In this final instalment, we hear about Mandy’s final few days on her epic fundraising adventure.  After nearly 12 days paddling 75 miles along Norfolk rivers in a toy boat, will her boat hold out?  What other wildlife will she see along the way? Will she make it all the way back to Norwich?  Read on to find out....


Day 9

After a restful night floating on the river at Reedham I was joined by my friend Mr Swan for breakfast ~ what a great opportunity for a unique selfie! Then I said goodbye to Billy at the Reedham moorings and rowed off again on a whole new river. 

The Yare soon took me past the Reedham chain ferry and onwards towards Cantley.  I had not timed my journey very well and was soon rowing against the tide and the wind.  My arms are now so tired & it was a tough journey.  The Cantley Sugar Beet factory loomed nearer all the time like a big battleship on the horizon.  I prepared for possible combat with this ship by donning my pirate gear & trying to look scary ~ Aarrhh hhaaaa....

The ship turned out to be a friendly one with, to my amazement, a seal swimming & snorting in the river next to it.  I was surprised to see a seal this far up the river & delighted to be able to catch it on camera.  I moored up for the night at the Reedcutters pub where I met my friends Annie & Simon who had brought me some more ships biscuits.  The kind owners of the Reedcutters let me have a shower and then gave me a roast dinner to eat in my boat ~  what a lucky lady I am.

On Monday I aim for Strumpshaw and on Tuesday I'm heading for Whittingham.  The HMS Loopy and it's equally loopy captain will be completing it's voyage on Wednesday in Norwich. 

I am now very very tired but utterly determined to finish.  Goodnight me hearties xxx

Day 10

Monday has been very very difficult but with it's nice moments too. I said goodbye to lovely Lynne at the Reedcutters Pub and started my journey with the tide in my favour. At first all seemed well but as the morning progressed the wind became stronger and was either a cross or headwind making it almost impossible at times to move forwards.Opposite Langley Dyke I had to cling ont o the reeds to stop the HMS Loopy from being blown back down the river. Some workmen who had a digger & a boat near the dyke came over to see if I was the crazy lady in the inflatable they had heard about & also to ask if I needed any help.

They were very kind but I wanted to battle on. Clinging onto the reeds or the bank or whatever I could grab hold of became a familiar feature of Mondays journey. A phone call to my husband & weatherman Steve confirmed my suspicions that I was being buffeted by gusts of up to 25 miles per hour. The river was choppy with real waves & curlers and the passing boats looked at me with sympathy as I struggled on. Every now & then I tied my boat to the reeds so that I could have a rest. It was during one of those rests that I suddenly remembered the chocolate Easter chicken which the kind 'Gowen family' had given me to take on my travels for 'when I needed a but of extra energy'. Clinging to the reeds on the blustery bank of the Yare in the middle of nowhere I decided that this was definitely a chocolate chicken moment and I happily munched away. It took me 7 hours of painfull rowing to reach RSPB Strumpshaw but it was well worth it. I disembarked on the riverbank & had a lovely walk through the beautiful nature reserve to meet some of the people  who worked and volunteered there. I was also able to have a shower. Afterwards I decided to row on for a little way as there were brambles & hawthorn bushes on the riverbank at Strumpshaw & I did not want the HMS Loopy to go POP!

I rowed into Brundall and through Surlingham Broad to Brundall Fen where I am moored for the night. It wasn't possible to take many photos today ~ but I did take 2 of my boat tied to the reeds and 1 coming into Brundall.

Night night from tired lady in a boat. Xxx

Day 11

What an interesting day I had on Tuesday.  After a spot of early morning fishing when I landed the Brundall shark, I set off in the beautiful sunshine & gentle breeze.  A passing boat hailed me ~ Pat & John aboard the Toucan had been following my exploits on the radio & kindly passed me a cup of tea.  At Bramerton I stopped for a break & had my photo taken next to the staue of Billy Bluelight a runner who was famed for racing the ferry from Bramerton to Norwich.  The kind owners of the Woods End pub recharged my phone for me and made me a sandwich.

The HMS Loopy had started losing air again and I discovered one of the patches had come loose. I did my best to reseal it and managed to clamp a piece of scrap wood on to press on the patch.  Since then on I have made do by rowing for a while and then stopping to pump the HMS Loopy up. 

I passed under the Postwick viaduct accompanied by another swan who had decided to follow me for a little while.  The swans seem to like me ~ but they are eating all my food!
I rowed on through Thorpe where I stopped to say hello to lots of people and now I am moored up at Whittingham.  My sister Ali canoed past earlier with the Norwich Canoe Club and later she kindly brought me a mug of tea in my boat.  This is my last night aboard my good ship Loopy.  Tomorrow (Wednesday) we complete our journey at St Georges Bridge in Norwich at 2pm. 

Goodnight from the captain of the HMS Droopy Loopy at Whittlingham. Xxx

Day 12

Yippee ~ I've completed my Inflatable Tour of Norfolk.  Last night at Whittingham I had to abandon ship and sleep on the riverbank again due to the HMS Loopy rapidly losing air.  It was a cold night and when I woke up there was frost on my bivi bag.  I gradually packed up all of my equipment one last time and pumped up the HMS Loopy who had gone all mushy overnight. I slowly rowed the short distance into Norwich and saw an unusual black water bird sitting on a fence near the railway bridge.  I took some photographs but I have no idea what it was ~ if anyone can identify it from the picture I'd be really keen to know what it was.

Rowing through Norwich & going under all the bridges was very exciting.  I stopped for a little while at Norwich Yacht Station to pump up my good ship one last time.  The final leg of my journey took me past Pulls Ferry, the Cow Tower and under 4 more bridges.  As I approached St Georges Bridge I was astonished to see balloons & flags & crowds of people waiting and cheering me in.  Oh what a lovely surprise and me & the HMS Loopy thoroughly enjoyed our finish.  When I climbed out of my ship my first priority was to have a big hug with my lovely husband Steve.  After that it was so good to be able to meet the people from the Norfolk Wildlife Trust, the RSPB and all my family & friends & school children who had come to welcome me home.

I was given some lovely momentos & flowers and an inflatable banana from my friend Nancy ~ this really made me laugh.  Radio Norfolk & Mustard TV both interviewed me & then finally it was time to pull my dear ship the HMS Loopy out of the water and deflate him.

Of course this has been a very personal challenge for me this year ~ raising money for the Norfolk Wildlife Trust and the RSPB in memory of my dear Mother in Law, Doreen.  On behalf of these charities and my Father in Law, Roy, a heartfelt thank you to everyone who has sponsored me and helped me during the voyage of the HMS Loopy.
Farewell for now from Mandy ( back on dry land again ) xxx

What an incredible woman Mandy is!  Like me, I am sure you are in awe of the tremendous efforts Mandy has gone to to raise funds for wildlife conservation in Norfolk.

If you'd like to make a donation to recognise Mandy's wonderful effort, please visit http://www.justgiving.com/Mandy-Foyster

If you fancy taking on a challenge of a lifetime to help the RSPB raise funds for wildlife conservation, please get in touch with Gena Correale-Wardle, gena.correale-wardle@rspb.org.uk. 

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