A GREAT-grandmother is undertaking a three-day canoe journey to raise awareness of a potentially life changing condition next month.

Eileen Alcock, aged 78, who lives at Clarence Park Retirement Village, Malvern Link, will take part in the challenge from Tuesday to Thursday next week in aid of polymyalgia rheumatica and giant cell arteritis.

Mrs Alcock suffers from both conditions with the symptoms including serve pain, headaches, stiffness and potential sight loss.

Her target is to raise £5,000 for PMRGCAuk, the charity aimed at supporting sufferers of the conditions; to date, she has raised more than £1,300.

Along with her husband, Ken, she will paddle 30 miles along the Birmingham to Worcester canal, which will include 56 locks and five tunnels.

The canal has one of the largest lock flights in Europe, the 30 Tardebigge locks that climb around 230 feet over three miles.

She said : “We are both very excited about this challenge. Planning has included walking along sections of the canal, that neither of us know very well, and working out where to stay and where to store the canoe overnight.”

One of the tunnels they will be navigating is 1.5 miles long, too long to canoe through. The couple have hired a narrowboat to take them and their canoe through the tunnel and invited friends and neighbours to spend the day with them.

Jennie Collins, manager at the retirement village said : “We are so proud and humbled by Eileen’s spirit and determination. Despite her debilitating condition, she is a regular volunteer on the reception desk and in the gardens.”

“Although the fundraising is vital to maintain the charity’s work, more importantly for Eileen, she wishes to raise awareness of this misunderstood condition. We wish both her and Ken all the very best with this incredible venture.”

Other awareness raising activities have included a dress up day for residents at the Fortis Living-managed village where Eileen and Ken live as well as a dress down day for Fortis Living employees; residents raised more than £340 and Fortis Living staff £132.47.

Over the past 30 years, Eileen and Ken have paddled extensively on rivers and lakes in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, as well as along the Whanganui in New Zealand.

During the last 10 years, they have enjoyed canoe camping as members of the Open Canoe Association, including trips to Belgium and Sweden.

Eileen said: “My condition is little known and understood both by the general public and in medical circles. Raising funds as well as raising hope amongst sufferers are both very close to my heart and I will continue to do as much as I can to help make positive changes where I can.”

Fortis Living is part of Platform Housing Group which provides more than 45,000 homes from Herefordshire in the West to the Lincolnshire coast in the East, and from the Derbyshire Dales in the North to the Cotswolds in the South.

Donations can be made at uk.virginmoneygiving.com/fundraiser-display/showROFundraiserPage?userUrl=EileenAllcock1&pageUrl=1.