James Wight
Written by James Wight
Published on 12th June 2016
5 min read
Lizzie Carr’s 22-day, 400-mile paddleboarding journey mapped plastic pollution through England’s canals and rivers

Recently Lizzie Carr, an adventurer and environmentalist, undertook a 22-day, 400-mile paddleboarding journey mapping plastic pollution through England’s canals and rivers. Adventure Uncovered explored Lizzie’s motivators behind the project.

How and why did you take on this challenge?
I paddle boarded for the first time a couple of years ago during a break on the Isles of Scilly. I had been diagnosed with cancer not long before and thought a low impact, gentle form of adventuring would be a great way to restore my fitness and strength. It was a valuable part of my recovery and allowed me to ease back into being active whilst finding calm and time to reflect whilst on the water.

When I returned home to London I was keen to keep it up and tried it out on the canal at Paddington Basin, sometimes visiting spots on the Thames around Putney and Kew too. It struck me very early on that there was a lot of plastic pollution in, on and around the canals and river – I was saddened and horrified by the sheer volume. Whilst paddling I would sometimes get bags caught on my fin or around my paddle, and some places I’d see up to 50 pieces of plastic congregated in large patches. I felt compelled to do something about it and raise awareness of the issue of plastic pollution inland, and its contribution to the global problem. And from there, the idea of #SuperSUPEngland was born.

'There was a lot of plastic pollution in, on and around the canals and river – I was saddened and horrified by the sheer volume.'

Was the expedition planning largely impulsive, or meticulously planned over a long period of time?
I took on the idea and challenge at full throttle over a 3-month period. It was as much a personal journey as an environmental one. It was entirely self-funded – I was just waiting on permissions from Canal and River trust to cross certain sections of the waterways by SUP as in some areas it had never been done before – and when that was all approved I was off. I’m a #GetOutside champion for Ordnance Survey too, and they have been instrumental in helping me to plot and map the route I was going to take and we’re currently working together to make these accessible for anyone who wants to either try the full route or simply pick a section of it.

What particularly stood out for you when reflecting on the journey?
In some stretches of water – mostly the River Thames – there is a real sense of community built around it, from rowers and boaters to kayakers and canoeists. It would be incredible to develop that along the waterways and have people use our waterways more recreationally through activities like paddleboarding. I think that change in attitude could create a lot of positive relationships with our canals and rivers and encourage journeys that, like mine, make you feel incredibly protective of them.

For more information on Lizzie’s adventures and environmental work, visit her website here