By Charlie Bradley

TWO young women from Oxfordshire have become the first people ever to kayak all the way across Europe.

Kate Culverwell, 20, and Anna Blackwell, 25, started their journey in Westminster on April 21, and reached the Black Sea off Romania this month.

The route took them into the English Channel before kayaking the length of mainland Europe.

The women, both formerly of Headington Girls School, are no strangers to adventure.

Kate spent four months travelling last Summer in Canada and in Africa. Before her travels she enjoyed rowing and briefly became a coach.

Meanwhile, Anna has previously trekked across the Swedish wilderness, climbed the highest peak in North Africa and hitch hiked through Morocco.

But Anna had never attempted a water-based expedition.

She said: “It’s not been easy…we’ve dealt with rapids and whirlpools, we’ve narrowly dodged cargo barges that are several hundred metres long and survived long nights camping amidst storms. Yet our friendship and giggle fits continued to get us through whatever was thrown at us.”

Thirteen countries and 4,000km later, they have completed their challenge and smashed their £50,000 fundraising target - aiming for £75,000.

The money raised will be going to Pancreatic Cancer UK, Freshwater Watch and the Young Explorers Trust.

After her father lost his battle with pancreatic cancer, Kate was determined to raise money and awareness to help fight a disease that kills 24 people a day.

After Kate planned the route, her search for a partner to join her on the trip lead her to Anna, who lives just a few miles away in Summertown.

“The determination that I very quickly saw in Kate was inspiring,” said Anna.

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

While travelling across the continent, Anna and Kate also collected scientific data for FreshWater Watch, a research project which tracks nitrate and pollution levels in fresh water.

Anna added: “We're really looking forward to discussing the findings with the FWW team when we get back and learning more about the waterways we've paddled on.

“It has been sad to see an increase in pollution the further east we have travelled.

"At times, the number of plastic water bottles covering the banks and bushes by the water has been truly shocking."