A HENLEY man is to paddle 125 miles across Britain in a canoe for charity.
Chris Bishop will set off from Devizes in Wiltshire on March 26 with the aim of reaching Westminster Bridge within 28 hours.
The 55-year-old will be accompanied by fitness instructor Chris Preston, 43, who is also from Henley and training him for the challenge.
The pair will be one of hundreds of teams taking part in the 68th annual Devizes to Westminster International Canoe Race.
Mr Bishop hopes to raise £100,000 for Alzheimer’s Research UK in memory of his late father Derek, who was diagnosed with early onset dementia in 2007.
Mr Bishop Snr, who served with Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service for 28 years, died in 2014, aged 77.
His son, a business development manager who lives in Queen Close with his wife Debbie, decided to take on the challenge after a former work colleague took part in last year’s race.
He asked Mr Preston, who manages the Expert Fitness Studio in Bell Street, for help.
Mr Preston, 43, of King’s Road, agreed and offered to be his partner as he had taken part in the race previously.
The pair will be competing as Team Forget-Me-Not and have chosen the kingfisher as their logo because this was Mr Bishop Snr’s favourite bird.
They will paddle along the Kennet and Avon canal to Reading before joining the River Thames, where they will proceed downstream towards London.
The pair will pass through Henley at about 6pm on the Saturday and the Angel on the Bridge pub in Thames Side will encourage drinkers to cheer them on.
They must reach Teddington Lock during a three-and-a-half hour window when the tide is heading out. If they miss this, they will be rowing against the incoming tide and are unlikely to finish on time. Before the big day, they will take part in a series of warm-up races.
Mr Bishop and Mr Preston go paddling three times a week on the Henley reach or near Aston, covering up to 12 miles each time. They also train in the gym twice a week.
Mr Bishop, who moved to Henley from Newbury in 2001, has lost 10lb in weight since he started and hopes to lose a further 8lb by March.
He said: “I didn’t just want to run a marathon — I wanted to do something that would be seen as far tougher.
“When I heard about the canoe race, that was my lightbulb moment. As anyone who knows me will tell you, I’m not one to do things by halves.
“Before this, the last time I’d paddled a canoe was with the 7th Newbury scouts in 1976. However, I played rugby for many years and used to be pretty fit so it wasn’t that hard getting back into the routine of working out.
“I’m not feeling in the slightest bit nervous. I actually feel very positive and excited about taking on the challenge.
“I’ve seen a lot of kingfishers as we’re out training and I often think it’s Dad looking out for us. Perhaps the nerves will kick in on the day. We’d like to finish in a reasonable time but it will be a big mental challenge just to get to the end and the main goal is to raise the money for charity.
“I think Dad would be immensely proud. He was known as a gentle giant and had a very selfless nature – he was always doing things for other people.
“Businesses in Henley have been very supportive and we’re hoping that the wider community will get behind us when they hear about what we’re doing.
“It will be a huge boost for us if people come out to cheer as we’re passing through Henley. We’ll be all too aware that our nice warm beds are nearby and that encouragement will help us to carry on.”
For more information or to sponsor the team, visit www.forgetmenot.events