|5 Sep 2022|
A future Pangbournian travelled the length of the River Thames on a kayak in eight days.
Nico Hartwright, 13, from Goring, began at Lechlade in Gloucestershire and finished in Teddington Lock in London after spending 12 hours a day on the water.
His stepfather Ben Ward, 50, and stepbrother James Ward, 19, accompanied him in a Canadian canoe on the 125-mile journey.
They carried two tents, luggage, camping equipment and food so they could camp each night.
Nico, a former Moulsford Prep School pupil who will start at Pangbourne College this month, has been kayaking for five years and trains two or three times a week.
He decided to take on the challenge for something to do during the summer holidays.
Nico said: “I had no idea what it would be like. When we started, I didn’t know if we were going the right way.
“Then we thought we weren’t going to make it because the first lock was closed and the lock-keeper didn’t open it so we had to portage round it. It took us 20 minutes to pick up all our stuff and go round. We wouldn’t have been able to do that at all the 43 locks. Luckily, it was the only one that was closed.
“It was also very hot and that killed me — I really don’t like the heat. At times I wanted to stop but after three or four days I thought, ‘I’ve come this far’ and I just wanted to finish.”
On the first night, they slept at Oxford Donnington Bridge and ordered takeaway pizza for supper and on most days, they would stop at a pub close to where they had pitched their tents in order to have hot food.
On the fourth day, they stopped in Benson, which was close enough to home for them to be able to spend the night in their own beds and have a shower. When they reached Streatley, family and friends were waiting for them at the Swan to have lunch with them.
On their final day, there was torrential rain and lightning and they had to take cover under Kingston Bridge until they could continue.
Nico said: “We weren’t worried and it cooled us down, which was very nice.”
His mother, Kate Hartwright, 51, and his sister Lola, 11, waited for them at Teddington Lock to take them home.
Nico said: “Once I saw the finish, I thought, ‘Finally, I can go home and sleep in’. I’m happy it’s over. I feel proud of myself and maybe one day I’ll do it again.
“My mum is very happy with me and my grandparents called me to congratulate me too.”
Ms Hartwright said: “I had no idea how huge this challenge was until the third day when I googled it.
“I was a bit worried at first but Nico was extremely safe with Ben and James and they were never more than an hour away from home until they got to London so we visited them on a couple of evenings where they had pitched their tents.
“I am absolutely blown away by Nico’s focus, determination and resilience — it’s incredible at just 13 years old. I am so proud of all three of them. They all played a part and couldn’t have done it without each other. It was a real team effort.
“When Nico came home for the night, it was amazing seeing him getting up at 5am to get ready to set off again because he usually gets up at 10am and plays X-box like a typical teenage boy
“It’s a well-known challenge so we’ve contacted Guinness World Records to see if he is the youngest to have completed it.”
In February, Ms Hartwright became one of only 600 people to complete the “ice mile swim”. She had to swim one mile in water of less than five degrees Celsius while wearing only a swimming costume, goggles and a silicone swim hat. The endurance challenge was ratified by the International Ice Swimming Association.
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