Silver DofE Canoe Expedition
12 September 2023
On Thursday 07 September the Silver DofE group, consisting of 8 Year 11 pupils, set off for Scotland to complete the three day canoe expedition on the River Dee and Loch Ken.
All good adventures start with a bit of travel and logistics so after loading the bus and stopping on the way for some very tasty fish, chips and mushy peas, we set off for the first nights camping at the Ken Bridge campsite. Arriving well after dark, it was a rather stealthy set up trying not to disturb those already in their tents in the quiet riverside campsite.
Friday morning was a morning practicing on the river under the bridge at the campsite. The team worked hard at paddling skills, safe swimming rescue techniques and canoe poling (a method of getting down a river with low water rather like you see in Venice but with no stripy tops and a lot less elegant!). After a riverside lunch, we loaded up and headed north for the afternoon journey.
Saying goodbye to the bus and any form of transport other than our canoes, the team set off downstream. Water levels were now low so our poling practice came into action, and we arrived at the head of Loch Ken around 7pm, finding an amazing wild camp on the side of the loch.
On Saturday, a heavy fog clung to the loch making for a rather atmospheric journey! This section of the trip was 15km and even though the fog lifted around midday, a head wind set in, making the paddling hard, though staying close to the side some shelter could be found. The group travelled independently staying in touch with VHF radio. Meeting Mr Cooke and myself later in the day, the group made camp on an island at the southern end of the loch. One of the things the team enjoyed most about the trip was the camping and this island camp was a favourite. The team built a small camp fire and set about cooking on their stoves and putting up tents. Mr Cooke and myself chose a spot hidden from view, giving the canoe team a bit of space to enjoy the remoteness of their surroundings.
On Sunday morning, we meet the group 1km downstream from the camp where the Loch finishes at a man made barrage, and the River Dee stretches away with more rapids and fast flowing water. Helmets were put on and the team crossed the barrage and set off down the river towards Tongland, a journey of around 13km with Threave Castle and a number of rapids to pass before reaching the finish.
I am delighted to say that all the team have now completed and passed their expedition module of their Silver DofE.
It was a fantastic trip where all involved were great company. The team’s camp craft was of a great standard and their journeying and canoe skills also improved greatly during the trip.
It’s not about what time we will be at camp. It is about the journey the unknowns and the experiences that we have along the way.
It’s a huge well done to all the team and a big thank you to Graham Cooke for giving up his weekend to make it possible.
I very much look forward to our next Adventure!
– Matt Reedy, Outdoor Education Team