Kayaking - Sheila Smith
One fine Saturday morning (well slightly overcast) 10 adventurers met up at the Northampton Whitewater Centre to test their skills at Kayaking! Trevor the instructor was waiting for us round at the boat sheds and promptly informed us that unfortunately as he was on his own he hoped that we were not in a hurry - just as well we weren't!
Ok, so we were sized up and handed wet suits, which we duly donned, along with 'Cags' helmets and life jackets. Didn't we look a pretty sight yet again! We all helped to carry the kayaks out from the racks - "We just need one or two more wing nuts" stated Trevor - wing nuts what an earth were they needed for - but a couple of the footrests had lost them and could not be tightened - thank goodness they were still seaworthy though! Alison was thrown a sponge and mopped out the mud and water from them all - thanks Alison at least they were dry before we started! We were quickly given the capsize drill and how to hold the paddles correctly before taking to the water, which was fun in itself. If you can imagine how seals waddle into the water well that is how we entered the river from the platform sat in the kayak, shuffling forward until plop and away you go. Trevor, however, slid down the grassy bank at a rate of knots and landed in the river with a big grin on his face.
"Are you keen to learn" he enquired well we are the 50+ so yes was the reply. We learned how to paddle, turn right and left, spin round, paddle backwards and 'lean to the edge' a technical term when turning. We kayaked in and out through the hanging gates and followed Trevor round in a circle both forwards and backwards. We were now ready for a trip up river, but Trevor had failed to hear, due to the weir, two knocks on the bottom of a kayak signalling someone was in the water. Richard had capsized! Duly rescued, quite a feat in itself as he was in the middle of the river, the upturned kayak had to be righted and water emptied using Trevor's kayak as the support. After heaving himself back into the now slightly wet kayak we carried on, trying to paddle in a straight line, not an easy task. I am sure the kayaks were magnetised as they collided and zig zagged up river. Short races then took place before we headed back. There was a second capsizing and Trevor shouted out "lean to the edge when turning not over the edge" Yes Richard had gone in once more.
We all made it safely back to the start where our Keith showed us the proper way to capsize and remain in the boat. (Well he was once an assistant instructor so he told me - no wonder he was so good....you dark horse!)A great morning was had by all, thanks Pauline for organising.
Wild Swimming - Carol Pullen
We arrived at the River Bure in Norfolk where we struggled into our hired wet suits, wet shoes, swim hats and goggles and our support canoe, with George at the helm, was lifted off the van. By this time we had an audience of other canoeists who watched whilst I had to undertake my "Ice Bucket Challenge" before we started and then we launched ourselves downstream into the river. It was freezing, with weed flowing in the water and trying to grab our ankles.
Personally my wetsuit seemed to prevent me swimming on my front, but helped me on my back so that was how I proceeded, gazing at the clouds and wondering what was hiding in the weed. I have had this fear since I was a child so I was trying to overcome it. The swans were a little puzzled by this group of swimmers who were calling encouragement to each other and refused to pass us!
Canoeing - Sheila Casey
Seven ladies plus Tim were led by "Munki" in 2-man Canadian canoes, because the regular guide had been rushed to hospital during the night. Munki was an interesting character, but he admitted that he was not steeped in the natural history of the river as is the usual guide.
We paddled serenely in beautiful, peaceful surroundings of inlets in the river at Wroxham (near Norwich). The water was surprisingly clear: Munki found an ancient glass bottle and showed us pike and water snakes. We were also pleased to see kingfishers, swans and a pigeon dipping its toes in the water!
Paddleboarding - Sheila Casey
Question. Why don't wet suits fasten down the front? Some of our number found the entire concept of back-fastening difficult to grasp!
Only four of us braved the stand-up paddle boards: the others opted for kayaks. Lucy went first - a few shrieks on a first wobble, but she was a star. Tim also learned quickly. Both soon disappeared into the river proper, challenged by kayaks and regular river traffic. Judith gave it a try but decided it wasn't for her and swapped to a kayak.
I went last. I stood on the virtually non-upsettable board, put in my paddle (about a foot longer than me), scooped a paddle full of weed, fell forward with hands on the board and gently slithered side-ways into the water! Tricia and Jenny held my board while I pulled myself back on - on my knees, facing backwards. I did get the hang of it and the J-stroke was no problem, but balance is everything and turning provided more wobbles. I didn't venture into the river, where there was a strong breeze and I didn't want to fall off again so far from the landing-stage.
It was all great fun and well worth a try! Thank you, Daryl, for helping on and off the boards also to Carol and to Judith, as above.
Rifle And Pistol Shooting - Doug Mitchell
Apparently the shooting club has undergone several alterations since our first visit and from what I have been told about the previous loos, the new toilet facilities are a marked improvement. There is now a concreted '‘Range' area so no muddy boots, there are nice seats and pillows for the vertically impaired and the indoor pistol range has been re-furbished since some young people shot out the lights on the ceiling and most importantly they have splashed out on new guns. Anyway needless to say we were made very welcome and even the regulars chatted to us in fact one of them let us use his Smith & Wesson replica air pistol with 10 shots, awesome. We were split into two groups, one on the rifle range and the other on the pistol range then we swapped round after a mug of tea and some biscuits. I was on the rifles to start. We were made comfortable and had a safety talk then we were introduced to the guns. They were .177 and .22 with a scope and gas charged rather than spring cocked. The trickiest bit was inserting the pellet. Our targets were about 30 yds away, stapled to wooden boards; we also had metal bird and animal figures pegged into the grass. Later the targets were changed to black ones of different sizes and the animals and birds were placed further away. I am almost certain that the squirrel kept moving every time I shot at it, but I got him in the end, oh yeah. When we hit the black targets the hole turned yellow which made it really easy to see how we were doing and make adjustments on the sights. The more adventurous could have a crack at ringing the bell at what must have been about 60 yds away. Yep, I rang it alright!
After tea and biscuits we went indoors for the Pistol shooting and once more given a safety chat and were introduced to the .22 gas charged air pistols. These were a bit trickier as you have no 'scope', just a good eye and a steady hand. It was hard to see if you were hitting anything at 10m away. Above the targets were a line of spent shotgun cartridges and you knew you had hit them because they fell off quite satisfyingly. We were given a try at various pistol designs too which was interesting. Thank you Paul for organising this activity, I would definitely do it again. Personally I really enjoyed the experience and I would like to close by drawing your attention to my air pistol cluster of 4 bulls-eyes in this picture, ignore the others, eat your heart out Clint Eastwood.
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