Canoe Club White Water Trip

Posted on Friday, September 30th, 2016

Far, far too early one morning last December three quite sleepy Scouts met at the 25th, helped load kayaks onto cars and set off into the pitch darkness. This was the Canoe Club's first white water day trip!

Far, far too early one morning last December three quite sleepy Scouts met at the 25th, helped load kayaks onto cars and set off into the pitch darkness.

This was the Canoe Club’s first white water day trip. The Scouts had all passed a PaddleSport Discovery course (equivalent to the 2* award) earlier that year. With the techniques from this course under their belts and bright yellow helmets firmly wedged upon their noggins, we were able to treat them to a slightly more exciting and demanding river than can be experienced at the Wye Valley camps.

Two vehicles travelled 130 miles from Southampton to Exemoor in Devon. Our trip down the river Barle started at the ancient Tarr Steps and finished at the village of Dulverton. We paddled for three to four hours, the water was excellent, there being plenty of it, with continuous grade 2 rapids from start to finish. The Barle provided some great autumnal scenery and we even found a rather excellent spot for a picnic on the banks.

The Scouts all paddled brilliantly. As leaders we could tell they were all nervous at first, but the wobbles soon gave way to big grins as they began to confidently smash through bigger and bigger stoppers and even surf on waves.

But you shouldn’t take my word for it. Here’s what Chris and Patrick Lotery had to say:

Chris said:

“I really enjoyed the trip. It was a perfect mix of fun and challenges. I would definitely recommend it.

Before the trip I was quite nervous, I was a bit worried about the cold, both out of water and if I capsized! In the end I felt a perfect temperature and capsizing was not encouraged (to my relief!)

I felt I improved my confidence and ability on the day and learnt the basics of river trips, for example avoiding trees and rocks, getting in and out of eddies and surfing on stoppers. I really enjoyed the weir; splashing into the frothy water at the end was great! Also the experience of going on a day trip down an isolated river was excellent.
A big thank you to Mike, Chris and John for running the trip.”

And Patrick said:

“My experience of the whitewater kayaking was overall very good. It was very fun, and, while challenging, was not too difficult.

The drive to Dulverton was quite long, but it was OK as it gave us a chance to sleep after having to get up at 5am. After we arrived, we had to get changed in a car park, and that wasn’t that fun as it was quite cold, being December and we were in a public place. Then, it was a short drive to the place where we started our downriver journey.

Because we were going downstream, the paddling was not tiring at all; at times we just drifted without doing anything. However, we had to stay focused when we went down a section of rapids, as the many rocks and currents could make us capsize. In spite of this, none of the rapids were difficult to navigate and the rocks were quite easy to spot and avoid. There were also many eddies by the riverbank that we could stop in and have a rest.

After getting out of our boats for lunch, we continued on our way. Unfortunately, it was around this point that I capsized, not from the currents, but by hitting a tree on the bank. Fortunately, my boat and paddle were recovered and I was unhurt. I got back in and we continued.

At many points along the journey, we stopped to have a play in some ‘stoppers’ – areas of water that flow over a rock and then bend back, effectively flowing upstream. We all had a go at surfing on these, and I was surprised at how easy it was.Eventually, we arrived back to Dulverton, where we changed out of our wet kit and helped pack up the boats.

On the way back, we stopped at a service station to get some food and we were back at the 25th scout hut by 7pm. Overall, the day was really enjoyable and I would recommend it to anyone who has got a BCU 2 star award.”

And if you still need proof that getting up at exceptionally silly o’clock in the morning can, just occasionally be worth it, here are two short videos of the trip. The first one I made, but the second far more professional effort was made by and stars Josh.

Southampton Scouts White water trip 2015. River Barle, Tarr Steps to Dulverton from Mike Veal on Vimeo.

Southamton Scouts, River Barle trip 2015 from Mike Veal on Vimeo.

The trip will run again this year for those Scouts who gained their PaddleSport Discovery award in 2016. Sadly the trip can’t be opened to the whole District as the group size must be kept small and it is imperative that the paddlers are of 2 Star standard.

Perhaps you’d like to join us in 2017. Ask your leader to book you on to a Canoe Club course next year!