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  • St Andrew's

Paddle, Swim, and Kayak: Ben Covey's Inspiring Journey to Rescue Our Rivers

Last week, Ben Covey, a current parent at St Andrews, captivated Year 7 and 8 with a talk about his recent campaign to raise awareness about the urgent need for improved water quality in our rivers. The event, on the theme of communication, showcased Ben's partnership with River Action UK and their efforts to advocate for a rivers charter.

Together with former St Andrew's parent, Tim Wakefield, Ben embarked upon an extraordinary adventure to promote their cause. Starting from Lechlade on September 12th, they undertook a 237 km journey along the Thames, utilising various modes of travel: paddleboarding, rowing, swimming, and kayaking. Their ultimate destination was Tower Bridge, after which they successfully helped hand over a petition at Downing Street.

Tim and Ben communicated their message by engaging with numerous river user groups, sporting banners and custom-made t-shirts to spark conversations with people they encountered along the way, and garnered support from a paddleboard kit manufacturer, who amplified their message on social media. They also sought assistance from a PR agency, who organised interviews with local radio stations and newspapers. Ben explained:

"We wrote to every Member of Parliament along the Thames, and even one morning had the opportunity to swim with the MP for Runnymede, Ben Spencer."

During their journey, they carried out testing of the water to provide data, and discovered sewage and pesticides from farmers are the main pollutants in the river, along with plastics. They also did litter picks, during which they discovered packaging dating back thirty years.

Ben revealed his hardest moment was when swimming in the Thames at Henley as the temperature of the water was so cold. On the contrary, seeing kingfishers up close was a huge nature highlight.

Ben and Tim's petition managed to gain over 100,000 signatures and calls up on political leaders to protect and restore our rivers by 2030.

An enormous thank you to Ben for sharing details of their important adventure and to Year 7 Form Tutor and Head of English, Sophie Hearn, for inviting Ben to come and speak to our Seniors. She said:

“It was wonderful to welcome Ben Covey in to school to speak to the Seniors about his recent mission, raising awareness of River Action UK’s campaign for cleaner rivers. The children were thrilled and inspired by his adventure. What better way to show children how to communicate a message effectively through action?”


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