The GREAT OUTDOORS: On the water

Kate Haskell goes canoeing

Kate Haskell goes canoeing - Credit: Archant

Devon Life writers throw themselves into new outdoor experiences. KATE HASKELL paddles a canoe on the river Dart. Photos by Daniel Ricketts

As the wind howled and the rain lashed down on my car I was beginning to regret my decision to unleash my wild side.

It’s the New Year and it was a firm decision of mine to try and stop doing the ordinary and try a little something extraordinary. Who better to guide me on my way than local adventure and activity provider, Spirit of Adventure?

Following my instructions I arrived at a remote location just outside Dartmouth where I was swiftly picked up by a 4x4. After a short trip over rough terrain we emerged at a place I can only describe as something out of a Boys Own adventure. Swallows and Amazons has nothing on this!

The base camp hut is made from branches, tree trunks and canvas but carved with such amazing skill that you feel secure it isn’t going to be blown away in a gust of wind.

Inside are handmade benches, a fire and more importantly steaming mugs of hot chocolate waiting for us.

My instructors for the day were Mark Reeves and Steve Lang. With over 40 years experience between them they were quick to reassure me the weather would soon pass and we would could fulfil what I had set out to do - and that was canoe.

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Now, I am a weather presenter so I could have scoffed at their confidence. But they know the River Dart far better than me and the topography of the land at their secret and secluded base camp.

A quick run through some safety tips and we set off on a short walk to the water’s edge where, as if by some magic or illusion, the skies cleared and I was taken aback with the true stunning beauty of the Dart and its river bank.

It takes a while to get your bearings but I soon realised I was in a little inlet tucked away the other side of Royal Naval College that, unless you were travelling by boat, you would probably never find. I felt like I had discovered some amazing secret for the day but of course as a thriving company this is a path well travelled, not just by thrill seekers like me, but also primary school children and youth groups who take advantage of the team and their skills to get get back to nature and teach children the true meaning of having fun!

The event I was taking part in is called a RED session standing for Release, Enjoy and Discover your sense of adventure.

In these sessions you can individually or as part of a group canoe, rock climb or learn the fine art of bushcraft cookery.

I had chosen canoeing and once on the water Steve and I had chance to chat as the water and the wildlife lapped by. So who can do a RED

session? Steve was quick to explain: “Anyone with a sense of adventure, we cater for all ages and abilities and this isn’t about try to teach you how to canoe in one day, it’s giving you an experience and the chance to rediscover a bit of South Devon you either didn’t know was here or had forgotten about.”

As a local girl who used to live just around the corner from our location he was absolutely right. I had forgotten about the beauty of River Dart with all it’s little twists and turns and something different on every bend.

“Red sessions” Steve told me “are all about having the wilderness experience but it’s safe and more importantly it’s local! During the session we don’t make something and not use it, everything has a purpose” as they proved when lunch was served pizza, dough made on site and cooked using a camp fire using some trade secrets that I am not allowed to share!

So as jobs go this is a pretty cool one, I muse. “You bet,” Steve exclaims. “I get to be outside,

messing around and get paid for it, what could be better?”

Spirit of Adventure was established in 1993 by John Diplock and Sandy Simpson to provide

adventure and activity holidays and courses for families and adults. Over the last 20 years,

the company has grown steadily and is now a leading provider in the South West.