Group of friends sail a flamingo down the Liverpool Leeds Canal in Wheelton to promote sobriety

Residents of Wheelton in Chorley got a shock over the weekend as a flamingo was seen sailing down the Liverpool Leeds Canal.

By Aimee Seddon
Thursday, 28th July 2022, 3:45 pm
Updated Thursday, 28th July 2022, 7:20 pm

The bright pink inflatable flamingo was being sailed by three friends near Wheelton Locks, who captured their escapades on video.

The owner of the flamingo, 38-year-old IT worker Stefanie Smith from Wheelton, enjoyed her unusual ride with friends Kat Bowler, 35, a finance worker from Manchester, and Cat Race, 36 from Preston, who owns CatsDog Photography.

What is the background to the story?

Friends Stefanie Smith, Cat Race and Kat Bowler sailed a flamingo down the Leeds Liverpool Canal in Wheelton on Sunday

The group’s flamingo fun stems from Stef’s alcohol free journey, which started in January this year, with the aim of improving her general wellbeing and mental health.

As a further motivation to quit the drink, Stef had been “saving the money from being alcohol free to put towards a campervan”, and on Sunday, the friends took her new purchase out for a trip to Whins Green Kitchen in Chorley, when the idea randomly came to them.

Cat explained: “We were gonna take the paddle boards out but the weather was a bit crap and Stef had just been on this Wild Wanderers festival so she had this giant blow-up pink flamingo just knocking around in her campervan and we were like shall we just take that down the canal for a laugh?”

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Stefanie (left) and Kat (centre) are both tee-total, whilst Cat is just a "nutter" she says!

What did people think?

Stef says they did not think they were doing anything that mad “until everybody started coming out and filming us and cheering us”, with the group causing a stir among passer bys, fellow watergoers and barking dogs.

Cat added: “They were all like ‘are you drunk’ and we would say ‘no we’re all sober!’ Stef and Kat are both completely tee-total so it was a good example of why you don't need to drink to have a good time – it unintentionally became an example of that message.

“I reckon it was the talk of the village the next day, like ‘did you see those three nutters on the pink flamingo?’”

"People were taking our picture and waving at us from the towpath and from the different boats, it was very funny", says Cat.

Indeed since Sunday, the friends say they have seen screengrabs of their journey posted in various Facebook groups.

Stef also posted the video on her TikTok account, which is centred around her alcohol free journey, and within two days it has received over 7000 views, and her account has gained 1000 followers.

Why is promoting sobreity an important message?

Stef said: “A lot of people just binge drink because it's the norm, and we're all thrown into it as soon as we reach a certain age, and I think a lot of us silently suffer with anxiety and low key depression but between our friends, we don't talk about it. It's only since I've started posting on TikTok, that I've found a lot of people have reached out to me. We're all waking up the day after with anxiety, dread and hating ourselves, and we're going through that constant cycle, thinking that we're never going to have fun again if we quit drinking, but actually, I've started to have more fun now I've got to my six months point than I ever did drinking and I just think there should be more awareness that there is more to life than just binge drinking every weekend.”

"Watch out for round two" as the girls may bring out the flamingo again...

“The flamingo is testament to that!”, Cat added.

Will we see the flamingo again?

Cat replied: “We didn't have any plans but now you've asked, we've just looked at each other nodding. Watch out for round two soon, Chorley! Maybe we'll get a little bit further or do a sponsored paddle!”