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Beyond the Loch: Our Unforgettable Fundraising Expedition

Beyond the Loch: Our Unforgettable Fundraising Expedition
29 June 2023
Beyond the Loch: Our Unforgettable Fundraising Expedition

Get ready to dive into an extraordinary adventure as we share the remarkable tale of our Loch Ness row for a cause close to our hearts. Brace yourself for gripping stories, stunning landscapes, and a heartfelt journey of determination and community spirit.

Join us as we recount the trials and triumphs of rowing the iconic Lochs, all in the name of supporting The Howarth Foundation. From battling the elements to creating waves of positive change, this is a story you won’t want to miss.

So, grab a cup of tea, sit back, and embark on an incredible voyage with us!

intro canoe photo

The Challenge Begins

Imagine the thrill of returning to a legendary challenge that left a lasting impression more than a decade ago. In a whirlwind of nostalgia and adventurous spirit, the Aura Print team rallied together once again to embark on an epic rowing journey across the mystical waters of Loch Ness.

It all began back in October 2022, when our captain (on and off the water), Liam, reignited the spark and proposed conquering the infamous loch for the second time. Although many of 2023’s team didn’t have the pleasure of 2011’s row, many quickly accepted with excitement and anticipation, while others, understandably, didn’t feel up to the daunting challenge.

Undoubtedly, a massive challenge requires a huge amount of preparation, both logistically, physically, and mentally. Starting out with an initial 6 rowers, over the course of 9 months, our team grew to 18 excited rowers, many of whom had little-to-no idea of what to expect. Discussing training routines, packing lists and car shares, the team, many of whom were not yet acquainted, got to know each other through shared anticipation, and it wasn’t long before June 2023 arrived.

With members of Aura Print, The Howarth Foundation, friends, family, and business acquaintances yet to get together and ‘chew the fat’ in person, early June was time for a long-awaited meet. The team’s camaraderie and determination was evident from the first beer, and it was clear that if any team was going to conquer Loch Ness, it would be this one!

But, with big plans often come logistical challenges, and this was no exception. With just 5 days until our team hit the M6 North, we received an unfortunate phone call from our hired guide at River to Sea Scotland. “Bad news, I’m afraid”, Reece said, “Loch Ness is off”. With hearts in our mouths and sponsors at the forefront of our minds, we were forced to look at plans B-Z, ultimately opting for trusty plan C.

Due to predicted torrential rain and white-capped waves as a result of gale force winds, it was ruled that Loch Ness would be no place for experienced canoers, let alone beginner paddlers, so we turned to our trusty guide and his endless knowledge of Highland waters to work out a new route for our team, and boy was it a good one (but we’ll get to that later!).

So, instead of rowing Loch Ness (and back again), we would now row TO Loch Ness, via three slightly more sheltered Lochs and the Caledonian Canal. Beginning on Loch Arkaig, just North of Glenfinnan, our team would row its length before heading down the immense Loch Lochy, the Caledonian Canal, and Loch Oich, all sandwiched between 2 inevitably soggy nights of wild camping, but we’ll see, ay…

the challenge begins canoe photo

Conquering the Elements

Leaving Huddersfield on a glorious Friday morning, our team headed North, with Fort Augustus plugged into the SatNav and plenty of snacks and camping gear in tow. 4 hours later and the ‘Welcome to Scotland’ sign was in view, along with a horizon filled with furious rain clouds, setting the tone for much of the weekend.

Arriving at Fort Augustus’ ‘The Loch Inn’ by late afternoon, our team filled their bellies with what would be their last substantial meal for a couple of days prior to setting up camp for the night. Guided by River to Sea Scotland, our team made the long, winding drive to Clunes in torrential rain, setting up soggy tents in the woods, mosquito nets draped over our heads. Not ideal, but tinnes were still cracked to celebrate our arrival.

With many waking from a restless night (sleeping in a tent in torrential rain isn’t ideal), faces were washed in Lochs as the sun began to show its face. Tents down, bags re-packed, and cars loaded, the team made their way to the start of Loch Arkaig, where canoes were filled, last-minute tips were given, and the group was on its way – destination Loch Lochy!

Aside from a few light showers, as the day went on and the fatigue increased, the sun shone and lifted spirits enough to have some brave rowers bridge jumping and wild swimming! A stunning evening followed, camping under Ben Nevis, Pot Noodles in hand with a wildfire roaring, just what the doctor ordered after a furiously long day. But, as the sun set, out came the midges and up went the wind, a sure indicator of things to come.

Now, I don’t know if you have much experience with wild camping loch-side in gale-force wind, but I don’t think it comes recommended. We awoke after unsettled nights, some underneath collapsed tents, ready for a wild and wet day – after all, we needed to experience the rough and the smooth, right?

With canoe pairs tethered together for stability on rough waters, we set off hugging Loch Lochy’s shore before putting up sails as the wind began to roar. Bouncing off the waves and scooping buckets of Loch water out of our canoes, we battled the gusts all the way to the Caledonian Canal, where soggy cereal bars and dry pasta were shovelled down before casting off in the direction of Loch Oich.

