MORE than £10,000 has been raised for the lifeboats charity thanks to the adventures of the largest duck in Europe and its owner, who lives in Westfield.

Tim Dodd-Wilson spent a month travelling on the Thames with Big Duck, a 15ft tall inflatable he bought to help him collect money for the Royal National Lifeboat Institution.

He plotted Big Duck’s Big Adventure along the river in memory of the Penlee lifeboat disaster in 1981, when 16 people lost their lives, including eight volunteer lifeboatmen.

“The Penlee disaster has always been close to my heart, as I was there when it happened, and witnessed the devastation caused to a small community just a week before Christmas,” said Tim.

“Big Duck and I wanted to help raise money and awareness for the brave volunteers who put their lives on the line to keep the UK’s seas and waterways safe. If you take a flight, a ferry, or just a walk on the beach, one day you may need their help.”

Accompanied by Tim’s friend, Ros Fernley, they travelled on a homemade powered raft called Tranquilizer, with an adapted garden shed as a cabin. Many of the 154 bridges they travelled under were lower than the duck, which had to be deflated to get through.

Tim’s efforts have attracted at least one high-profile donor. “We met Sir Michael Parkinson on the river and he has recently made a large donation.”

Big Duck’s fundraising efforts are over for the year, but more are planned. “He was at the Chobham Carnival in May, and we intend to be at the Dragon Boat racing in Henley on Sunday. Then I’m hoping to get him in the Windlesham Pram Race on Boxing Day. It’s almost impossible to find a pram base these days, so I’ll try to mount him on a palette with wheels.

“We won’t do anything major next year, but I’d like to do something along the River Wey the following year. It takes a bit planning, you have to work out getting Big Duck under bridges and through locks, that kind of thing.”

For the moment, though, Big Duck is taking it easy until it’s time to get quacking again.

For more information or to donate, visit To learn more about the work of the RNLI, visit

For the full story get the 21 November edition of the News & Mail