We took a group of our scouts to Cardington in Bedfordshire to experience the thrills of white water canoeing
The country's first purpose built slalom course at Cardington is a man-made channel into which artificial fibreglass rocks are attached. At the top a sluice from the main river controls how much water comes down, turning a placid stream with fibreglass hippos in it into a swirling moray of white water.
After a safety briefing we queued up for bouyancy aids and helmets and then chose our boat from the wide range of kayaks available, from Europas and Pyranhas to Teks and Daggers.
Those who had passed a suitable test could use a spray deck which helps keep the water out. The test consisted of turning upside down with a spray deck on beside your instructor for increasingly long periods of time, and ended with a test to make sure you could safely release the spray deck upside down, having given the recognised distress signal. Without it the boats filled increasingly with water, but in the hot summer sun this only added to the enjoyment
The number of adult leaders and helpers was fantastic. Someone was on hand to help get you the right way up again, and empty out some water, at every point down the course. Everybody went round again; many of our scouts went round over a dozen times, trying out the different styles of boats, attempting to take every rapid backwards, or making a 180° turn after every waterfall. The adventurous ones often ended up turning over, or swimming home and made good use of any extra calories in their packed lunches.