This weekend a mixed group of Leaders and Explorers headed up to Wales for a weekend of canoeing. Despite having originally planned to take on some whitewater, a combination of high winds and high river levels forced us to abandon this plan and saw us instead honing our skills on the River Severn and Llangollen Canal.
On Friday night we braved the M6 traffic and drove up to Wales, towing our eight bright orange canoes in classic Wild Wolf style. Once finally arrived, we bedded down in the local Scout hall, apprehensively checking Saturday’s weather forecast.
Saturday morning saw us donning all our assorted canoeing gear and driving down to the River Banwy, but we quickly realised that the poor weather and high river level had made our original plan unfeasible. Instead, we hit the road again and headed to the River Severn, taking in the many flooded fields and raging rivers on the way. Having arrived at Ironbridge, we got our boats on the water, prayed for the rain to stay away, and set off!
While the wind made travelling in a straight line somewhat… difficult, we still took the opportunity to improve our canoeing skills, practising ferry gliding and entering eddies. Marlon also executed an (allegedly…) intentional capsize to give us the chance to perform an X rescue. Several kilometres later, we arrived at our journey’s destination of Bridgnorth, loaded the canoes onto the trailer, and drove back to Welshpool.
The evening saw us cooking enough chilli con carne to feed an army, and the Explorers making use of the centre’s television to watch Home Alone (shhh, we know it’s not Christmas…), before heading off to bed.
On Sunday morning we repacked our kit, packaged up all the leftover chilli, and piled back into the minibus for the drive to Llangollen. Once at the Horseshoe Falls car park, we earned ourselves the usual curious glances from local residents by heaving our boats and kit down to the Llangollen Canal and taking to the water. As we paddled down the calmer waters of the canal, we enjoyed both the sunshine and the cream teas on offer at a waterside tea room.
The final part of our journey included the impressive Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, which towers above the countryside at 127ft and carries the canal across the River Dee. Canoeing across the aqueduct, we all appreciated the brilliant views – and the long drop to the ground! Once across to the other side, we loaded the canoes onto the trailer and got ready to drive back to London, marking the end of an excellent trip.