After completing my Silver Award in 2015 I decided that I wanted to complete my Duke of Edinburgh experience with a Gold Award. I jumped at the opportunity to canoe the expedition rather than walk it.
The team and myself have been on two training expeditions in Govilon where we have learnt how to canoe safely. For the real expedition we will have to do everything by ourselves, these training expeditions have given us the skills to do so. We learnt how to remove the boats from the trailer – a job that requires at least 6 of us as the canoes are heavier than they look. We also learnt how to pack and secure all of our belongings and equipment into the canoe, as we do not have to carry big rucksacks with us this time. After we’d learnt how to set up the canoes it was time to learn how to canoe. We started off in a canal, learning how to move the canoes forward in the most efficient way possible. We also learnt how to manoeuver the canoes using different strokes.
Once we’d learnt the basic skills we went to large rivers where we were faced with different conditions, including rapids. Here we learnt about currents, obstacles in the water and how to get into an eddy. An eddy is located on the side of the river and is shielded from the current and so allows you to have a well deserved rest. All of us did really well, we did however have a capsize which gave us an opportunity to learn how to save our team mates and lift a heavy canoe out of the water.
Finally, we learnt about canoe rescue. We learnt first aid methods, including how to save someone in the water. We also learnt how to empty a boat that has capsized; this didn’t come naturally to me at first but after a few practices I was able to lift the heavy canoe and empty it in one go. Additionally, we learnt how to make a canoe raft which involves connecting two or three canoes together and creating a sail, this is useful as it stabilizes the canoe in windy conditions, but its also really fun.
Learning this skill has been really exciting and interesting. It has exposed me to new situations that I would have otherwise never experienced. All of the staff in Govilon were really helpful and made the whole experience memorable. I really enjoy canoeing and would recommend it to anybody. If you are thinking about doing Gold Duke of Edinburgh, definitely do it. Whether you walk it or try something new, it is a great experience and it’s a positive addition to any university/college/apprenticeship or job applications in the future.
Charlotte Richards Yr 13