Extreme weather, polar bears and pylons - all in a days’s flying for Sacha who is tracking the journey of Bewick’s swans from Russia to Welney

Sacha Dench makes the same flight as a Bewick swan

Sacha Dench makes the same flight as a Bewick swan - Credit: Archant

A champion sportswoman and conservationist will fly 4,500 miles from the Russian Arctic to Britain using just a parachute wing strapped to a small propeller engine, in the first attempt to follow Bewick’s swans on their annual migration.

Sacha Dench makes the same flight as a Bewick swan

Sacha Dench makes the same flight as a Bewick swan - Credit: Archant

Volunteers are needed to join Sacha Dench’s team for the ten week adventure - one person to help plan the expedition and a further two to work as mechanic and filmmaker on the expedition itself.

Sacha, who works for the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust at Welney and is a former British and Australian free-diving champion, will follow the swans in her paramotor as winter drives them off their breeding grounds.

The aim is to raise awareness about Bewick’s swans, whose numbers have halved in 20 years.

She said: “This expedition is very close to my heart. It’s a chance to learn more about Bewick’s swans and why they’re declining.

A Bewick swan

A Bewick swan - Credit: Archant

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“But just as important, it’s a chance to bring people from very different cultures together because the swans’ fate rests in our hands. We can’t let the Bewick’s swan population’s decline continue for another decade.

“I realised many of my paramotoring contacts in Europe were also farmers and hunters – two groups that are crucial to the swans’ survival. This adventure seemed the perfect way to spark the interest of people on the ground.

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“Wherever you land as a paramotorist, whoever’s nearby is understandably curious to know where you’ve come from and why. I’ll be using that interest to tell people the swans’ story and to invite everyone I meet - from reindeer herders to town planners – to get involved in helping them to survive.

“As we develop the expedition, we’re exploring new research opportunities, from doing an aerial survey of the swans’ breeding grounds to documenting the turbulence from a wind turbine.

“I hope this endeavour will live up to WWT’s rich history of scientific expeditions that stretches back to Peter Scott exploring Iceland and, ultimately, to his father’s expedition to the South Pole.”

She will film and make live broadcasts along the way.

Sacha’s first challenge will be to cross the Russian tundra, one of the most wild and remote places on earth.

Over ten weeks she will cross 11 countries, become the first woman to paramotor across the Channel, and fly along the River Thames through central London.

She will face the same challenges as the swans, from extreme weather and polar bears to a hostile landscape of pylons and tall buildings, as well as struggling to find safe places to land, rest and refuel.

To find out more visit www.wwt.org.uk/flightoftheswans or apply at www.wwt.org.uk/fots/volunteer.

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