I have just spent the last four days providing a Gold D of E Canoe Practice Expedition for my friends at Gateway outdoor and what a great 4 days it turned out to be too.
Our intention had been to paddle between Abermule and Shrewsbury (approximately 78km) stopping at various top secret locations along the way. There are many schools of thought on the methods of supervision for the practice expedition and I prescribe to the school of thought that the practice expedition is an extension of the training phase and opted to paddle with the group for the first two days to develop their paddling skills and check / improve their river leadership strategies.
The first day was as expected a bit of an eye opener for the team but they really liked my traffic signal concept of judging rapids (red, amber & green) and by the middle of the day their confidence had grown considerably so much so that by the second day I was able to take a back seat role.
Our second day, included the Welshpool Weir and a particularly badly tree choked section that needed a bit of close supervision. If you are thinking of running the river after Pool Quay that I suggest that you inspect first before leading a D of E group. After this section the group were pretty much left to their own devices and found the campsite with ease. The campsite was set up efficiently and there was a certain buzz around camp as I outlined the checkpoints that I expected them to be at on the river and they realised that they would for all intents and purposes be paddling alone.
The group were up and really chomping at the bit to get going the next day and they were soon off to Montford Bridge where they would be camping for the night. The group found all their checkpoints and found that their paddling speed was 6kph with the wind and 4kph against it so they kept me updated with their revised ETA’s as they paddled down the river. As had been pre planned, we revisited canoe rescues looking at STVK and SRT carried out a curl rescue of an upturned boat and a boat / swimmer rescue. To boost morale that evening we lit a camp fire and toasted marshmallows. Nice!!
Unfortunately, the weather gods were not kind to us on the last day with S/SE winds expected of up to 39kph (Force 4 / 5) and I reluctantly decided that it would not be safe or practical to be paddling into a head wind of such a force. However, I saw this as a training opportunity and presented the weather information to the group (wind speed and direction drawn on a map). After some discussion, they came back to me and advised that they did not think it safe to paddle in such conditions and asked if they could complete their expedition on foot by following the Severn Way into Shrewsbury. That decision almost brought a tear to my eye and really epitomised what a D of E expedition is all about for me.
I had a great time on the water and so did the time and they were all feeling particularly chuffed that they did complete their expedition and made the correct decision not to paddle that day. A fitting end to a great expedition and well bode well for the qualifying expedition to Scotland later in the year.
If you would like CHMAS to provide this type of expedition for your group then please take a look at our main website to find out more by clicking here.
To see a few photographs of the expedition then please click here.