A Sunny Weekend on the Thames

Last weekend, the Unit dedicated itself to canoeing. Scouts from all over gathered at Longridge Activity Centre to prepare for, or complete, Duke of Edinburgh Award expeditions, and to improve their skills on the water.

One Gold DofE team completed a grueling practice expedition along the Thames, to ensure that they were all ready for their qualifying expedition in August.

“After a short journey in the minibuses, we arrived at Longridge on Friday evening. We quickly set up camp, had supper, indulged in some cheeky Pringles, and then it was time for bed.

With so many Scouts participating, a lot of boats were needed!

We would become very familiar with our canoes over the next two days…

In the morning, we had a quick take down of camp, as we attempted to squash all our kit back into our barrels. Soon, we’d been driven to Cholsey, clambered into our canoes, and had confidently paddled off – just not in the right direction.

After a short, fully intentional tour of the upstream river, we had lunch at our original starting point and started our journey downstream. The journey suddenly became a bit more interesting when we accidentally gatecrashed a regatta being held on the river (whoopsies!).

However, due to our venture upstream, we ended up canoeing a total of 28 miles before getting to Henley, and had a twilight arrival to camp at around 10pm. We swiftly set up camp, cooked some pasta, and then crashed in our tents, ready for an early rise at 6am.

Sunday’s journey was from Henley down to Windsor, and mainly consisted of some fabulous serenading of the locals. Anyone out on the river that day would have experienced the sight of a group of sweaty singers, greeting the general public with bouts of Disney, and a couple of cheesy classics.

We encountered plenty of locks along our journey

We encountered plenty of locks along our journey

After the 20 mile journey, we arrived, not in twilight, but in blazing sunlight – and with matching sunburn lines! We then proceeded to consume the entire contents of our food barrel, in what we felt was a well-deserved treat for our aching bodies. The barrel, needless to say, is now devoid of chocolate and sugary goodness.”

– Dearbhla (with Carina, Ellie & Zuzanna)

Our other Gold DofE team had more experience, so spent their weekend doing training for the British Canoe Union 3* open canoe qualification.

“We were doing our 3*, and that meant no journeying for us! We gave our barrels to the Bronze team for the weekend, and spent the three days camping at Longridge. We watched other teams come and go – making sure not to help any teams on their actual DofE!

Part of our team

Part of our team!

Our aim for the weekend was to gain skills to help with our Gold DofE, while the leaders wanted to achieve the assessment in order to enable the Unit to do more activities. We learnt lots of new skills, and were able to improve on old ones. To become better solo paddlers, we employed J-strokes, reverse J-strokes, cross-deck and many more techniques. As well as this, the course included learning how to tow canoes, rig sails, and rescue ourselves and others – all abilities that will certainly aid us in completing our actual expedition on the River Wye this summer. Phil managed to pass the course, and will get a shiny new certificate to show for it!

As we were staying at Longridge, we had a bit more time for leisure, and did some swimming in the Thames (the weather was definitely hot enough!) and also spent some time in kayaks.”

– Thomas S (with Leah, Ross, Brad, Megan & Tilly)

As well as the Gold teams, a Silver team with two WWESU members, Michal and Murray, successfully completed a practice expedition along the Thames, allowing them to gain more experience before doing their final journey on the River Wye.

A big congratulations are also in order for Max, Luke, Adam and Lucas, our Bronze canoeing team, who succeeded in passing their qualifying expedition this weekend!

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The Bronze team at Longridge

All in all, the weekend was a productive one, which left us with aching muscles and a sense of pride in what we’d achieved.

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