How would you celebrate your 50th? Ana Brown, a supported Care Nurse for Norfolk Community Health and Care NHS Trust, challenged herself (and her sister) to paddleboard 50 miles along the River Bure, from source to sea, to raise money for the Trust’s Charitable Fund. And they didn’t fall in once!
To mark the milestone of turning 50 in September, supported care nurse Ana Brown decided against having a big party and decided to support a cause that is integral to her, instead. Her team, part of the Norfolk Community Health and Care NHS Trust, plays a crucial role in the community, as they deal with admission avoidance. So, she decided to raise funds to purchase a Banana Flojac – an innovative piece of manual handling equipment which costs around £6000.
Ana says: ‘Many a time as a community nurse I have tended to patients who have fallen. We are usually at the mercy of the ambulance service to come to our aid. The NHS is overstretched as it is.’
To mark her 50th birthday, she decided to navigate the 50-mile River Bure, the longest river of the Norfolk Broads, from source to sea – mostly on a paddle board. The river rises from an underground chalk stream in Melton Constable and flows into the sea at Gorleston, and, as far as she knows, it has never been achieved before on a paddle board. The challenge was to take three days and two nights and her sister, Angelica Gayta, joined her on her endeavour. Angelica is no stranger to challenges, as she recently took part in the World Police and Fire Games in Rotterdam, Netherlands, where she did the open water swimming event.
Ana says: ‘I have initially planned it to be a solo paddle, but my sister was visiting from the Philippines and wanted to tag along. I thought, why not? What better way to catch up with gossip! It was daunting as I’ve never paddled that far, and my sister has had a very quick paddling lesson only. However, we’ve always been outdoorsy and were up for the challenge. The alternative for my 50th birthday would have been a golden party. It is not my cup of tea really. So, it was no-brainer decision. Besides I really want to make a difference and probably leave a legacy.’ Age is just a number, of course, as Ana says: ‘I don’t feel 50 at all!
As some parts of the river are non-navigable and off limits to paddlers/kayakers, Ana and her sister tackled the challenge in three sections: cycling from Melton Constable to Aylsham; paddling from Aylsham to Great Yarmouth and walking to Great Yarmouth to Gorleston and finishing up with a swim in the sea!
Ana is still ‘buzzing’ from the three-day paddle. ‘It all went well without a hitch but a few snags along the way. The weather was lovely. Amazingly, even with the southerly/westerly gusty winds pommelling us at times, it was relatively smooth paddling.’
Th biggest challenge was the multitude of boats on the river. But she adds: ‘I’ve finally found courage to chase wakes. It was fun.’ Ana and her sister were amazed that they didn’t fall in once, during the three days. And they got lots of support. ‘There were plenty of well-wishers, with a shout of encouragement or a wave. The anglers offered advice particularly about the tides, hence we left early on the third day to maximise the pull of the lowering tide. Just as well, we reached Great Yarmouth in the nick of time. The tide has just started to come back in. The swell was amazing to watch. It was like a mini Severn Bore.’
Her challenge highlights were the wild camping and the upstream swims. And it doesn’t sound as though Ana is finished with setting herself challenges. ‘I am sure it is not a one-off experience as I’m already planning my next tour on my board. I would like to do it again soon – winter notwithstanding. Plus, she says: ‘It seems it has triggered a lot of interest in doing long distance paddling.’
Featured image of Ana Brown (left) and her sister Angelica Gayta