A FORMER Royal Marine paddled 23 miles across the English Channel in a 14ft canoe to raise cash for injured soldiers.

It may only take 45 minutes to get from Dover to Calais on a ferry, but it took Grayham Street a little longer to get to France – six hours and 11 minutes to be precise!

Grayham, 40, of Corona Road, Canvey, who served with the Marines for seven years, undertook the marathon paddle to raise money for charity Help for Heroes.

Grayham, who trained for months in the Thames Estuary, made a snap decision when to go for it.

He explained: “I got a weather window on Sunday when it was a pretty clear day, so I just went for it. With the weather we’ve had so far this summer, who knows when I’d have been able to do it again?”

Grayham started off from the Dover Marina, with the famous white cliffs behind him, and set off into the sun backed by a support boat crewed by his uncle David Smith and friend Fred Dunn.

Despite the clear skies, Grayham said the sea in the Channel was far from calm.

He said: “The waves were getting up to about 4ft at times, which is a lot when you’re in a canoe.

“There is quite a big risk of being rolled, but if you know what you’re doing and you keep your eyes open, it’s all right.”

As well as waves, Grayham had to contend with an armada of freight, fishing and transport vessels that use the busy stretch of water.

He added: “I believe it’s the busiest stretch of water in the world.

“The biggest boat was a Hyundai bulk container ship, but the sea was so rough, by then I didn’t even notice the wake.”

Exhausted, but elated, Grayham completed the crossing in the late afternoon, although he ended up at the small French town of Wissant, some 15 miles west of Calais due to the strong tides.

Grayham said he was honoured to have made the crossing in support of Help for Heroes.

He said: “Whatever your political views, you have to applaud the great sacrifices made by our troops around the world. Many of them are killed and seriously injured and Help for Heroes does an outstanding job of helping them and their families.”

Because Grayham made his crossing a month earlier than planned there is still a chance to sponsor him.

Simply visit his website, www. justgiving.com/grayham-street