Three young men from Northumberland took on an extraordinary never-been-done before challenge to raise money for three North East charities to prove that dreams can become a reality.
Craig Leslie, 22, Lee Wilson, 20 and Stuart Leslie, 20, formed Land on our Left to help raise money whilst embarking on the first ever anti-clockwise kayak around the UK.
In order to carry out their expedition, the crew needed to raise money to support their trip. Using early Key stages they put on a gig at a local pub with a raffle and other fundraising ideas; they organised a 136 mile coast to coast cycle ride, managing all the logistics and risk assessments, for 15 of their friends, challenging them each to raise £100 sponsorship; and for stage 3 they organised another challenge to climb the combined height of the UK’s 3 peaks on indoor climbing walls.
The lads also managed to secure impressive sponsorship including a bespoke customised kayak each from Sea Kayaking UK, paddling equipment from Lendal, Reed Chilli Cheaters donated the clothing and the team were also equipped with mobile phones and tracking devices supplied by Trackaphone, allowing followers to track the group’s progress. They were all set to go!
On May 26th this year, the three young men paddled out to sea at Newbiggin Beach and turned left to paddle for what would turn out to be 96 long, hard days. The expedition was a first of its kind, as no kayaker had ever gone anti-clockwise around the UK. For a start paddling this direction has never been done before as it goes against the prevailing winds but it is also shrouded in the superstition of Widdershins, going contrary to the sun’s direction. As well as going in the opposite direction, the group were also the youngest team ever to complete this challenge.
The group paddled 2,600 miles through roaring waves, extreme weather, countless blisters and little sleep. They camped where they landed and usually had to resort to eating dried food stored in the hulls of their kayaks.
Lee said, “Everywhere we went we were always overwhelmed by the generosity and kindness of the great British public who would always want to hear our stories, often offer us fresh food and a hot shower and sometimes even a bed for the night. We’d like to thank everyone who has supported us.”
Stuart said: “The trip has been challenging and we’ve had some eye-opening moments, from almost being shot at when we drifted into MOD training grounds to seagulls stealing our food supplies, but we wouldn’t change it for the world.”
Tom Thomas, Land on Our Left’s facilitator said, “In facing the enormity of this challenge, what I have found impressive is the way they have broken everything down into manageable steps such as the fundraising, preparation, and of course the trip. The way that they have developed into young adults who can deal with any situation has been phenomenal.”
The expedition raised over £4000 for The Key, the Children’s Heart Unit Fund (CHUF) and Kidney Research UK, with all three charities having had some effect on each of the group members.
Now that the group have returned home they plan to launch their ‘Land on our Left’ organisation which will support other youngsters who wish to take up similar challenges and inspire other young people to believe in their dreams. Craig Leslie, said “We are keen to use our experiences and skills, especially those obtained from the challenge, to give something back to the local community.”