Eton College students Ivo Pope and Hugo Parker faced a tough challenge in freezing conditions as they battled to raise money for a care home that supports autistic young people.

The two, both aged 17, signed up for the notoriously gruelling annual 125 mile canoe challenge from Devizes to Westminster - hoping to raise money for the residential care and education centre Prior’s Court in Thatcham where Ivo’s severely autistic brother Orlando, 19, lives.

Ivo said: "Many residents at Prior’s Court cannot communicate, understand the world around them, safely go out in the community and need to learn independence skills from scratch. Prior’s Court gives them real opportunities to learn to participate in life after school. "Fundraising is essential. This was our motivation. Having never kayaked before, we set ourselves the marathon task of kayaking 125 miles from Devizes to Westminster over Easter weekend.”

The boys began their training mid-December.

Ivo said: “We’ve spent a lot of time in the Thames rather than on the Thames throughout this endless winter. Our personal best so far has been training in the dark during a snowstorm with a wind chill factor of minus eight. We’ve kayaked through ice on the canal, and run with our kayak when the water has been frozen solid.”

The race was due to take place over the course of four days, starting on Good Friday but things did not go as planned. Hugo had become ill after the first day and the boys' coach Dave Ford from Berkshire College of Agriculture had had to take over on the second.

Then the whole race had to be abandoned at Dreadnought Reach, Reading due to the water levels being too high for safety.

But Ivo’s mother, Alison could not be more proud of him and his chum.

He said: “For Ivo and Hugo to do this for Orlando - to say that I’m proud of them would be an understatement. Orlando has been at Prior’s Court for five years and is so happy there. It doesn’t just rescue children – it rescues families."

The boys' sponsors are standing by their commitment and anyone wishing to support them - and Prior's Court - can do so by visiting JustGiving at They hope to top the £6,000 mark.