Boots N Paddles recently ran a 3-day expedition for the Whale & Dolphin Conservation Society as a way of raising some much needed funds for this worthy charity. One of our guides Ross Boardman was joined by Alice, Mary, Ioan and Pete (the fab fundraisers) and Pam from our office.

Pam pulled together a few thoughts for our blog – hope you enjoy reading them and hope you might also be inspired to join a trip in the future, helping the WDCS raise some much-needed funds in the process.

Day 1: Broomhill – Ballindalloch

There was a strong sense of anticipation from the group as we prepared our canoes at the river-side.  Ross ran through a few elementary things before we put into the water.  As soon as we were on the river our paddling tuition began in earnest, with Ross introducing some basic strokes and we were off.  We practised coming from the current into an eddy all morning, ferry gliding, edging, bow rudders and draw strokes as we enjoyed the beautiful countryside with the stunning Cairngorms in the background.  Everyone was up for learning and the group gelled really well in their paddling pairs, with Pete and Ioan in one canoe and Alice and Mary in another.  By the end of the first day we had tackled our first rapids confidently and we were Taking on the washing machine on the river speytravelling at good speed down the Spey.

Our first night was wild camping near Ballindalloch, although the group agreed we were doing it in some considerable style with our teepee, wood burning stove, gourmet cooking by our supremely capable guide Ross, and a glass of wine to wash it all down.  Still, we felt that we were really getting back to nature and sharing all the chores of setting up camp really helped pull the group together.

Wildlife – We saw herons, buzzards, wagtails, flocks of ducks, lots and lots of jumping salmon and lots of fishermen too.  We were lucky enough to see a large salmon being landed by a very pleased fisherman- what a beauty she was!

Day 2: Ballindalloch – Craigellachie

We were fresh from a good night’s sleep and just as well, as the infamous ‘Washing Machine’ was around the next corner.  Ross and I went down first and then I positioned myself on the river bank to get some good shots whilst Ross waited at the bottom in case anyone got into difficulties.  Our happy and by now competent paddlers, used skill and nerve to easily negotiate what can be a very scary rapids section and we got some great action shots.  Many more rapids including the Knockando Rapids were negotiated successfully under Ross’s guidance and everyone was having a ball.  Having stocked up at the shops in Aberlour we camped in an area at Craigellachie with a toilet and tap plus a pub within walking distance – heaven!

canoeing on the river speyRound the wood burning stove later everyone described their highlights so far which included:

Pete – Loved surfing the standing waves, the scenic and beautiful landscape, the teepee and stove!

Ioan – Surfing behind the rock above Carron, learning how to paddle properly in 4 -5 basic strokes.

Alice – washing her hair in the river, enjoyed learning ferry gliding, loved being in a group of adults only (no kids!) who are all happy to help and be involved. Over 2-3 days you actually improve your technique too.

Mary – Absolutely loved the Washing Machine and Knockando Rapids.  Trip has given her the bug to go out and do loads more paddling.

Day 3: Craigellachie – Spey Bay

CAnoeing on the river speyWe made a comfortable start at 10.00am and paddled this lovely stretch of the river with a good mix of rapids and river.  We came across a massive standing wave which the boys decided to go straight through, but within seconds their canoe was waterlogged and they were swimming in the river! They hung on to their paddles and Pete swam ashore whilst Ioan swam to our canoe – a great example of a moving water rescue and the boys loved it!  We had a headwind as we did the last few miles and were greeted by a welcoming party, a banner, coffee and cakes at the WDCS Visitor Centre- a brilliant way to finish the trip.

The WDCS hope to run similar fund-raising expeditions in the future, so keep an eye on their website, or follow them on Facebook for further information and your chance to help make a difference while having some fun on the Spey!

Well done guys.

See some photos from the trip here:

WDCS Expedition

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