Canal trek girl built her own kayak

Kitty Vickers in her kayak. Picture: Esme Allen

Kitty Vickers in her kayak. Picture: Esme Allen

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NOT many pupils come up with the idea of travelling 60 miles along a canal in their very own creation as part of a class project.

But 14-year-old Kitty Vickers, a pupil at the Edinburgh Steiner School, did exactly that – then climbed Scotland’s highest peak afterwards for fun.

The teenager built her own kayak and paddled from Fort William to Inverness along the Caledonian Canal as part of a five day journey – an achievement made even more impressive by the fact it was her first major kayaking trip.

Following the 60-mile paddle, during which Kitty battled strong winds, she decided to climb Ben Nevis while still in the area.

Kitty, along with the rest of her class, was tasked with producing a major project of her choice over the past academic year.

The teenager launched a fundraising campaign to help purchase a 17ft plywood and fibreglass kayak kit, which cost more than £800.

She raised half the funds by busking with her violin in the Meadows, washing her parents’ cars and staging a concert in her city centre home, in which she played the violin and piano.

Kitty’s parents, Simon and Fiona, matched the money raised to complete the total. Kitty and Simon then spent four months in their basement working on the kayak during weekends and in the evenings.

Kitty said: “I’ve always been interested in the water and I spend every summer on Islay with my family. I love swimming but I hadn’t done a lot of kayaking, so I decided to push myself with my Class 8 project.

“I knew I could do anything and could have chosen something easy, but that wouldn’t have been as much fun. Building the kayak took a lot of time and concentration, and I had to be really precise so it didn’t take on water.

“My dad cycled along the route with me and drove parts of it to make sure I was OK.”

She added: “The journey itself was quite hard at times but I’d trained for the trip at my local pool, where I took a few lessons with tiny kayaks about a metre long.

“On the first day, I only covered six miles, then I picked up my pace before hitting Loch Ness on the fourth day when the wind was against me. On the fifth day, I finished Loch Ness and went through the canal into Inverness, covering 18.5 miles in just one day. I knew I had to finish on the fifth day as I also wanted to climb Ben Nevis before we had to go home.”

Meanwhile, Barbara Scott, Kitty’s class teacher, said she was “enormously proud”.

“During Class 8, when our pupils are aged 14, they are required to work throughout the year on a major project of their own choosing,” she said.

“This is entirely self-directed work. This year, our pupils have tackled a range of topics including constructing a wind buggy, completing an amazing rock climbing project covering three different countries, filming a DVD with an original script and producing a music CD with original compositions. The creativity and passion that they demonstrated continues to amaze us year on year.”