A fearless 14-year-old from near Peterborough has raised more than £7,000 for good causes by kayaking across the English Channel.
Emily Tolhurst, of Middle Street, Elton, braved the world’s busiest shipping lane in aid of the Nene Valley Care Trust, a charity which helps young people leaving care find training and jobs.
The plucky paddler, who was joined by her father Ben (45) and a support team for the expedition, had to contend with thick mist, strong tides, four-foot swells, as well as the huge container ships to complete the 28-mile crossing from Dungeness to Boulogne, doing so in just under six hours.
On reaching France, Emily said: “It was the most amazing feeling. I can remember I turned to my Dad and said ‘oh my god’. He said ‘we did it, I’m so proud of you’. I was so proud.”
She added: “When you are in the middle of the Channel, you see nothing but open sea and you think ‘how can there possibly be any land out here?’, but finally you get to it and think ‘this is so cool’.”
The Stamford High School pupil admitted the experience was at times nerve-wracking, in particular when she found herself in a misty shipping lane.
She said: “You could only see the outline of the boats.”
Remarkably, when Emily first set her sights on kayaking across the Channel she did not know how to kayak.
The youngster, inspired by her dad’s kayaking know-how and also a love of the sea (and Indiana Jones adventure films), had given it as “her dream” in her last year of primary school, only to be told by her teacher it could not be done.
She said: “I went home really, really upset and then a year later I took up kayaking and now I have proven her wrong.”
Moreover, Emily only began training for the crossing a couple of months before it took place.
She said: “I could kayak, not well enough to do it, but I could kayak.”
The impetus for Emily to pursue her long-held dream was, in part, a visit to the school by ex-pupil and British adventurer Sarah Outen. This came together with a wish to raise funds for charity.
She said: “I said to my Dad ‘I would really like to do something with the sport, not just be good at it’.”
In all, Emily raised £7,297.33 for the Nene Valley Care Trust.
The trust’s founder Priscilla Padley (73), who is Emily’s grandmother, said: “I am incredibly proud of Emily’s achievement and delighted that she, in completing such an enormous personal challenge, has raised such a significant amount of money for a cause that is so close to my heart.”
On Sunday, Emily presented a cheque to the trust, who in turn gave her a certificate of achievement.
More about the Nene Valley Care Trust - www.nenevalleycaretrust.co.uk