Friends take on 12km canal caper in a pedalo to help raise funds and awareness for a Warwick-based children's charity

The challenge took them 11 hours to complete and they had to negotiate 27 locks along the route

Wednesday, 14th July 2021, 11:29 am
Updated Wednesday, 14th July 2021, 11:30 am

A less familiar vessel was spotted along a stretch of The Grand Union Canal yesterday – but it was all in the name of a good cause.

Friends Alex Pearson from Stratford and Emma Brayne from Warwick were joined by two canine companions as they travelled almost 12km – and negotiated 27 locks - in a pedalo for Molly Olly’s Wishes.

The pair, who had trained for the 11-hour challenge, pedalled from Radford Semele to Hatton Locks, to boost funds for the charity, which suffered a huge blow to its fundraising efforts throughout the pandemic.

Left to right: David Fletcher, Alex Pearson, Rachel Ollerenshaw, Lee Webb, Emma Brayne and Adam Brayne. Photo supplied
Left to right: David Fletcher, Alex Pearson, Rachel Ollerenshaw, Lee Webb, Emma Brayne and Adam Brayne. Photo supplied

They were supported by Alex’s friend David Fletcher and Emma’s husband Adam Brayne who acted as lockkeepers along the route.

Alex, a community champion at Morrisons in Leamington, said: “It went quite well considering all the locks and the length of the journey.

“Our main aim is to raise money and awareness for the charity but have some fun doing it. We had a lot of laughs on the way.”

The pair were joined by Alex’s dogs Archie and Chester – at least for most of the route.

Emma, Alex, Archie and Chester. Photo supplied

“The dogs were really good but we had to keep an eye on them and Archie did have a little dunk in the water half way through. But apart from that it all went very smoothly,” added Alex.

They were also grateful for all impromptu donations and messages of support they received en route, including from Warwick mayor Richard Edgington.

Molly Olly’s Wishes was established in 2011 following the death of Rachel and Tim Ollerenshaw’s eight-year-old daughter Molly from a rare kidney cancer.

The Warwick-based charity works to support children with terminal or life- limiting illnesses and their families and help with their emotional well-being as well as grant wishes and donate therapeutic toys and books to both children directly and to hospitals throughout the UK.

Alex Pearson, Rachel Ollerenshaw and Emma Brayne. Photo supplied

Part of more than £2.5million raised to date, has also been used to fund the first Molly Olly consultant in paediatric medicine at Birmingham Children’s Hospital.

Rachel Ollerenshaw said: “This has been one of the most unusual and fun challenges that we have seen over the years and is a lot harder than people may imagine.

"There are so many locks to contend with on the Hatton Flight. It was a hot day and a long way by pedalo.

“Alex , Emma and their team of helpers and supporters were brilliant and did it with a laugh and big smiles on their faces the whole way.

Emma and Alex. Photo supplied

"It was a great way to get people talking because it was novel and has definitely helped to raise awareness as well as much-needed funds.

“They had a lovely welcome from the Hatton Locks Café who stayed open especially to greet them.

"Thank you to them all and everyone who has donated and special thanks to Alex for her endless enthusiasm and commitment to helping make a difference to so many.

"Molly Olly’s are very grateful to you.”

Alex said after finishing at 8pm on Tuesday (July 13): “We’re going to have aches and pains but we’re helping create happy children through wishes that Molly Olly can offer.

"Our pain is nothing compared to what their families are going through or how their lives have changed.”

Emma added: “It took longer than we had anticipated but the most important thing is we enjoyed it. And we were blessed with the weather. I’m so proud that we did it.

"Trying to do 20 minutes on a pedalo in training was hard enough but to do 11 hours is crazy."

The pair, who have had the support of Leamington Boats and The Canal River Trust, have also added collection tins in the Leamington Morrisons store and have already exceeded their fundraising target of £500.

To donate go to: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/alex-pearson17Alex is already preparing for the next challenge when she walks more than 30 miles from Birmingham to Leamington in aid of CLIC Sargent, next month.

For more information about Molly Olly’s Wishes or how to donate go to: www.mollyolly.co.uk