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Elsie-Rose receives her cheque in the Dolphin Inn’ l to r Mark Little, Jason Carrick, Elsie-Rose, Karen Holewell, Kerry Phillips, Paul Stanley. Photo Chandra Masoliver

Elsie-Rose receives her cheque in the Dolphin Inn. L to R: Mark Little, Jason Carrick, Elsie-Rose, Karen Holewell, Kerry Phillips, Paul Stanley. Photo Chandra Masoliver

Locals kayak over the channel in aid of Elsie-Rose charity

On Tuesday 1 August 2018, Mark Little and Jason Carrick of the Dolphin Inn, fisherman Paul Stanley and care worker Kerry Phillips all set off for Dungeness to kayak over to Boulogne to raise money for the Elsie-Rose and Friends Foundation. Last Thursday 30 November, before the usual Dolphin Inn quiz night, four year old Elsie-Rose was presented with a cheque for £3,253! HOT’s Chandra Masoliver asked the intrepid paddlers to tell their story.

CM: What made you all decide on this venture, Mark – and how did it go?

ML: One day, having a drink with friends, I said how I’d always had a wish to kayak over to France – and what better way than to do it for charity? Jason, who works here at the Dolphin, was game to go with me, and Paul and Kerry said they were up for it too. Of course it had to be a charity that is local to this community, so we chose the Elsie-Rose and Friends Foundation, to raise money for four year old Elsie-Rose, who has Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) Type 1.

I’ve owned the Dolphin Inn at Rock a Nore for the last fifteen years and this year we won the Community Pub of the Year for all of East Sussex. This award means more to me than any award I’ve ever received, because that’s what this pub is, it’s a community pub, there’s a real community here, without which I couldn’t run this sort of pub.

Elsie-Rose’s mother is Natasha Kelly, and her grandfather is Roland Kelly, owner of the RX54 and other boats. He once owned the Dolphin Inn for two years, but he decided pub life wasn’t for him and he went back to fishing, saying it was an easier life.

On our chosen day, Will Chetwood from Full Throttle in Rye, provided our safety boat – it’s a legal obligation to have one. Also a kayak has, by law, to have four ballasts, so if it capsizes it won’t sink. Sadly Paul and Kerry’s kayak didn’t pass the safety regulations.

Jason and I set off for Boulogne from Dungeness, that’s a distance of twenty-six miles, less than if we had left from Hastings. We’d trained a lot, doing forty miles a week, and we managed to average a speed of four to four and a half knots. We were paddling against the tide until we reached the French side – that’s about sixteen miles; after that we had the tide with us, which helped during the final ten mile stretch, when we were tired.

We got half way through the French waters when a great blanket of fog came down, you couldn’t see your own hand in front of you. Will said we had six ships in front of us in the shipping lane, and we couldn’t see one of them. As we were deciding whether to go ahead, the Dover Coastguard radioed not to go further, and at that moment, as he was saying it, a huge cargo container ship came out of the fog about a hundred meters ahead of us – we hadn’t even heard it, and it didn’t see us. So we decided it was too dangerous and came back before reaching our destination, which was very frustrating.

CM: So did you give up on the whole idea?

Mark Little and Jason Carrick paddle off to France. Photo Will Chetwood

Mark Little and Jason Carrick paddle off to France. Photo Will Chetwood

ML: No, right away we said we’d do it again, and Will kindly said he would accompany us for free on our next trip. By law you have to have a safety boat with the relevant documentation, so we couldn’t go without him, and he knew we were doing this for charity.

This second attempt wasn’t so easy, the weather changed and we couldn’t practise much, and as the year gets longer, so do the tides. We set off again on 17 October, but we had to paddle against the tide for more time, and we only made an average of three to three and a half knots. But that’s nothing to what Elsie-Rose has to endure.

When we entered French waters, about three miles from the finish, a French patrol boat came alongside to check our paper work. Will said it was the first time that had ever happened to him. They checked our safety papers and asked to see our passports. When Jason went to get his bag he found he’d picked up the wrong bag, and only had a load of dirty washing to show the gendarmes! It was very difficult to explain this to them in our broken French, I had to guarantee for Jason, which was easy as he’s worked with me for five years. They knew we were doing this for charity, and they were very gracious.

