Friday, 18 March 2016

D of E training expedition

Well what an adventure that was:

On 7th March 2016 the DisTIL Team (- Marc, but + Simon) and Josh headed out in the van to the River Severn to begin 4 days of canoeing D of E.
This includes canoeing to different campsites where we would set up camp, cook dinner and settle in for the night before waking up, cooking breakfast and setting off for another day on the river.

Us most of the time
So Day 1:
This was a fairly simple day. We loaded into the van having checked all equipment, then drove for about 3 hours, with a quick McDonald's stop on the way, until we reached our get on point. 
Here we unloaded all the boats and kit and got onto the water with our first taste of mud, which we would soon find out would become a running theme of the week ahead...

We only had a short half day of paddling that day, so we completed the 16km by about 5 pm, and all in glorious sunshine, what a treat!

At the first campsite we unloaded and set up camp for the night, Beth and I shared my pop-up tent, Ben and Simon shared and therefore Claire and Emily B also shared.
We all managed to successfully make dinner and still had time to spare!
This campsite was ideally set up with a heated toilet and shower block and fresh running water close by, luxury! However this set our hopes high for the rest of the week.

The nest morning we all woke up at about 7am and cooked breakfast (mostly porridge) then packed up the tents and kit back into the boats and set off for day 2.

Claire ready for action
Day 2:
This was out first full day of canoeing with a mere 35km to paddle. However we weren't quite so blessed with the weather this day as it , nor us, could not decide what it was doing! One moment it would be sunshine, then rain and fog the next, all topped up with a good bit of  hail?!

On this day Josh had taken to becoming land team and met us at different points on our route card. Therefore we made sure we were on time according to the route cards, which meant longer breaks were required where we did get a little chilly. However we had taken a little rugby ball to play with and even took time to do some interviews with the team about how we were finding it, complete with singing! 
Also on this stretch we would come across out first bit of real moving water, which meant we had to get out of the boats  and carry them around the weir to get back on the other side as none of us were prepared (or allowed) to go straight over. This made a pleasant stop for lunch on the river bank.

Orienteering check
None the less we managed to complete the day without too much trouble and arrived at the next campsite ready for a break.

This was our most remote campsite as it was just a field with a compost toilet for company. Luckily for us the rain held off a bit whilst we set up camp and made some dinner before heading for an early night at 8pm! (it was a little too cold to hang around outside, so off to bed it was).

We awoke again about 7am and packed away back into the boats to set off into day 3.

Day 3: 
This was our longest day planned at 42km to travel. Fortunately the river was quite high and therefore flowing quite fast, allowing us to make it up to a high of 12kmh and an average of 10kmh over the day.

We carried on a little further down and were then told to wait and meet josh at Ironbridge, where he would tell us if we could take on the Jackson rapids or not.

So we met him and he gave us the okay. This really was the first time on moving for some of the team, but we all made it across with no qualms, and in fact added a real highlight of the trip and worked wonders in picking up team moral on this cold day.

Next we found a little spot to stop on the river bank for lunch break and an aerobics session to get some blood moving to our chilly toes. 

Finally we made it to campsite number 3, however we did get there a little early and had to wait for the landlord to return before we could set up camp. Naturally we found some shelter from the wind and rain to wait in; the only thing is the shelter we found was the slide cover on a children's playground shaped like a tree...but hey it worked!

Our secret hide out
We then set up camp and, with some talking to the landlord, even got hot water!!

I felt particularly cold this day so went straight to bed whilst the others made their dinner and soon followed to bed at the ripe old time of 7pm! 
(It was just too cold and windy to stay outside, so an early night it was.)

Packing back into the boats
Day 4:
We all awoke feeling very refreshed after about 12 hours in bed, and safe in the knowledge we would have our own beds again that evening!
However that didn't excuse the cold from creeping in as all of our things were covered over in frost outside, which made packing away quite chilly on the fingers. 
We had so much energy and drive to get going we actually packed away early, and had to wait to be allowed to leave at 9am as it said on our route card. 

Having set off we were instructed to canoe at our own pace to see how fast we really could paddle; we ended up cutting out journey time by half of the original thinking!!  

It was a good moment when we got to the end point and saw Josh and the van waiting for us at the end, we had made it! 

We completed the quickest get off yet and loaded the boats back onto the trailer so we could drive home, naturally with a quick McDonald's stop in order to hold out tradition before returning to base for some well earned showers and beds.

Final load of canoes onto the trailer
We are all happy to have completed the practice expedition, and are looking forward to the real thing in August, when we're hoping the winter winds may have calmed down a bit...
It was such a great adventure with some priceless moments and memories to treasure from our DisTIL year.


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