Last weekend was the training camp for people completing their DofE expeditions by canoe. Camp started on Friday evening as we lugged barrels full of our personal kit down to Scout Park, ready to load onto the van. We also had the all-important food barrels (containing ridiculous amounts of sugar), and the group kit barrels. Having got onto the minibus, we drove to Romney Island to pick up a canoe.
When we got to Romney, four of us were sent back up the long long road that we had just come down, to direct Will and Phil in the van. It took them quite a while to arrive, and as a result, we were left standing there in the middle of an industrial estate, getting some pretty weird looks. Eventually they did arrive, and we waved them down the narrow road, before walking back to find the canoe had been strapped to the roof rack of one of the minibuses. Once we were back on the minibus, we set off again.
As soon as we arrived at Longridge, we unloaded our barrels and set up our tents. Soon the van belonging to 8th Holborn arrived, and we helped to unload all their equipment and set up the cooking tent and dining shelters (this was all for the leaders – we were cooking on Trangias all weekend).
After this, most of the unit walked in to Marlow to search for a chip shop. Having found one, we happily returned to camp. Then it was time for bed, and we fell asleep to the sound of cars roaring across the motorway bridge above us.
The next morning we all woke up and got ready for canoeing (or cycling, for the group from TESU), made our lunches, and gathered spare clothes in case we got wet or cold. Then we met up with our instructors and got paddles and buoyancy aids on. We launched our boats and began practising canoeing skills and different turns, by canoeing round the island near the campsite.
Later on we had to practise capsizing, much to the enjoyment of everyone on the bank. We were told to get out of our boats into the freezing water that surrounded them. It was cold. VERY cold. You read in books that cold water ‘takes your breath away’, and this literally did.
Each person dragged themselves out of the water (or their canoes if they had managed to get back in) and waddled their way to the showers, which, unlike the usual scout showers, were actually hot!
After lunch, a few of the more experienced canoeing groups had left on an overnight expedition to Henley. The rest of us stayed at Longridge, where we cooked dinner on the Trangias and sat around chatting for the majority of the evening.
In the morning, we woke up and prepared ourselves for another day of training. Once we had collected the necessary kit, we set out on a longer journey upstream, through the lock and past Marlow. Luckily, no one managed to fall in the river, which would have complicated things quite a lot…
After paddling back downstream, we ate lunch at the campsite and welcomed the expedition groups as they returned. We quickly packed our tents and other kit away, before some groups ventured out on the water again. Tilly also decided it was the perfect opportunity for a refreshing swim, and splashed around in the river, saying cheerfully ‘it’s not cold!’ which we all doubted.
Once camp was packed away, it was time for a litter sweep, before heading back to Scout Park, where we were surprised with much-appreciated ice cream – a fitting end to the weekend!
– by the Explorers