N EAST Woodhay artist has completed her eight-week challenge to row 1,800 miles around the coast of Great Britain.
Lesley Foden, aged 60, set out on June 3 from Burnham-on-Crouch, Essex, to become the oldest woman to complete the challenge, as part of the Rannoch Adventure GB Challenge 2017.
She returned to dry land on July 29.
Mrs Foden said: “It was extremely exciting, extremely hard work. Every emotion that you have inside you comes out – frustration, boredom, fear and it was moving.
“I cried a few times because everything was just so beautiful.
“I preferred night-time to day-time rowing. The stars were out and we could see shooting stars.
“The water glowed with phosphorescence as the oars dipped into the water. The sun didn’t seem to set either.”
There were eight legs to the journey, with stop-off points at Cowes, Padstow, Dublin, Oban, Lochinver, Fraserburgh and Scarborough.
As they approached Lochinver, they were “treated to a magical, exuberant performance by a 20-strong school of dolphins”, Mrs Foden said on her blog.
She said: “The odd thing that I have found is that at least five friends have said they have been inspired to take up a sport.
“One friend has taken up running and another, with a fear of water, has taken up sailing.
“I think that whatever you want to do you can make happen. You just need to want to do it.”
There were lots of accompanying wildlife on the journey and Mrs Foden describes seeing jellyfish, puffins, gannets, kittiwakes, seals, dolphins, an orca and a minke whale.
If that was not inspiring enough, their onboard speakers played uplifting tunes such as Land of Hope and Glory and Ride of the Valkyries.
Mrs Foden said: “This has taken up two years of my life with training and fundraising, but they have just whizzed by.”
She is already preparing for her next challenge, which is to embark on the Devizes to Westminster Canoe Race next spring – a distance of 125 miles.
“We went out for our inaugural paddle last weekend,” she said. “It went well, I didn’t fall in, although I need to fall in a lot before I am ready for the challenge.”
Mrs Foden is a full-time painter, the chairwoman of the East Woodhay Neighbour-Care Volunteer Driving, and a member of St Martin’s Church choir, where she also rings bells.
Mrs Foden has raised £4,000 for the Royal National Lifeboat Institution.
To sponsor Mrs Foden’s challenge, go to www.justgiving.com/fundraising/ lesleysrow