Woodlore — School of Wilderness Bushcraft  


Canoeing in the Ardeche with Ray Mears

The Path of the Paddle

After a few years break, we are celebrating Woodlore's 40th Anniversary by bringing back the popular Canoeing in the Ardeche Expedition.

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 by Ray 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.

Further Information

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, 28km, 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. You will be provided with an open canoe, paddles, a buoyancy aid, and a helmet and all other necessary canoe equipment for the duration of the course.

You will be staying in a private outdoors centre which is situated on the banks of the Ardèche river, a short drive away from the main town of Vallon Pont d’Arc. Your camping accommodation is glamping style in chic canvas bell tents, which will be furnished with beds, all bed linen and an electricity power socket.

All breakfasts, lunches, and dinners are included for you throughout your stay with us. Breakfasts are continental style – with fresh croissants and other brioche delights from the local bakery available every day. Lunches are picnic style using locally sourced fresh ingredients and your evening meal is a three-course dinner, which includes a carafe of wine.

The outdoors centre is the perfect space to spend time in the evenings relaxing. There is a lounge and bar area with riverside views, a beach volleyball court, and a boules court. Of course being on the riverbank means there is a private river beach, so you’re always a stone’s throw away from your next dip in the Ardèche’s refreshing water.

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.

We will meet for a meal on the first evening at the outdoors centre, where you will have the chance to get to know the team and your fellow canoeists. You will also find out about the course and what to expect over the coming days.

The course will start at 18:00 on day 1 and finish at 12:00 on the final day.

Dates, Costs and Bookings

  This particular course has already taken place and there are no other dates currently available. Please sign up to our mailing list for future course updates.

Course Reviews

Canoeing in the Ardeche with Ray Mears is rated 5/5 based on 1 customer review.

All of our reviews are from people who have attended our courses.

Overall Rating:


  1 of 1

  This is an excellent course. The location is amazing and the instruction is of the highest quality. When you consider that canoes, paddles, all safety equipment, instruction, very comfortable accommodation, excellent washing facilities including showers, and food is included, it's also good value. I thoroughly enjoyed living in my glamping tent and actually felt quite sorry to leave it! The food in particular is worthy of special praise, we dined like Royalty every night! Tony and Caroline, the instructors at Base du Cros, have a wealth of knowledge and experience which is clearly evident the instant that they speak. They are also excellent and very hospitable hosts. Ray's level of knowledge and expertise is second to none, and it was a pleasure and privilege to study his technique and to paddle with him. Ruth was very kind and a delight to have on the journey, and Callum was a powerful and superb paddling partner who endured my bow paddling with encouragement and good humour! My fellow students were an absolutely cracking bunch and I would be delighted to join them on any trip again. The course allows you to build your skills gradually and caters for all abilities. It's also an excellent mixture of relaxing flat water paddling and exciting whitewater. I had some fascinating conversations on the flat water sections, and have so many great memories which I know I'll recall in years to come with affection and amusement. Like all of the longer Woodlore courses, I finished it tired, but exhilarated and buzzing with new ideas and plans for the future. While our paths may not cross for months or years, I feel that on this course, I've made some friends for life. I highly recommend this course to anyone interested in journeying by canoe.  


Rated: 5/5

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