I have been working for my friends at ProAdventure on a five day D of E Gold training canoe expedition programme prior to the group undertaking their unaccompanied expedition later this year.
Canoe Training (2 days)
Day one was spend on the Llangollen Canal fine tuning the fundamental skills (forward paddling, stopping and turning) before moving on to towing and rescue practice , which was widely enjoyed by all.
The second day was spent on the River Dee at Llangollen and looked at ferry gliding, breaking in / out of the current, river hazards and river leading strategies with a little bit of time spend running the rapids.
Practice Expedition (3 days)
With the training completed in good style, it was soon time to move on the practice expedition, which for this group was to be on the River Severn between Melverly and Ironbridge (80 kilometres).
On the first day they travelled between Melverly and Montford Bridge (this is also the location of the first ever bridge designed by Thomas Telford) which is a pleasant paddle with a few little riffles to push you along your journey. The nice lady at the campsite remembered me from my last visit and asked if I had remembered the bike lock key this time. Which, when I told the story to the group caused much amusement and myself a little embarrassment!
The good weather continued into day two while the group paddled to Atcham. A major hazard on this route is the Shrewsbury Weir, which if run requires care at all water levels. After a quick assessment of the water levels and a group discussion, it was agreed that the group would run the weir but as a safety precaution they felt that removing the kit first would be sensible precaution. Well, I’m pleased to say that they all run the weir without incident and arrived a safely at the overnight campsite at Atcham a few hours later.
With good weather predicted for the next day the group opted for a 07:00 start for their third day of paddling to Ironbridge. The group made good progress to Cressage, where they paused for second breakfast before arriving at Ironbridge a few hours later.
All in all a pleasant three days and one which made me reflect about my processes for deciding on an appropriate method of supervision for expeditions. Too much and the group see this as an unnecessary intrusion to their expedition where as too little (if something goes wrong) and the health and safety card is played. I feel that I have a robust framework in place based on the ability / experience / fitness of the group, weather conditions, water levels and my knowledge of the River Severn. I would welcome the views of readers on how the decide on the most appropriate level of supervision.