17 February 2015

A pair of Brighton based former Royal Marines set to kayak around the Falkland Islands in 2016 have been receiving expert advice and training thanks to the team at Plumpton College and the Bowles centre.

In 2016 Mick Dawson and Steve Grenham, known as the Cockleshell Endeavour team, will kayak around the Falkland Islands to raise awareness of PTSD amongst former service personnel.  This gruelling 650 mile challenge is set to take around a month and will see the Falkland veterans tackle freezing conditions, wildlife including sharks and whales, and unexploded mines left over from the conflict.

This weekend Alex Hardman, an outdoor education lecturer at Plumpton College, worked with Mick and Steve to teach them some of the kayaking skills that will be needed to complete this tough endeavour.  This includes safely rolling the kayaks, ensuring that the pair can right their kayaks if they capsize during the adventure.  This could prove to be a lifesaving skill.  The training took place at Bowles, the outdoor adventure training venue in Tunbridge Wells which donated use of their venue for free, while Alex also gave his time on a voluntary basis to support the Cockleshell Endeavour.

Alex Hardman has a personal connection to the challenge; he is a former Para and is closely involved with HighGround, a charity that was formed to assist in the transition from military to civilian life.  HighGround runs Rural Weeks at Plumpton College, something that Alex is involved with, and these weeks are designed for Service Leavers, Reservists and Veterans to help them discover employment opportunities in the land-based sector where their military skills and experience match up perfectly.

Mick Dawson, one half of the Cockleshell Endeavour team, says:

“Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is something suffered by potentially thousands of forces veterans across the UK but there is very little knowledge or understanding of it.  Through the Cockleshell Endeavour we hope to raise awareness of the illness and raise much needed funds for those charities already supporting the Armed Forces community affected by it.”

“As novice kayakers the Cockleshell Endeavour will really push us to the limits, both physically and mentally.  The support Alex Hardman, Plumpton College and the Bowles Centre are providing us with will be invaluable in preparing us for these four weeks in very unforgiving conditions.  We are incredibly grateful for this training and support.”

Alex Hardman, outdoor education lecturer at Plumpton College, says:

“Steve and Mick worked hard throughout the three hour training session. The training session was full on from the word ‘Go’ and we covered a lot. Willing yourself to go upside down whilst in a kayak is counter intuitive and is not for the faint hearted; both Mick and Steve showed real progress during the session with Mick rolling successfully for the first time. With another training session combined with some practice outdoors I know they’ll master the skill of rolling very soon. On the whole it was great to work with these two paddlers and I look forward to more training sessions in the near future.”