Most people might find kayaking and rowing 25 miles up the Thames from Deptford to Twickenham quite tough – but 70-year-old former Bermondsey and Old Southwark MP Sir Simon Hughes said he hadn’t even had any blisters.
Sir Simon was one of twenty people who took to the river in kayaks from the Ahoy Centre in Deptford on a cloudy and overcast day last Friday, May 28. The challenge was to get to the White Swan pub in Twickenham, stopping at the Hammersmith Bridge to get into rowing boats for the second half.
The day was in service of the Change Foundation, a charity that uses sport to help young people in difficult circumstances improve their lives. Sir Simon’s group have raised more than £7,000 so far, with his own fundraising total at £1,910.
“Sixty-five people have contributed to my sponsorship, which is brilliant, of whom really impressively sixteen were people who have worked with me – so I clearly haven’t put them off too much!”
Sir Simon shared his two-man kayak with his friend of 40 years Paul Buckley, who is a consultant for the Change Foundation and grew up on the Aylesbury Estate. The trip was Paul’s idea.
“He inveigled me into doing this, and naively and innocently I thought ‘oh yes, this would be a good idea,” Sir Simon said.
He had been worried that his training programme hadn’t been tough enough. “I cycle a fair amount and I run a bit, I walk quite a lot – but in terms of the upper body strength stuff which you probably need for kayaking and rowing, I thought I might be lacking.
“I kayaked when I was at university and once in the House of Commons. I hadn’t rowed since I was at uni, so this was all a bit of a test of the old system.
“But I’m happy to say I don’t even have blisters. I’m very pleased with myself, it’s encouraged me to think that these things can be done. Perhaps I’m fitter than I think!”
The group travelled upriver but timed the trip so they were going with the tide. Sir Simon added that he found the challenge “really enjoyable”.
“You see all the different kinds of London architecture, and then further up the birds, the swans, wonderful trees, nature views. It was all a great adventure successfully achieved.”
When the group finally arrived in Twickenham, they had lunch at the White Swan. Sir Simon dedicated his efforts to his late father and grandfather, who were both brewers.
“In their honour, because they brewed beer for a living, I celebrated in good English ale.”
Sir Simon turned 70 in mid-May and celebrated with friends and family – including six godchildren – at the Grange pub in Bermondsey.
Donate to the Change Foundation fundraiser here: https://donate.giveasyoulive.com/fundraising/simon-tackles-the-thames