Once on land we had a big bowl of Moules Marineres and a pint of beer, it was the best we’d ever tasted; and when we started back home the gendarmes waved to us, laughing, as we left.

I’m very proud of Jason, he was paddling in front of me and as we got to Boulogne I could see the pain he was going through, even to put his paddle in the water. He hasn’t lived the sort of life I have, but this adventure has given him a lot of confidence – he’s going to do the half marathon for the lifeboat next year.

CM: So what happened to you, Paul and Kerry? I know you love to kayak and are both skilled. It must have been very disappointing for you not to be allowed to go to France?

PS and KP: When we got to Rye at 5.30am to load our kayak onto the safety boat to take us to the Dungeness launch, we were told that our boat didn’t fit the correct criteria! We were both gutted, we thought we’d managed to get hold of a suitable two-person ‘sit in’ kayak as requested, instead of our single ‘sit on’ ones, and we assumed all was good to go.

We waved Mark and Jason off, and just felt terrible, especially as we knew we already had so much sponsor money – we’d raised eight hundred and fifty pounds between us. On an impulse, Paul suggested we kayak to Eastbourne and back instead, and by 7am we were on our way. It was cloudy and choppy and it seemed to take ages just to get past Grosvenor Gardens, one of us had to bail out water while the other paddled, but a friendly seal bobbed up to give us encouragement.

Paul Stanley and Kerry Phillips on their way to Eastbourne. Photo Kerry Phillips

Paul Stanley and Kerry Phillips on their way to Eastbourne. Photo Kerry Phillips

When we got to Eastbourne pier we had a quick cuppa on the beach, sitting on two blankets because we were very sore, and we ate half each of the only roll we’d brought. The way back was very hard, the tide and wind seemed to be taking us out to sea and we arrived back suffering and exhausted, but we knew we’d done the thirty-four miles. After that we were in need of a pint and the rest of the rolls we’d left in the car.

CM: Did people back home know what had happened to you both?

KP: My mum and dad and my friend, Catie White did, they followed us by car, stopping now and then to wave a red blanket to encourage us, and a man who watched us from the cliffs above said he couldn’t believe how synchronised we were, although actually we’d only ever had one practice in a double kayak together.

We’re glad we did it, the Elsie-Rose and Friends Foundation is a well worthy cause, and we’d like to thank all the lovely people who sponsored us, and for still paying up and appreciating our efforts, even though we didn’t make it onto foreign land.

Steve Colwell, journalist, who helps out in the Dolphin, explains in his blog: “young local character Elsie-Rose was diagnosed with Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) Type 1 in September 2014, a condition that causes severe muscle weakness and results in problems with movement, eating, breathing and swallowing. Without intervention, sadly, most children with SMA Type 1 die within the first two years of life. However the cheerful and resilient Elsie-Rose strives to carry on enjoying life, just like any other four year old child; despite the complications she just keeps on smiling.”

The Kelly family. L to R: Natasha, Elsie-Rose, Karen and Roland. Photo Chandra Masoliver

The Kelly family. L to R: Natasha, Elsie-Rose, Karen and Roland. Photo Chandra Masoliver

Natasha Kelly, Elsie-Rose’s mother, writes in Steve’s Guest blog: “this disorder does not affect the brain at all. Imagine the questions your child would ask, and imagine the doctor saying there is a drug that could help, but your baby can’t have that drug as the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) have decided it’s not worth the money, your baby is not worth the cost. This is what the SMA community are currently fighting.”

Spinraza is a medication that can be used to treat SMA; it is injected directly into the central nervous system, and clinical trials found it to halt the progression of the condition in 60% of the recipients. It has been accepted for ‘restricted’ use in Scotland, but not by the NHS, Social Services or the Department of Health in England. For this reason, the local community in Hastings has set up the Elsie-Rose and Friends Foundation to raise money to help Elsie-Rose.

If you would like to contribute to Elsie-Rose and Friends Foundation,
please visit or go to Crowdfunding to help raise money for the Elsie-Rose and Friends Foundation.

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Posted 19:58 Monday, Dec 3, 2018 In: Hastings People

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