Today, we are so proud to have welcomed Mandy Foyster back from her incredible adventure, dedicated to raising funds for the RSPB and Norfolk Wildlife Trust in memory of her mother in law, Doreen.  As well as daily updates on BBC Radio Norfolk, she shared her experiences along her travels with us over email. Over the next few days we’ll be posting excerpts from her 12 day trip!

Mandy sets sail

Pre-launch update

This Saturday I will set sail from Horstead Mill on my 75 mile 'Inflatable Tour of Norfolk' to raise funds for the RSPB & the Norfolk Wildlife Trust.

I've prepared as much as I can & despite waking up to a half deflated boat yesterday (due to a leaky valve which I've now replaced) I think I'm ready to go.  I have named my boat 'HMS Loopy' ~ I am nervous but also excited & really looking forward to seeing all the wildlife.  I am sure I will have fun & adventures but I'm also expecting it to be my most difficult challenge to date.

Day 1 - Saturday

I've had a good first day in my little boat.  I left Horstead Mill at 11am & I paddled up past the Rising Sun where I spotted my school friends having a little tipple. Then it was on through swan & heron country towards Wroxham.  The swans are so friendly & were swimming all round my boat & peeping in ~ looking for food I think.  I saw a heron & lots of funny water birds which had tufty hats on their heads & kept diving down & surfacing somewhere else. 

Rowing through Wroxham was exciting ~ my first big Port!  A gentleman waved & told me to keep rowing and smiling, he informed me I only had another 70 miles to go ~ he must have heard me on the radio.  Lots more people kept waving & asking if I was the crazy lady who was rowing round Norfolk?  At Wroxham Broad I stopped for a picnic in the company of geese ~ some of whome were nesting.  Some lovely youngsters in passing boat offered me a drink (hic) or a tow ~ I politely declined both offers. I reached Salhouse Broad at 5pm, earlier than I had expected & decided to carry on rowing.  I saw little deer next to the river peeping at me out of the woods & then at Horning I passed the 'Southern Comfort' boat on it's way out for a party on the river.  The big & faster boats made a big wash which was very exciting to row through ~ just like being on one of the water rides at Alton Towers ~ what fun!  I moored up at Woodbastwick for the night & as I write this I have visitors ~ two geese have come to see if I have any leftovers from my tea & they are making hissy noises outside my boat. Night night from Mandy in her bivi bag floating on the river. Xxx


Friendly swans

Day 2 - Sunday

Day 2 has been interesting & challenging.  After sleeping lightly through a rainy Saturday night surrounded by two beautiful otters having a very loud squabble in the river ~ I awoke to a dry but overcast morning.

I packed away my sleeping bags & scrubbed the decks before pulling anchor & casting off for St Benet's Abbey. My arms were tired but I soon got into the rhythm of rowing & happily hailed 'Good Morning me Hearties' to all my fellow shipmates aboard their boats. They all like my ship's name 'HMS LOOPY' ~ They think it is very apt! 

I stopped at St Benet's Abbey for a little walk on dry land & a picnic.  I also pumped my boat up a bit more as it was leaking air again through the old patch.  There was a sailing race taking place on the Bure between St Benet's & Thurne ~ it was exciting to watch.  I rowed past a dredger which was like an enormous crane at the side of the river & then at Thurne I turned left, setting course for Acle and found myself rowing against the incoming tide and a blustery head wind. 

Oh what a battle I had to reach Acle, at times the wind blew so strongly I was going backwards rather than forwards.  Several passing boats slowed down & asked me if I needed help which was most kind of them but I was determined to battle on.  Eventually after lots of rows forwards & some rows backwards I zig-zagged & crawled my way up to the Acle Bridge where I am now moored up for the night.  It is VERY windy and I hope the little cover over me & my boat doesn't blow away in the night!  My lovely husband Steve has kindly given me the shipping forecast for the next few days and I plan to be up early in the morning to sail with the outgoing tide.

That's all for now ~ night night from HMS LOOPY in Acle. 

Day 5 - Wednesday 

Loopy rowed across Breydon, whoohoo ~ we did it! Today after meeting a very friendly seagull & saying farewell to the kind gentlemen at Gt Yarmouth Yacht Station, I set sail on the turn of the tide to begin my Breydon Water attempt. Ralph Graham from the RSPB  turned up to escort me across & the Spirit of Breydon patrol boat piloted by John & Jon was also waiting in the harbour for me. I had not expected their help, but I was so grateful, as was my husband Steve who also came along to support me.

I was nervous and excited as I set off rowing, after passing under the two bridges I was out in the big river turning right & aiming for Breydon Bridge. It looked so big and I felt very small in my little inflatable. As I rowed under the bridge the force of the wind suddenly hit me and I had a real battle to get out onto Breydon Water. Thankfully the wind, although quite strong, was coming in gusts and I was gradually able to make some headway on my voyage. I had to row very hard & concentrate in order to control the HMS Loopy and for a while I did wonder if I was getting anywhere at all. Gradually though, Gt Yarmouth became smaller & further away and I was bowled over by the experience & the view from the middle.

The chaps in the RSPB boat helped me to stay on course by shouting directions across to me and advising when I was drifting too far. The Spirit of Breydon announced on their loud hailer to other boats to "please pass the charity rowing boat slowly". My lovely husband Steve cycled along the footpath on the shore, encouraging me from a distance. My arms gradually became more and more tired but there was no giving up and nowhere to stop for a rest ~ I just kept on going. At last after nearly 4 hours of non stop heavy rowing I turned into the river Waveney and moored up at a Marina (arranged for me by the chaps on the Spirit of Breydon). After a big hug with my husband, a lovely cup of tea, a photo shoot and a surprise visit from two other friends I settled down for the evening. I am soooo tired but very grateful & happy that I was able to do it. I have promoted myself to Captain of the HMS Loopy with hat to match! We did it ~ a middle aged lady rowed across Breydon Water in an inflatable toy boat ~ what happy Loopy fun! Tomorrow we travel south down the Waveney in search of new adventures. Captain of the HMS Loopy ~ signing off now ~ Goodnight x

 To make a donation in recognition of Mandy's incredible endeavours, visit