From knee trouble to a world of adventure for retired Sheffield university lecturer

David Taylor
David Taylor
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David Taylor, a retired university lecturer, lives in Fulwood and is chair of trustees for the Kings Foundation which provides children’s holiday camps across the globe, headquartered in Sheffield.

I have always been keen on sport and it’s been my privilege to integrate my kayaking hobby and my belief that sport and activity play a vital role in the wellbeing and development of children, in my work as a charity chair with the Kings Foundation.

As a boy it was school soccer team on Saturday mornings and Old Trafford in the afternoons. Summers were tennis, winter evenings badminton. Around the age of 23, I became obsessed with squash, but a few years later doctors advised me to find a sport that wasn’t so hard on the knees and I found a love for kayaking.

At the time I was a schoolteacher at king Ecgbert’s in Sheffield and saw an advert for kayaking courses to get more children kayaking. Within two years, I’d qualified as an instructor, started a canoe club and worked with club members to build six fiberglass kayaks.

We started to kayak the beautiful rivers in Yorkshire, like the Wharf and the Swale and some of the less beautiful like the River Don! Each summer I took a group of children to a Christian outdoor centre in wonderful Glencoe. Both children and teacher had some fantastic adventures that included sea kayaking to camp on deserted islands, rock climbing and camping high in the mountains. It was great to see how kids, some of who struggled at school, were challenged and then gained confidence through the activities.

In 2001 I was invited to become a trustee of the Sheffield-based Kings Foundation, a Christian organisation that operated Kings Camps, sports camps for children during the school holidays.

From its’ first camp in Sheffield in 1991, Kings has grown to operate around 250 camps annually in over 50 locations across the UK and internationally.

In addition to Kings Camps, the Foundation now works in partnership with international development agencies such as World Vision to train community leaders to use sport to engage children across Africa and our work is spreading to other continents.

I have had some fantastic personal adventures both sea kayaking and river kayaking. Sea kayaking involves specific challenges of dealing with weather, tides, navigation and sea conditions, as well as close-up encounters with seals, dolphins and once a whale!

River kayaking has different attractions: skill, judgement, anxiety, adrenaline and exhilaration when facing big rapids. The hunt for excitement and adventure has taken me to rivers all over the world including the Rocky Mountains, the Himalayas, Australia and Africa. Perhaps the greatest trip was a 20-day expedition with my son Richard down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon.

Two years ago at the age of 65, I paddled for four days down the Zambezi River below Victoria Falls. Although the rapids were huge, the scariest thing were the crocodiles along the bank! Yorkshire is a great place to start kayaking with lots of local rivers and some great sea kayaking at places like Flamborough Head.