Leaders have a Wales of a time

It would be unfair of us to put Explorers through their paces on DofE expeditions if we didn’t occasionally prove that we too could pass muster. Last weekend the Leaders headed to Llangollen in North Wales for some exciting white water in Canadian Canoes.

The River Dee early on Saturday morning was cold – but we had it to ourselves!

We met at the Dockland Scout Project where we collected the 8th Holborn‘s Canoes, which they had kindly leant to us for the weekend. It was a late start and we eventually arrived at Abbey Farm in Llangollen at 1am. We pitched tents and crashed out, for it was to be an early start.

The river soon woke up with a series of Grade 1 and 2 rapids

The next morning we drove to Glyndyfrdwy – bonus points for being able to pronounce it! – and put into the River Dee under the old bridge. This section of the Dee (the Upper Dee) is quiet and we saw no one else all morning.

It is important to inspect unfamiliar rapids before running. This can be done from the boat or from the bank.

We paddled down a beautiful series of Grade 1 and 2 rapids which took us all the way to Horseshoe Falls – a huge horseshoe-shaped weir. After careful inspection we ran it on the left where a set of rocky steps led us down into the pool below.

We ran the weir hard left where the high water meant a chute had opened up, avoiding the main drop.

We had a chilly but peaceful lunch below the weir and were back on the water in no time. Next up was the infamous Serpent’s Tail, which is a Grade 3, or 4 in high water, and we definitely were not running that (not in someone else’s boats, at any rate!) and we lined the canoes down, before continuing our journey.

More rapids below Horseshoe Falls followed

We had fun in the ‘tombstones’ area by the Mill in Llangollen where Donald was waiting for us with the minibus. A much-needed hot chocolate was had in the cafe before we returned to camp for dinner (curry!) and a pint in the campsite bar.

You can’t hear shouts on the river, so paddlers use hand signals. Here Jaye is signalling to Alex to stay where he is.

The next day we packed up camp and drove to Bala lake, or Llyn Tegid, to give it it’s Welsh name. We paddled hard up the lake against the wind before crossing to the other side and having lunch.

Bala Lake/ Llyn Tegid

After lunch we rigged sails using poles and tarps and whizzed down the lake. What had taken us three hours to paddle up took 20 minutes to get down!

By rafting two canoes you can make a very stable rig from which to hoist a sail

Once again Donald was waiting at the finish point and had lit a fire and was cooking sausages! The warming fire inspired Marlon and Jaye to lose the drysuits and have a dip in the freezing lake to shake out the cobwebs!


It was the perfect way to finish a weekend of canoeing – sausages on the fire, watching the sunset. You couldn’t plan it!


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