HUNDREDS of paddlers are putting the finishing touches to their preparations for this year's Devizes to Westminster Canoe Race which starts at The Wharf in Devizes on Good Friday.

The event attracts people from all over the country to take on the gruelling 125 course. A spokesman for the race said: " More than 650 competitors will take part in the annual Devizes to Westminster International Canoe Race this Easter.

"The field includes many overseas entries with canoeists this year coming from Australia, Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, and the US. The race, often described as ‘the canoeist’s Everest’ is one of the world’s toughest endurance events."

Among those facing the challenge is Ollie Clark, 28, a trainee geography teacher from Market Lavington, near Devizes who is competing for the first time to try and raise £1,000 for the charity Open Country.

Last week he had to survive an attack by a swan while training near Pewsey.

He said: "As someone who is psyched to get into the outdoors, Open Country is both fitting and relevant to my beliefs and values and the challenge I plan to complete.

"The charity aims to help people with a range of disabilities to access the outdoors, and to be able to experience everything it has to offer. The charity has only a small team of 8 paid staff, but is supported by over 100 volunteers. Together they lead up to 20 day activities a week in the height of summer, working with over 400 disabled members a year.

"I have set myself a target of £1000 to be able to donate to Open Country. My challenge is to complete the Devizes to Westminster Kayak race as a single competitor.

"I will be competing in the 4 day event as I am a lone competitor and will aim to complete the race in a cumulative time of less than 24 hours – however, the main aim is to just finish and raise as much money as I can."

To support him go to