‘Just 4 more miles!’ Our guide reminded us as we took the first stroke of Loch Oich, but with shoulders burning, legs cramping, and hands blistered, the end still felt like a lifetime away.

But Alas, the shore arrived, and shortly after our pick-up, transporting 18 soggy, sleep-deprived rowers to the local pub. With dry clothes and hot chocolates (not forgetting something stronger), a little time to unwind before the 8-hour drive home felt like a luxury.

conquering the elements canoe photo

Unforgettable Moments

Although Mother Nature threw a spanner in the works, our team didn’t waver for a second, refusing to let the conditions get the worst of them.

From bridge jumps to wild swimming, campfires to spilt noodles, Ben Nevis sunsets to Joe-Wicks style workouts, we found plenty of time for fun in the moments in between.

Our team spirit and camaraderie was truly unwavering, with rowers going out of their way to lend a towel, offer a stove, and share words of encouragement when times got tough. Through the capsizes and lost phones, midge bites and fatigue, our team, alongside our guide, worked together to ensure everyone made it to the finish line with beaming grins.

unforgettable moments jono on a tractor

Making an Impact

Organising a major fundraiser is no easy feat, especially when large groups, complex logistics, and distance come into play, but one thing we were certain of was The Howarth Foundation.

Priding ourselves on fulfilling our corporate responsibility to support our local community, Aura Print have been thrilled to support West Yorkshire’s The Howarth Foundation for many years now, therefore choosing them as a beneficiary was a no-brainer.

In the lead-up to our fundraiser, we tried our best to shine a bright light on the amazing work The Howarth Foundation do within our community because as a small, self-funded charity, exposure leads to awareness.

We knew it was all good asking for donations, but our sponsors needed to know exactly how their contribution would benefit the rehabilitated homeless. So for everyone that sponsored, donated, or shared our fundraiser, your money will go directly towards:

•Providing someone to talk to, something we all need

•Providing mental health support

•Funding necessary medical expenses, which can prove crucial in allowing an individual to integrate themselves back into society

•Funding training and occasional financial living support until clients receive their first salary

•Household necessities

•The constant support of the team at The Howarth Foundation, who funnel so much love, care, and passion into their clients

So, when does The Howarth Foundation step in?

As soon as those vulnerable members of society decide that they are ready to re-integrate themselves into the world of work, The Howarth Foundation will be there.

They will be there to give a strong leg to stand on, an ear when none have been around, and hope for a real, safe and healthy future.

At the time of writing this, our team, families, friends and business sponsors have helped us raise more than £4,000 for The Howarth Foundation, and we’re grateful beyond words. Every contribution helps provide a safe and meaningful future for those who had all but ruled out the idea of one, and we’re proud to play our part.

making an impact flag photo

Reflections and Takeaways

Right now, we would like to shine a light on our rowers, for their determination, willingness, and motivation to see through this gargantuan fundraiser.

We asked our rowers to share a few personal reflections on the significance of this experience, lessons learned, and the impact of participating in this challenge, so here goes:

“Initially I agreed to push myself and take on the challenge. As the weekend neared, I had a lot going on personally and rowing the two days with the amazing beauty of Scotland all around us (and a great bunch of folk) really helped me clear my mind, reset and push myself physically. All for a great cause, of course!” – John, Aura Print

John photo

“After rowing Loch Ness with the team from Aura Print 12 years ago, I knew this reunion wasn’t going to be any easier. This time we had a guide and due to bad weather our plans changed, so it became 3 Lochs instead. Despite the change, the trip was brilliantly organised, I got to see new places and really push myself in bad weather. The group was great fun, I’ve made new friends, and we managed to raise money for a great charity, so pleased I did this!” – Andrew, Ascensor

Andrew photo

"After spending 9 months organising this challenge, I was glad when 7am finally arrived on 23rd June! Organisation was stressful at times, especially with last-minute plan changes due to uncooperative Scottish weather, but we go with the flow. I’ve done my fair share of camping and mountain climbing, so this felt like a challenge I could get behind, but boy was it tough! Shoulders ached, mosquitoes’ bit and kit’s got wet, but it was amazing to turn off my phone for a few days and sink my teeth into something truly different in a stunning part of the world” – Zoey, Aura Print

Zoey photo

So there we have it, guys. We’re hoping our challenge, and by extension this blog, inspires you to act, get involved, and raise your hand to make a difference in your community.

There’s still time to donate, so if our story inspired you, please head over to our GoFundMe today.

Our final word goes out to our donors and sponsors for getting behind our inexperienced bunch of rowers, simply hoping to make a change.

Thanks again to River to Sea Scotland for ensuring a thoroughly enjoyable trip packed with hidden Scottish gems, and of course our 16 brave adventurers!

reflections canoe photo

Until next time…

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