Age 11, Toby Booth has recently completed an epic kayak expedition to London from Harlow, 25 miles and 20 locks. Inspired by the world’s greatest living explorer, Sir Ranulph Fiennes and a recent visit to The Polar Museum where he learned more about the men of the heroic age, Toby decided to embark on his own adventure and to raise money for the Scott Negative Appeal.
Toby began his journey in June of this year, starting from Harlow Outdoor Centre but due to a number of setbacks he had to postpone the final leg until September.
Four older lads and two adults, both keen kayakers with coaching experience, took part in the initial paddle along with him. Toby used a sea kayak, as this type of boat is ideal for comfort, but it proved to be quite heavy and was difficult to portage at many of the locks. Some of the locks had extremely high banks and he needed help to climb down into his boat.
His intention was to complete the trip in a single day starting at 8am, but two of the group became very tired as were in smaller ‘play’ boats (which were unsuitable for the long journey) and another participant fell in when portaging. Heavy showers along the route also hampered his efforts. Initially disappointed, Toby still enjoyed the day and vowed to complete his plans.
On Saturday 20 September, Toby reached his final destination, Limehouse Basin at the edge of the River Thames in London. Using his own boat, which is a reliable and lightweight racing kayak called a ‘Couger’, Toby and Ant Wright, an adult volunteer who took part in the initial paddle, completed the journey.
The journey was at times difficult, but his experience and perseverance enabled him to reach his final destination. He was sponsored by friends and family and believes he may have raised up to £300.
A pupil at St Andrew’s C of E Primary School in Much Hadham, Toby is a member of Bishop’s Stortford Canoe Club and most recently won gold in the under-12 category last Sunday (June 22) representing the club in Leighton Buzzard.
Bridget Cusack, Museum Development Coordinator said
“We are delighted that Toby completed his journey to London. We are all impressed by his determination and achievement. Toby’s extraordinary generous response to the appeal proves how important Captain Scott remains in the national imagination.”
After hearing of the journey, Toby’s Grandfather recalled a piece of family history telling him that his own father had completed the same journey as a young man as a swimmer. At the turn of the 20th century, Harlow used to hold river swimming races, and it transpires that Toby’s great grandfather had completed a swim from Harlow to London, not in a race but simply because he enjoyed a challenge.