Have you heard of a man called Dave Cornthwaite?
He’s a fantastic bloke, an adventurer aiming to undertake 25 journeys of 1000 miles or more, as well as the man in charge of a social enterprise called Say Yes More. In their own words…
We’re a non-profit social enterprise run by volunteers who like to help nudge people towards their potential.
We live in a society riddled with expectations and life can sometimes seem harder than ever.
Based around forming strong face-to-face communities and the power of spending time in nature, SayYesMore is an affirmation that habitually saying yes is a surefire foundation of a kind, happy and enjoyable life, and a reminder during our hardest times that we’re always capable of more.
One of the tribe’s current projects is called the Waterbike Collective. The idea is very simple – one waterbike (more on that in a sec) is going to be ridden 1000 miles by a collective of people, collecting one million pieces of litter as it goes.
This is where we come in – I’ve known of Dave for a while and recently helped transport the Waterbike on a waterless section of the route. After this I was offered the opportunity to ride the bike for a couple of days between Doncaster and Castleford.
So after an early start I managed to finish work, jump on a train then run a few miles, and by Wednesday afternoon I collected the Waterbike from the kind family who’d looked after it for the previous night and was ready to launch.
I was excited to get going and after dropping the waterbike into the New Junction Canal I set off north. The bike is equipped with a bucket for litter picking and of course a litter picker, so I was ready to get picking as soon as I saw some rubbish. To my surprise, it was a long time before I saw anything! I rode all the way to the Southfield Reservoir without picking up more than three bottles. Of course this is fantastic news, but I felt a bit guilty as I knew the guys who rode the Sheffield to Rotherham leg had filled numerous bags by this point!
After the reservoir I turned to the west to head towards Yorkshire Boat Club, which would be my stopover for the night. At this point the headwind made itself known. The waterbike is a great little thing, but it’s not fast. It’s really stable and never feels like it might fall over or anything like that, but I realised that once you’re doing 6.7km/h (I’m only being so accurate because it seemed everytime I looked at my watch that’s exactly what it said!), extra effort does not result in any more speed. However, you can pootle along at that speed all day. The amount of litter increased along this second section, but I was still quietly impressed at how little there was.
One thing that will slow you down on a canal though is locks. These are of course designed to get boats either up or down hills, between sections of canal with different water levels. As an officially registered craft, the waterbike has a key to operate locks (and bridges – great fun but avoid rush hour or you incur the wrath of stressed commuters!), but the water filling and unfilling processes are quite time consuming. I loved taking the time to relax and operating the locks and bridges with the waterbike, particularly on a beautiful sunny like Wednesday.
By the time I reached Yorkshire Boat Club it was about 8:30pm. I was welcomed by the manager Andy and site manager / security man Bob. They welcomed me to the club, suggested a spot to pitch my tent and offered to leave the clubhouse open so I could use the shower. Bob even made my a cup of coffee (with Tia Maria!) and we watched a little bit of Football together in his motorhome. I retired, pitched my tent, cooked some dinner and read a bit of book… then I set my alarm to be up at solstice sunrise and went to sleep.
On Thursday morning I greeted the sun on the longest day of the year, and slipped away as quietly as I could at about 5am. This time I’d be going west all day, first on the canal then on the River Aire into Castleford.
The amount of rubbish steadily increased throughout the morning and after a few hours I was well loaded up with three full bags, a child’s quad bike and a Helium gas canister (as well as a few more disgusting things).
Day two was about 5km more than the previous day, at 21 in total, which despite the early start took until lunchtime. It was another fantastic sunny day, and I felt very lucky to be involved in this great project! I might only have met two of the previous riders of the bike but there’s a great community feeling with being part of something like this and I am proud of what we as a big gang will have achieved by the end! This feeling was also helped by everyone I met being absolutely lovely. When I reached the finish at Castleford I was greeted by Shane from Castleford Marine who would be looking after the bike overnight – he offered me a brew and took me to see the Canal and River Trust guys who were taking the rubbish for us. Along with Andy and Bob last night, the people who had looked after the bike before I turned up, and everyone I met along the way, he went out of his way to help out.
That was the end of my waterbike adventure. In total I collected four full bags of rubbish, one quad bike, one gas canister, a load of polystyrene packaging and a washing basket. It was a great memorable experience and I’d highly recommend it to anyone! If you’re interested, have a look at the Waterbike Collective site or check out #waterbikecollective on social media… And say YES more!