Liu Batchelor and Georgina White set themselves the task to conquer the Kent coast by bicycle, travelling from Dartford to Dungeness, while trialling as many different sport activities as possible on the way. A few weeks ago, Liu approached me to see if The Glass Wipe Board Company would be interested in sponsoring the challenge, which was a yes and for some strange reason, I offered my services and the BowlPhish Van as support for the weekend. This summary is from the perspective of a sponsor, to give you an idea what it was like to accompany and support the two on their way and throughout this challenge.
Friday evening, I collected the BowlPhish Glass Wipe Board van and headed over to Liu’s and Georgina’s to collect all the kit and bikes for the challenge ahead. It was at this point that I thought this challenge would be an impossible task for the girls to complete, for the following reasons:
- The types of bikes to travel the planned distance in the planned time were just wrong as far as I was concerned.
- The training consisted of attending some spin classes and using a static bike in the gym (that can’t be right, can it?).
- The route hadn’t been recced (what!).
I was beginning to think I should have got a bit more involved at an earlier stage. Oh, how they proved me wrong and I'm glad, I didn't stick my nose in.
Saturday started at 6:00am. The first job was to pick-up Trevor Clarinbold, our camera man for the weekend, and Mike, who was in charge of social media side of things.
The Conquer the Kent Coast Challenge itself started at 8:00am at The Pier Hotel in Greenhithe, when Liu and Georgina set off to cycle to Gravesend to attend their first sport challenge. They arrived at the Gordon Promenade, where they met Ken Maloney from the Dynamite Wheelchair Sports Club, to get an introduction to wheelchair rugby. The girls loved it; this was a good start to the weekend.
This was followed by 5 further sport challenges, which Liu and Georgina equally enjoyed:
- American Football with Bjorn Haynes and the Maidstone Pumas at the Riverside Country Park.
- Taekwondo in Teynham with Gary from TSA Taekwondo.
- Longboarding with the FAR Academy and Brent Lewis in Whitstable.
- Roller skating in Reculver with Graysen Hall from the Kent Men's Roller Derby.
- Pit stop at GB Pizza in Margate (just for the energy levels).
- Snooker at the Walpole Bay Hotel & Museum to finish the first day.
Unfortunately, Liu and Georgina weren’t able to try surfing with Dave Melmouth from Joss Bay Surf School, due to running out of daylight. This, however, didn’t affect anybody’s positive spirit.
To sum up the first day: Liu and Georgina cycled 70 miles in 6 hours and 6 minutes, with an average speed of 11.4 miles. They completed 7 different sport challenges, including cycling. I was impressed, because as far as I was concerned, they had achieved the impossible and were still smiling and had bags of energy left (This can’t be normal, can it?). I was Inspired!
For both Trevor and I this day ended quite late. Trevor was downloading footage until 1:30am and I felt lucky that I managed to get to bed at 12am.
Trevor and I arrived back with the girls at 6am and were greeted by a continental breakfast prepared by the lovely Jane Bishop, owner of the Walpole Bay Hotel, a quirky hotel, where it feels like you are stepping back in time (in a good way of course).
Liu and Georgina set off at 7:00am (on schedule) to Broadstairs, where they met with Dave Bennett and volunteers from the Broadstairs Surf Life Saving Club. First was a warm up on the beach, which was followed by several lifeguard drill tasks and a CPR task.
The weather was against us today... Thick fog (not great on the coast) and stormy weather forced the paddle boarding from Samphire Hoe to Folkestone to be cancelled, only for us to arrive in Folkestone and to find out the sailing was going to be a no go, as there now was no wind! But they did manage to sup around the groin. Welcome to the Kent coast with its forever changing climate and weather conditions.
There were more challenges to be completed that day:
- Pickleball, a lesser known American game resembling tennis, with Martin and members of the Thanet Pickleball club.
- Ali Gardner McGuirk gave them an introduction to golf (in the rain) at the Prince's Golf Club in Sandwich.
- In Deal they met Barry Gibbs at Deal and Sandwich Shooting School for some clay pigeon shooting.
- Tony King from Dover Channel Training introduced them to open water swimming in Dover.
- A round of tennis on the Leas, with Chris Holland and members of the Folkestone Tennis club was another highlight.
The last stop before our final destination was Varne Sailing Club, where we found out on route that the sea had disappeared, so Zalan came up with an alternative, which was ‘Land Yachting’, The down side was there was no wind, so the girls had to drag each other across the sand. Luckily they only had a 15 minute ride to their final destination.
They arrived at the Black Lighthouse in Dungeness at 7pm that evening bringing their total millage for the weekend to 129 miles, and only 30 minutes behind schedule (amazing), which considering everything that was thrown at them that day, was a tremendous achievement.
The enthusiasm and happiness Liu & George projected was amazing and never faltered. I was also super impressed with all the clubs, that had gone out of their way to meet and show them what they were all about. Some of them hanging around for an extra hour, waiting for us to arrive and then greeted them with open arms. They all couldn’t wait to show the girls how passionate they are about their sport clubs.
If I had to sum up my weekend in one sentence it would be:
‘Impossible, crazy, inspirational and how did they do it?’
To donate please go to www.alongsideafrica.org/conquerthekentcoast