'Human Swan' Sasha Dench makes a flying visit to Sunderland

The Human Swan has landed in Sunderland.

Sunday, 29th August 2021, 5:00 am

Environmental activist Sacha Dench earned the nickname when she flew in a paramotor – basically, a parachute wing powered by a powered by a giant fan attached to her back – with Bewick swans on their migratory journey from Russia to the UK.

She is currently undertaking a record-breaking expedition called the ‘Round Britain Climate Challenge’ to fly more than 3,000 miles around the UK in an electric paramotor powered by solar and solar batteries, raising awareness of climate change and interviewing environmental campaigners on the way.

She set off from Glasgow in June and is now well over halfway through the trip, which is expected to take around six weeks. She took time out from the challenge to visit Sunderland’s North East Business and Innovation Centre (Bic) to check out the work of Climate Action north and its Wear and Tees Action for Rivers (WATAR) project, which aims to clean up the region’s rivers and particularly reduce the amount of plastic pollution.

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Environmentalist Sacha Dench

Sacha turned her focus to climate change for this expedition after losing her family home in last year’s Australian bushfires.

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"As part of this expedition, we are investigating how climate change is affecting different regions of the country and showing – in a visually stunning and exciting way - what is happening to help cut carbon and preserve and restore our environment,” she said.

Sacha took part in a litterpick on the banks of the Wear during her visit and also met with representatives of some of the businesses who are sponsoring the flight, including energy saving specialist Arktek, which is also based at the Bic: “I am very thankful to all the sponsors and supporters who have stepped up to make this happen, particularly our major backers EDF,” she said.

Sacha Dench with her paramotor

"The support has been overwhelming, from companies to teachers, heads of government and individuals who have donated - getting us to take-off has been a mass effort.

Businessman Malcom Ridley, who owns a number of properties in Sunderland, donated £1,00 each to Sacha’s organisation Conservation Without Borders and Climate Action North.

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Sacha Dench with (back from left) Malcolm Ridley, Swiftwater Solution's Jed Richardson, Arktek's Katie Winter and Climate Action North's Sharon Lashley
Sacha in flight. Pic: Conservation without Borders