Cancer Research is the charity as Abersoch Life’s Kevin Bell (and friends along the way) paddleboard from Abersoch to Poynton!
It had been a tough old time. Two old heroes, who had become particularly friendly in their old age thanks to their mutual love of their shared families and of sitting on the beach here in Abersoch musing on days long gone by, had passed away in devastatingly rapid succession. First my Dad, John Bell, from Pulmonary Fibrosis then Sally’s Dad, Malcolm Bennett, from cancer. Neither death was a tragedy – they both lived to a good old age – but it was a difficult period for all of us.
One of the ways I had found of dealing with witnessing my Dad’s illness and suffering was on my paddleboard. There is something about the repetition and calm cadence of the stroke, and the rhythmic glide of flat-water paddle-boarding, that encourages a particular kind of mental peace. In theory an activity which is not too physically stressful and, certainly in my case, involved long periods alone on the water, could have left a lot of mind-space for the worries and sadness to come creeping in. Instead time on my board cleared my head like nothing else, the fresh air and sound of the water lifting a troubled soul, creating space for clarity, contemplation and reflection on the good rather than sadness for what was lost. The pretty waters of the Macclesfield Canal that ran alongside our then home, and the calm bay here at Machroes at high water, became my escapes. The places where I could see the world through a prism that illuminated my world in a spectral feast of colour, rather than looking into mirrors reflecting the darkness.
So in summer 2017 I planned a modestly challenging enterprise to celebrate leaving my job for a different life here by the sea. To commute from our house on the canal to my office alongside The Trent & Mersey Canal in Stoke-on-Trent – AKA The Paddleboard Commute! Thirty five miles of canal in four days, dressed in a smart work suit and polished brogues. A JustGiving account was set up to raise funds for The Pulmonary Fibrosis Trust in memory of my Dad whilst me, and those lovely folk who joined me along the way, would carry collection buckets for Cancer Research. What actually happened was I got asked to stay to work on a couple of projects, The Paddleboard Commute took place on a frozen canal in the middle of December and, whilst the BBC were there to film the sun-kissed departure, what should have been a simple trip turned into a muddy, ice-bound nightmare. Much of it undertaken in the dark on those short days of winter when the constant deflating, inflating and portage of my paddleboard to get round the ice-strangled lengths of water turned planned five hour days into ten hour marathons. But hey, I’m still here and we raised over £2,000 for the two charities, so all good!
Which brings us to #thehometownpaddle – an epic 200 mile paddleboard odyssey by sea, estuary, river and canal that will take me from my new hometown of Abersoch to my old hometown of Poynton. Following news that daughter Sophie Stocks had the all clear following her skin cancer operation, the trip is dedicated to Cancer Research. And I would like the lovely readers of Abersoch Life to join me, and maybe help with the fund-raising!
Weather permitting, in the experienced company of Abersoch Watersports very own Phill Wood (and hopefully a few other local pros), we will leave the main beach on the morning of Saturday 15th June on a high tide (See Full Schedule at the bottom of page). It would be great if anybody who owns a paddleboard, kayak, canoe, dinghy or any sort of watercraft would join us, even if it’s only for the first part of the day to safely escort us to Mickey’s Boatyard Cafe where we plan to do a collection. Day one will then see us continuing round Bwlchtocyn, across Porth Ceiriad, around Cilan Headland and into Hell’s Mouth. Day two (Sunday 16th) takes us from Hell’s Mouth to Aberdaron and Day 3 from Aberdaron, through the dangerous waters of Bardsey Sound, and into Porth Oer (Whistling Sands). Those local pros (and hopefully an accompanying lifeboat crew) will be very much needed on those first few days in what are some of the most challenging tidal and sea conditions of the whole trip.
I then continue (hopefully with paddlers joining me each day – experienced sea paddlers are very welcome!) up the north coast of the Llŷn, through the Menai Straits, along the North Wales Coast, across the mouth of the Dee Estuary, up the Mersey Estuary and onto the Bridgewater Canal at Runcorn. Once we are on the canals anybody is welcome to join me along the towpath or (as we are now in safe inland waters!) on the water, as we continue through Manchester, out to Ashton and onto Marple. There #thehometownpaddle joins the Macclesfield Canal to conclude in my old stomping ground of Higher Poynton, from where The Paddleboard Commute set sail!
I will be posting a full daily itinerary and updates on my social media accounts and via Abersoch Life, so if you want to join me you will know where I am. Please just message me via Instagram to take part, or if you would like to donate please visit my JustGiving page. Wherever we are, look out for my support crew and overnight accommodation – the lovely Sally Bell in our bright green VW campervan.
The final dates will depend on how kind the weather is to me but all being well I should be arriving in Higher Poynton in the week beginning Sunday 7th July. I’m on my inflatable paddleboard again so if sustained bad weather kicks in I’ll be repeating the horror of deflating my board and carrying it along the coastal path – one way or another #thehometownpaddle will be completed!
Saturday 15 th June Abersoch > Hells Mouth. Paddle from Abersoch 09.45
Sunday 16 th June Hells Mouth > Aberdaron. Paddle from Hell's Mouth 09.30
Monday 17 th June Aberdaron > Porth Oer (Whistling Sands). Leaving 09.30
Tuesday 18 th June Porth Oer > Porth Ysgaden
Wed 19 th June Porth Ysgaden > Porth Dinllaen (Ty Coch pub)
Thursday 20 th June Porth Dinllaen > Trefor
Friday 21 st June Trefor > Pontllyfni
Saturday 22 nd June Pontllyfni > Caernarfon Bar
Sunday 23 rd June Caernarfon Bar > Bangor
Monday 24 th June Bangor > Llanfairfechan
Tuesday 25 th June Llanfairfechan > Conwy
Wed 26 th June Conwy > Llandudno north shore
Thursday 27 th June Llandudno > Abergele
Friday 28 th June Abergele > Rhyl
Saturday 29 th June Rhyl >Talacre
Sunday 30 th June Spare day
Monday 1 st July Talacre > Hoylake
Tuesday 2 nd July Hoylake > Birkenhead/Rock Ferry
Wed 3 rd July Birkenhead > Runcorn
Thursday 4 th July Spare day
Friday 5 th July Runcorn > Higher Walton
Saturday 6 th July Higher Walton > Dunham
Sunday 7 th July Dunham > Manchester
Monday 8 th July Manchester > Ashton
Tuesday 9 th July Ashton > Marple
Wed 10 th July Marple > Higher Poynton (arriving Wednesday evening)
or just Google ‘#thehometownpaddle Just Giving’
Twitter: @thehometownpad1 or search #thehometownpaddle
Facebook: Kevin Bell Abersoch