Dereham canoeists prepare to finish 40-hour anniversary paddle

Dereham canoeists taking part in a 40-hour paddle to celebrate their club's 40th anniversary are due to finish their marathon effort this afternoon.

Kingfishers, herons and a midnight near collision with a swan have all played a part in the celebration of Dereham Canoe Group's founding.

About 40 canoeists have taken shifts to ensure there were always at least three members on the River Wensum near Swanton Morley between 8pm on Friday June 22 to noon today, Sunday.

The celebration was the idea of 13-year-old club member Ben Greenstree, who noticed the upcoming anniversary while looking at the website last year and put together a presentation at its annual meeting.

The wind proved the biggest challenge for the paddlers, forcing them them to cut their intended course to one of about 1km.

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Speaking yesterday, Ben said: 'Last night when we started off we went to Elsing Mill and as we were coming back the wind was getting quite strong and we had to get a lot of power because otherwise we would have just hit the bank. It's challenging, but it was fun at the same time.'

Club secretary Lynda Turner started her first shift at 8pm on Friday, and was still on the water to watch the sunrise on Saturday morning, when she saw a kingfisher and herons, but an earlier incident with another bird proved the most memorable.

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She said: 'We had just gone down to Elsing Mill and we were turning around. I did not see the swan coming, but I heard it. I got as low as possible and it just skimmed the top of my head and the wing must have clattered on the boat. The adrenaline definitely kept me going up the next bend.'

The canoe club meets outside twice a week in the summer, and at Fakenham swimming pool in the winter. For more information contact or phone 01362 637153.

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