TWO women from Oxford are set to kayak from England to the Black Sea - a 4,000km world-first journey that will see them pass through 13 countries.

Anna Blackwell and Kate Culverwell, both former Headington School pupils, will embark on the challenge in April.

They will raise funds for Pancreatic Cancer Action - a cause close to the heart of Miss Culverwell, whose father David died as a result of the disease in 2015.

As well as aiming to raise £50,000 for the charity, the pair will support Earthwatch’s Freshwater Watch by collecting data and water samples.

Miss Culverwell, of Summertown, came up with the idea for the challenge when thinking of something she could do to raise awareness around pancreatic cancer.

The 19-year-old - who mapped out the route across the sea, canals and rivers herself - said: “When I first came up with the idea everyone thought I was completely mad.

“But I stuck to it and it’s really nice to now see it all coming together - even if it is slightly terrifying because I’ve never really done anything like this before.

“It’s going to be quite a powerful journey for me. I think that if you have a reason for doing something then you can do anything you put your mind to.”

After coming up with the idea, Miss Culverwell had to search for somebody willing to join her in the tandem kayak.

A search online saw around 80 people come forward from all over the world.

But after whittling down the list, Miss Blackwell, who lives in Headington, phoned. The two not only developed an instant rapport - but quickly realised they lived only a few miles apart and had attended the same school.

Seasoned adventurer Miss Blackwell has been on a number of challenges - though she has mostly stuck to long treks.

She thought taking to the waters was an exciting new opportunity.

The 24-year-old said: “The determination that I very quickly saw in Kate was inspiring.

“She has been through something devastating and she’s turning it into something really fantastic.

“All of these things just lined up and it was the right distance and time and so we just decided to go for it.”

The training and planning is now well underway as the girls prepare to embark on this epic challenge in the spring.

Perhaps the most daunting part of the journey, which they expect to last four months, will be crossing the English Channel.

It will also include navigating the Danube River, Europe’s second longest.

The pair are looking for sponsors.

Anybody interested in supporting the challenge should contact them via

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