Canoeing the River Stour

For my most recent adventure, I joined Explorers Connect for a weekend of canoeing and hiking in Suffolk. Having never been to Suffolk before, I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect, but I’d heard it was pretty stunning and those reports weren’t wrong.

The River Stour has got to be one of the most picturesque places I’ve been. The river wound through beautiful countryside and notably passed Flatford Mill, the scene of Constable’s famous painting The Haywain.

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We spent our Saturday meandering down the still river with just the sound of birds filling the air. In such a calm and peaceful setting, you can’t help but feel happy and at one with nature. And to be treated to glorious sunshine throughout the day, I couldn’t ask for anything more.

I’m a firm believer that getting outdoors helps us to live well, feel positive and stay healthy.

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And when it comes to canoeing, you get a pretty good workout too! With my (severe lack of) previous experience canoeing on holiday in France once, I was appointed to do the ‘steering’ at the back of the canoe. Can you guess what happened?

Yep… if you’re imagining my canoe thudding into the riverbank and zig-zagging down the river, almost doubling the distance we were paddling, you’d be right! What I had neglected to mention was that I lost my shoes in a rapid on that holiday in France, and I managed to capsize while canoeing on a school trip when I was younger…

Nevertheless, I persevered and got some top tips from the more experienced canoeists in the group. Eventually I got the hang of it. No capsizing incidents whatsoever, I’m pleased to say!

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There was just one thing I hadn’t anticipated: portages. I’d never heard of this term before and thought it looked interesting when I first read it on a sign. In hindsight, ‘soul-destroying’ would be a more accurate word than interesting. Reaching a portage means lifting your canoe out of the river and carrying it alongside the river, past whatever obstacle may lie in the way, and putting it back in the river at the other end. This may be 10 meters… or it may be a lot longer. Some portages stretch for several kilometers.

Thankfully, many hands did indeed make lighter work, and four people carrying each canoe lessened the strain. But my word, what a workout!

Overall, canoeing the River Stour made for a fantastic weekend away. With great company, weather and surroundings, what more could you ask for?

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It can be easy to say no to new adventures if the destination seems too far to travel. In many cases this may be true; we all have busy lives and there’s a limit to what we can fit into a weekend. But when time allows, it’s great to say yes and make the effort to travel to a new place. You’ll meet like-minded people, discover a new place and expand your horizons.

Britain has so much to offer and venturing further afield when you can is so worthwhile.

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