge in Littlehampton with a rapturous welcome on the beach.
The heroic kayaker’s charity mission has raised around £15,000 for the Royal British Legion and 39-year-old Dan said the support throughout had been incredible.
“I’ve done it. Paddle of Britain complete. Feeling totally amazing and so proud of kayaking and trekking almost 1,000 miles over 53 days,” he wrote on his Dan Smith’s Paddle of Britain Facebook page.
The final leg of his journey from the top of Scotland to the bottom of England took him along the Wey and Arun Canal, which he reached on Thursday, and ended in Littlehampton on Saturday.
Volunteers there said they were used to seeing visiting kayakers but probably none like Dan, who served 14 years in the Army and wanted to mark the centenary of the First World War in a special way.
Dan said: “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.”
Paddle of Britain started in Durness on August 29 and involved paddling 720 miles of inland waterways, as well as walking 190 miles, carrying the kayak and kit using a specially-made harness and trolley.
Dan said the trip tested every ounce of his strength and 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, walking against strong winds.
He admitted: “It was then that I started to think of get-out options.”
Frequently changing the tyres of his specially-built trolley was also a problem he had not expected and he had to keep asking for replacement inner tubes.
Dan, from Seahouses, Northumberland. said the reception of passers-by and the welcome of canoe clubs helped and the main motivation was that it was a first, making a lot of money for charity.
Visit www.paddleofbritain.com for more information and to make a donation.