Chiswick RNLI Lifeboat Crew Do it On Foot

With a 21 mile fundraising trek along the Thames towpath

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Crew members from Chiswick RNLI lifeboat station enjoyed a visit to 10 Downing Street on Friday 30th January whilst on a fundraising walk through central London.

The 11 crew members were passing through the heart of the capital during a 21-mile trek from Teddington to Tower Bridge on 30th January), as part of the RNLI’s biggest national fundraising day, SOS Day.

In a radical departure from their usual waterborne method of travel, the lifeboat crew trudged along the Thames path, getting an altogether different view of the waters where they dedicate their time to saving the lives of others.

Thanks to a contact of one of the crew, the group were allowed the prestigious honour of entry into Downing Street, where they posed for photographs in front of number 10, home of the Prime Minister, and the most famous front door in the land.

And they were welcomed with rapturous applause when they stopped by to meet children at Strand-on-the-Green Infant School in Chiswick, where the youngsters made a human tunnel for the crew to walk through as they entered the playground.

Thousands of other people across the UK and Republic of Ireland took part in fundraising activities for the RNLI on SOS Day, to try to raise money for the charity that saves lives at sea.

Martin Blaker-Rowe, crew member at Chiswick RNLI lifeboat station, said: ‘We did it! What an amazing day – 21 miles isn’t an unmanageable distance to walk in one day, but we were wearing our full lifeboat crew kit, which is not the most comfortable of clothing to walk that distance in. The biggest problem for some of the crew was blisters – the heavy duty boots we wear are perfect for walking, but when combined with the thermal suit it can really start to rub.’

But despite the pain, the crew managed to stop off for refreshments and a good deal of encouragement, at Strand on the Green Infants, at Hammersmith Town Hall, Battersea Park, the Houses of Parliament and Tower Bridge. And Number 10 Downing Street was most definitely among the highlights.

There are four RNLI lifeboat stations on the River Thames – at Teddington, Chiswick, Tower and Gravesend – covering the entire tidal reach of the river. Tower lifeboat station was the busiest lifeboat station of all in 2008, with the lifeboats launching 403 times. Chiswick was the second busiest, with 149 launches.

In keeping with the spirit of SOS Day, where many fundraising events were built around the letters of the international distress signal S O S, the event was dubbed “Saunter Or Scamper”.

Martin said: ‘Downing Street was very odd. There’s always people passing the gates and looking in, and they must have had a shock when they saw a line of 11 brightly dressed lifeboatmen being waved through the gates. As for the rest of the trip we got lots of words of encouragement and donations along the way. We haven’t yet counted up the amount we raised but we are very grateful to everyone who donated or wished us well on SOS Day.’

February 4, 2009