Cast your mind back to May 18th this year... I doubt you'll have any memory of its significance so let me tell you. It was the day I successfully completed my attempt to become the first solo female in history to paddle board across the English Channel.
I refused all kind offers of financial or charitable donations for the cause I was supporting and, instead, asked for something else, redeemable later in the year. Your time.
And now that moment has arrived.
Don’t worry, I know its precious commodity and something we all guard closely - and rightly so. It's one of the few things in life that money will never be able to buy us. I understand the importance of valuing it and using it wisely, so believe me when I say I wouldn't have asked for this trade off if I didn't feel it was necessary.
All I am asking is for you to spare one hour of your schedule this summer. One hour. And join me on a #PlasticPatrol clean up somewhere around the country (all locations can be found here: www.plasticpatrol.co.uk).
I’m aware that asking you spend the time you're giving up litter pick other people’s rubbish is always going to be a tough. It's dirty work, I agree, but the problem really is so big, and there is so much that I just can't do this on my own.
Hopefully what I'm proposing will sweeten the deal a little for you so please hear me out...
If you sign up for a space on the #PlasticPatrol clean ups you'll be allocated a paddleboard for a one hour taster session - completely free. I’ll be at every session and on hand to show you the basics of paddling if you need it. Once you’ve got the hang of it (trust me, you will) you can crack on yourself, have some fun and do a little plastic picking.
You don’t need to worry about brining anything with you (apart from a change of clothes, maybe!). The wonderful guys at Canal and River Trust are supplying litter pickers AND helping to facilitate the removal of any waste when we're done, so all you need to do is book a place, turn up and get stuck in.
It really is that simple. No catch whatsoever.
And if you have your own paddle board / canoe / kayak or form of water craft then feel free to bring it along and get involved too. Anyone who wants to join us on the water or from the towpaths is absolutely welcome - the more the merrier.
I have taken the decision to give up every weekend of my summer to run these sessions because it means a lot to me. Although it's been entirely my choice it has meant sacrificing some pretty important events including my brother’s engagement party (sorry David) and my lovely friend’s wedding (sorry Charlotte). Luckily I am surrounded by love and support for what I'm doing and they understand why taking this #PlasticPatrol series around England is important to me, and the determination I have to give something back to the places so close to my heart.
When I reflect on my own journey it all started by picking up a paddle and having a go on a trip to the Isles of Scilly three years ago. I was two weeks out of radiotherapy treatment- weak, tired and unstable in every sense of the word - but having seen someone on the water paddle boarding I really wanted to try it. As soon as my paddle hit the water something just clicked for me and I was hooked.
It was only when I returned to London and found myself paddling down Regent’s Canal that I started to see another, less addictive, side to it. I was so utterly horrified and appalled by the sheer volume of plastic I was witnessing and the impact it was having on wildlife that I made a promise to do anything I could to help highlight the issue and take action against it.
I had no idea what that action looked like but I was tired of the moaning and complaining and reached a point where I had to think about tangible actions that I could do personally to improve things. Just because it’s not my rubbish it doesn’t mean I’m not going to pick it up. The world is my playground, nature is my happy place and the waterways have become my restoration – ignoring the situation wasn’t an option in my mind.
Over this summer if I can encourage you lovely people to come and join me for some paddling fun (all levels and abilities welcome – that’s the beauty of SUP) I'll consider that a success. If anyone then decides to take up SUP and falls in love with our beautiful waterways the way I have, feeling that same protective sense that I do then it'll be another step in the right direction to saving our planet from the catastrophic impact of plastics.
Please pledge your support and get involved. If you'd like to volunteer to help run any of the days instead that would also be a huge help - I'd love an extra pair of hands :-)