Canoeing Across Scotland: The Great Glen Canoe Trail
27 to 31 July, 2017
Just back from a great trip canoeing across Scotland along the Great Glen canoe trail. It’s a 60 mile trail that runs from Fort William to Inverness along the Caledonian Canal and several lochs including Loch Ness. And it is beautiful!!
A group of us from SKCC spent five days on the trail paddling open canoes. It was an interesting paddle, challenging in parts as the Lochs were pretty much inland seas changing rapidly with changing weather conditions and capable of generating a swell of 1-2 metres. The canal itself made up about 22 miles of the trail.
We were able to see Scotland at its most beautiful and to get a unique view of the changing landscape from the water. The trail itself was incredibly peaceful, surrounded by incredible landscape from banks of ferns and wild flowers to near vertical forests of pine. We passed tall sailing boats heading out to sea, working boats transporting plant machinery, sightseers, walkers on the Great Glen trail and two fellow canoeists. The lock keepers and campsites along the way were a great source of information about the local conditions and very, very local weather forecasts. We had sun, rain, wind and rainbows!
The trip gave us a great chance to use and develop our canoe skills to navigate the canal and lochs; to develop our map reading skills; to plan and think about strategy and safety; to work as a (great) team. All in all a fantastic experience and great company. I would paddle this trail again at the drop of a hat!
White water DevonThe lovely, lovely Dart loop
THE LOVELY LOVELY DART LOOP (3-5 March, 2017)
Just back from a fantastic weekend on the Dart Loop, coached by Derek Henzell. The Dart Loop is beautiful, 4 mile stretch of river that winds through the Dart Country Park. It is, I’m told, a classic beginner’s river running at low water and a great place to begin paddling white water. I went with a group from Spelthorne Kayak and Canoe Club (SKCC) with varying levels of white water experience, from ‘old hands’ Derek and two of ou...r SKCC level 2 coaches to club members with just one weekend of white water paddling experience.
We’d been asked to think about our goals in advance, for the weekend and longer term. This was a really helpful exercise, even though we needed a little help from Derek to move our weekend goals from huge wish list to something smarter and achievable!
The first day was full on! We paddled the full loop over the course of 4-5 hours, and spent lots of time building our key skills on the way: ferry gliding; breaking into the main flow; developing our key strokes to make sure we ended up in the eddy rather than sailing past it! As we became more comfortable and confident we were encouraged to work in pairs (microteams) moving from eddy to eddy down the river, and even to lead the group down through the ‘easier’ rapids. The extra responsibility was an interesting experience, leading rather than following, but great for developing our awareness. We also started to learn more about how different features, like bends in the river and constrictions, affect the water flow and how to make sure we stuck to our line by developing lateral momentum, eg moving diagonally across the river almost perpendicular to the flow. Left the river having completed the loop tired and very happy – we didn’t miss out a single rapid!
We paddled the Dart Loop again on day 2, and I thought it would be similar to the day before but the rain overnight had turned it into a different river. The rapids were bigger and fluffier and bouncier than the day before and hugely enjoyable. I felt comfortable and more confident after the work we did on the first day and enjoyed the added challenge of higher water. We worked in microteams again, taking it in turns to lead our partner from eddy to eddy and again, led the team on some stretches. We also spent time inspecting one or two larger rapids from the bank – it’s fascinating to watch the water features change over the course of the rapid and to try to plot a route down, keen to learn more about this! We completed the Dart Loop again, running everything except the triple steps and lunched above the washing machine in a hailstorm – fab!
I had a brilliant weekend, paddling with a great bunch of people. Thanks to Derek for some excellent coaching, Martin and John for separating me from the rock I was hugging, and to the rest of ‘team extreme’ for excellent company!