Northumberland army veteran plans to solo canoe Yukon’s rivers
Dan Smith, who rose to the rank of Sergeant in the Royal Artillery after joining at 18, unveiled his Yukon solo challenge while speaking at the Outdoor Leadership and Education (OLED) Awards for Dame Allan’s School in Newcastle.
The awards ceremony was held at Wylam Brewery Palace of Arts and celebrated the achievements of senior school pupils who access Dame Allan’s’ broad co-curricular programme of outdoor opportunities.
Dan lives and runs his Northern Outdoor business on the Twizell estate near Belford. He said: “Outdoor learning and adventure is not only enjoyable and challenging, but it can also really help to build confidence, encourage teamwork and develop transferable skills. It’s great to see Dame Allan's inspire the younger generation to get outdoors and challenge themselves.”
The voyage is scheduled for July 2025 and will see Dan canoe along an untamed 350km stretch of the Stewart River, Hess River and Keele Creek in Yukon territory in Canada, to raise funds for SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity supporting serving personnel, veterans and their families.
Dan, who served in Afghanistan, added: “The charity resonates with me; they provide invaluable support to our Forces and veterans in times of need, and it’ll be my honour to contribute to their incredible work. I was ready to take on a new challenge and this is going to be very physically demanding and, at times, dangerous. It’ll certainly be a test of endurance and strength!”
In 2018, Dan kayaked the length of Great Britain from Durness to Littlehampton to mark the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War and raised £25,000 for the Royal British Legion.
Ethan Carter, a Year 13 student at Dame Allan’s Schools, was awarded a prize in recognition of the time he has given to coaching other students in outdoor education. He said: “It was a brilliant expansion of a much beloved awards evening, celebrating the whole department's achievements over the last academic year.”
Dame Allan’s School has one of the highest rates of uptake for the DofE award scheme in the North and last year record numbers of pupils completed the Bronze Award.
OLED department leader Colette Cookson said: “It's been wonderful to listen to the pupils reflecting on the skills they have developed through their adventures this year and the very special memories they have made.
“The outdoor environment provides fantastic opportunities for developing independence, resilience and a positive mindset. It can also improve pupils’ listening and communication skills, leadership and team working, as well as being beneficial to their mental health and social integration.”
Dan was joined on stage by fellow veteran and founder of S.O.E. Expeditions, Matt Smith.
Will Scott, Principal at Dame Allan’s Schools, said: “I’m exceptionally proud of the outdoor opportunities we offer all our pupils, from the fantastic outdoor learning programme at the Junior School through to the vibrant co-curricular timetable at our Senior Schools.
“Pupils were enraptured by both Dan and Matt’s inspirational talks and, following a very empowering awards ceremony, felt a great deal of pride in their own achievements.