Canoeing in the Ardeche with Ray Mears
The Path of the Paddle
In amongst some of the most spectacular scenery in Europe and enjoying the warm crystal waters of the Ardeche gorge, you will learn to skilfully paddle and journey by canoe. Tackling both moving and flat water, you will paddle through and camp in this stunning national park as you are guided in the essential skills for travelling over water.
An incredible experience in its own right, this course will provide you with the tools to start making your own journeys and memories in the most beautiful craft ever made.
Whilst learning to canoe several years ago, Ray came up with the excellent concept of learning to canoe in warmer water than we would normally experience in places like Wales or Scotland. This would give a little more enjoyment to learning rescue techniques and falling in. Therefore Ray decided Woodlore should teach people to canoe in Southern France. The Ardeche is a perfect environment in which to learn to canoe with warm weather, warm water and stunning 300m limestone cliff scenery.
During the course you will be introduced to the canoe by Ray, who will be assisted by our specialist instructor Blue, who is one of the most experienced canoe coaches in the area with plenty of local knowledge. The course will start with three preparatory days on different sections of the river learning strokes, rescues, swimming rapids, poling, lining and negotiating moving water. By day 4 you will be confident and fairly competent canoeists and we make a two-day, 32km, expedition descent of the river, tackling exciting grade 2 rapids. We will spend the night in the gorge at a bivvy site with toilet, shower and BBQ facilities, within the National Park, where you may get the chance to see the local Wild Boar.
The range of wildlife in the region is impressive with sightings at our camp site alone including: scorpions, snakes, praying mantis, frogs, lizards, and slow worms. Whilst in the gorge there are often sightings of eagles, kite and beaver.
The whole region is steeped in history with the area being famous for its prehistoric cave artwork and dolmen burial sites. This area also housed a number of resistance fighters or Maquis, which caused the Nazi occupation many problems during the Second World War. The wooded hills and deep inaccessible valleys made this a perfect area for such partisan operations and the area is littered with pointers to this part of history.
During the course we will be giving you a robust introduction to flat and white water and also how to expedition using the canoe. Our aim will be to make you an efficient and self-contained tandem canoeist with both practical day sessions and evening lectures. Woodlore will provide you with an open canoe, paddles, a buoyancy aid, and a helmet and all other necessary canoe equipment for the duration of the course.
We are very pleased to say that whilst on this course you will receive training equivalent to the British Canoeing Personal Performance Canoe Award, and will have the opportunity to take an assessment at the end of the week if you wish to do so. There will be a small charge for this, £10 for British Canoeing members or £20 for non-members. If you have a British Canoeing qualification it will make hiring a canoe and taking an adventurous wilderness canoe trip yourself much easier.
We are based at the Pont d'Arc campsite which is full of character and very hospitable, and unlike at our more wilderness courses the campsite has toilet and shower facilities and a shop/cafe. The site is located right next to the spectacular and unique 60m naturally formed bridge, Pont d'Arc, and has direct access to the river. We are there in September to get the best of the water levels before it becomes very high later in the season and to avoid the crowds in July and August.
You will need to arrange your own transport to the campsite. We will be able to arrange transport for you into the local village of Vallon Pont d'Arc each evening to get supplies from the local supermarket for you to cook for yourselves at the campsite.
We will meet for a meal on the first evening at the campsite, where you will have the chance to get to know the staff and your fellow canoeists. You will also find out about the course and what to expect over the coming days. Woodlore will provide the final meal of the week at a local restaurant to give out certificates and for a debrief about the course.
This is a self-catering course and you will be required to bring a stove with you for cooking at the campsite and at the bivvy site.
The course will start at 18:00 on day 1 and finish at 12:00 on the final day.
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Tackling the rapids
The Ardeche Gorge
Canoeing in the Ardeche
The group having tuition on the river bank with instructor Tony Pape
The group packing for their two day expedition down the river
Learning poling techniques
Enjoying the river
The imposing gorge backdrop
A long journey ahead
Canoeing in the Ardeche with Ray Mears