Canoeing on the River Severn with Moreton Hall

Moreton Hall is a local independent girls boarding school. Although they are situated close by, I haven’t done much work with them in the past, so today was a fantastic opportunity. Obviously, we are in the middle of the school holidays, but have a number of things going on including language schools. I got to spend the afternoon with a group of Russian families who have been on an intensive language course involving classroom work in the mornings and activity sessions in the afternoon. This afternoon, the last activity session before the end of the course, they had booked a canoe trip on the River Severn to get to see some of the local countryside.

Getting on the water shortly before taking an unplanned swim!
Getting on the water shortly before taking an unplanned swim!

Due to the number in the group I asked Ali Othen, a local paddler, to join me in running the trip. We met up at Llandrinio to sort out the canoes, buoyancy aids and paddles before dropping off a vehicle at the Royal Hill Inn in Pentre and meeting the group back at the start. It took a little while to explain and translate everything I wanted to explain to them, but we managed to get on the water with minimal fuss.

The first section of this stretch of the River Severn is a little narrow, due to the overgrowing bushes at the sides. This, combined with novice paddlers, was the cause of great hilarity for some and a little frustration for others as the canoes bounced off each other and the bank. With practice, and as the river started to widen, things became a little less manic.

Warming up in an oversized jacket
Warming up in an oversized jacket

We’d not long decided that it was about time to start looking for an appropriate spot to stop for a break, when we simultaneously came across a large group of swans and a perfect ‘beach’ to stop – ideal timing. We didn’t need long to rest, it was more about giving everyone the chance to stretch their legs for a few minutes.

Soon after we got back on the water, we came to a slightly awkward section where a rock was sticking out of the water, due to the lack of recent rain and the low water levels. Focussing so much on avoiding the rock, one canoe then ended up in an overhanging bush and capsized, resulting in shocked exclamations at the cold water. It didn’t take long to get them back in the canoe, but one of the girls seemed particularly cold and switched into my boat and I wrapped her up in a warm down jacket. From here on, the going was a bit easier and everyone was able to relax and enjoy the scenery and the experience of being on the river together.

The plan to stop at the Royal Hill Inn was to enable the group to stop for a quick pleasant drink by the river before heading off, but the ‘swimmers’ were keen to have a warm shower back at school.

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