03 Oct Barhaugh Hall Multi-Discipline Paddling Expedition 2017
As the scene opens we find ourselves looking at a rather rag-tag group of travellers, three cars between them, they journey down the M6 towards North Wales. Destination, unknown. (That’s a lie, we’re headed to Carrog for our Expedition. It just sounded cooler.) Gareth G, Emmy B, Alex T, Becca M, Martin L, Beth S and I, your humble story teller, Dan A. I’ll mention the weather at this stage of the journey was particularly poor, with rain cascading from the heavens themselves. (As an Englishman I feel I need to mention the weather at some point in this short tale, so best to get it out of the way early.) But we would not let that dampen our spirits! For we were off, ready to embrace whatever the team of Get-a-Fix could throw at us. Upon our arrival at the Sun Trevor Inn, we met the lovely Leo and Pete and after a round (of introductions) we were off, ready to start the first day of what would be a very wet (more so for some) and exciting four days.
Tandem Canoeing, (everyone’s second favourite type of canoeing) was the plan for the first afternoon. Down the Llangollen Canal we journeyed, showing the guys of Get-A-Fix our stuff, turning on the move? No problem! It might be a little much to say that within 10 minutes of our tandem adventure we were professionals, but as there’s no one to currently contradict me at the time of writing, I’ll say it. Professionals. The afternoon was punctuated by a trip over the gorgeous Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, not for the faint of heart! Of course, GG stood up on the boat, because, why not? Upon reaching the end of our canal journey one of our hosts Pete challenged the Barhaugh hall team to a headstand in a canoe. So we did it. Totally nailed it, no problem. (Me and GG totally fell in. I blame him.) After getting out and getting the gear away we set off to Carrog, eventually reaching the home of Get-A-Fix. We were shown the fantastic lodgings that they had available for us and informed of the plan for the following day. Down the Tryweryn we were going! *Gulp*…
Now I’ll just say this – myself, I’d been in a closed pit Kayak before, once, many moons ago. Some of our party hadn’t even done that, however. A few others were totally awesome and had plenty of experience. So when we were told we’d be going on a journey down some grade two and grade three rapids, did we worry? Yes, yes we did. We were shown the specialised sit on top white water kayaks we’d be using and the guys of Get-A-Fix explained that they had special leg straps to help us edge. No sweat. Onto the water, turn, go with the flow, we’ve got it, we’ve got it, paddle into the eddy, go go go! We’d done it, we were all in the first eddy. Maybe this isn’t so hard, I thought to myself. Oh, what a fool I was. I spent half of the journey swimming down the Tryweryn. I’d managed to get the hang of it around half way, however, and even managed some grade three rapids without much difficulty (my team were so impressed they all cheered, that was a mistake). Emmy was a beast, her first time in a Kayak and she smashed it, a big smile (like there always is) was evident on her face to see. Alex T, who had been anxious before we started, was obviously an old hand at Kayaking, showing me how it was done. Rebecca’s aim was to not fall in and guess what? She nailed it. Beth, our sweeper, was clearly more experienced at this than I’d have guessed. In fact, Rebecca, Martin and GG, the three experienced members of the group even went down a Grade 4 rapid at the end of the run, Bala Mill Falls. Great job guys! Out we got, changed and dried. It was back to the bunks for us, where we relaxed after an amazing trip down some white water.
We asked Pete and Leo for a chill third day, because we were all fairly tired and they said they’d think something up and get back to us. Little did we know, it wasn’t quite the chill day we envisioned.
Solo canoeing down the Dee, a proper expedition. Flat water with a very slight current to keep us moving, perfect. We set off eagerly, laying claim to the different canoes/paddles and looking forward to what we thought might be a short trip. For myself, it was a great opportunity to practise some of those two star canoe skills and ask Pete, one of our hosts, for some pointers. We were all blissfully unaware that actually, the trip was a little longer than we’d expected. By the end we’d travelled 12km. Around one third of the way into our journey we stopped for lunch, next to a delightful shack. The owner proudly displaying his English flag for all of the Welsh property owners on the other side of the Dee to see. It was a welcome break, but before long we were back to it, paddling down the Dee. Somewhere between our lunch break and about two thirds of the way the rain set in, but we wouldn’t let a little rain hamper our explorer spirits! (Drat, there I go talking about the weather again.) A short while later some boats decided to paddle tandem as they’d grown a little tired. Me and GG tried it for a while (I think all the paddling was getting to him) but after a short while we both agreed that we preferred to paddle solo. The great thing about a journey like this, is that you can really find a rhythm. We’re all taught two star skills for work, so a long journey down some water was good time to do some practising. I was pulling out the J-Stroke, the Y-Stroke, the X stroke. Round the bend…and there it is! Our destination, Chester, was dead ahead. A short way further and we’d be back, warm, dried and very tired, but at least we can say we went on a proper expedition length journey. We’d tested and proved our paddling skills, we’d made it. Dried and back at the bunk house, we were asked to decide what we wanted to do on day four. So of course we decided we wanted some more white water action! We were heading back to our kayaks to smash the Dee. I almost forgot! Alex and Beth totally SUP’d half of the journey. I’ve tried it since and all I can say to that is wow, good balance girls.
Horse shoe falls. The river Dee. Sit on top (or closed cockpit for our experienced members) kayaks were at the ready. We were off! Down the chicken shoot and into the eddy, we all made it. From there on the journey was awesome. It was obvious that the guys from Get-A-Fix were impressed, taking us down as a whole team in places rather than one at a time. A big smile on all faces, every time I managed to make it into an eddy without having to swim. It might have taken me half of a previous journey to get the hang of it, but I had it! We got out for lunch at the serpents tail and afterwards we were given the option to try and kayak the grade 3. Leo gave us our chances of getting down without coming off our sit on tops. 30%. As a gambling man, I liked those odds. Myself and Emmy unfortunately came off our sit on tops just before the drop but GG, Martin and Beth smashed it, no problem. One of my favourite parts of the trip was right after this rapid, hearing Emmy turn to Leo and promise him that in one year she’d return, ready. That in one year, she’d go down no problem. Hearing that really brought a smile to my face, because for me that feeling really encapsulated the whole journey, and who we are at Robinwood. We’re positive. We’re enthusiastic. We want to go back, and try and try again, because we love to have fun and push ourselves, develop ourselves, do our best. You go Emmy, and when you go back, I’ll go with you. The rest of the journey was just as fun and exciting, with GG showing us how to swim some rapids near the end and myself getting too comfortable nearer Llangollen, going for a swim in front of my fans on the water’s edge.
It was back to the Sun Trevor Inn we went, for a recap of the expedition and a farewell to our friends at Get-A-Fix. Four days of awesome paddling down different types of water in different boats. Four days of excellent comradery between all of us who went on the expedition. I know I haven’t mentioned what we got up to in the evenings, but sadly, scrabble was about as exciting as it got. Thank you Leo H and Pete for the guidance, support and fantastic, fun opportunity to develop and just have some fun. Thank you Emmy, Beth, GG, Alex, Becca and Martin for being superb company over the four days and being so supportive and awesome. Cheers Robinwood for paying for me to do it! I hope you’ve enjoyed my brief and (completely) honest recap of the four days we were on expedition. Remember, just keep swimming, just keep swimming.