The second Waterways Ireland Big Bann Canoe Challenge took place over the weekend of 18th and 19th August, and proved to be a great weekend enjoyed by everyone who took part. Funded by Waterways Ireland, the aim of the event is to introduce the beautiful Lower Bann River to people of all ages and paddling abilities, including families and those who have little or no previous paddling experience.
We offered a free training day to everyone who signed up early for the event, and this was attended mainly by complete beginners, who received a day’s tuition in the capable hands of John Hubbucks, from Mobile Team Adventure. In total , 16 new paddlers were introduced to the joys of canoeing as a result of the training day!
The main event of the Big Bann Canoe Challenge involves a paddle of 29km from Newferry East to Drumaheglis Marina, stopping for an overnight camp at Portneal Lodge in Kilrea. On the Saturday morning, 65 people took to the water, the majority of whom are not regular paddlers. Weather conditions were perfect – not too warm, and a breeze from the south which was almost directly in our backs, so it was not long before there were a few “sails” up. The river level was also high and had a fast flow, so this was likely to be a faster journey than last year but also meant that the coaches who were with us had to be vigilant, especially with so many inexperienced paddlers to look after.
We had our very own photographer, Paul McVicar, following us throughout the 2 days, and he kept appearing in the undergrowth along the side of the river with his cameras! Paul got some great pictures, which can be seen at www.facebook.com/pmimages, and any money raised from the sale of copies goes to Marie Curie Cancer Care. Paul very kindly donated 2 large, framed prints of the event which were raffled for the Asterias charity.
On Saturday night we arrived at our campsite – the grounds of Portneal Lodge, which had been very kindly lent to us for the event. They were the height of luxury with portable toilets! Several of our group went down the more luxurious route and booked into Portneal for B&B. Camp fires were lit, food was cooked, and the craic was great……..
The next day was another great day for a paddle, and again the breeze was in our backs. Apart from one of the canoes having a disagreement with a marker post in the river (!), we had a straight forward journey to our finish point at Drumaheglis.
Many taking part in the event raised sponsorship for the Asterias organisation, and to date that has raised over £500, so thanks to everyone for their generosity.
I would like to thank everyone who assisted with the event, including Waterways Ireland, Paul McVicar Photography, Hugh O’Boyle (Carnroe Supplies), the coaches who kept everyone safe, Eye Feel Good and Norman Worthington for the loan of boats, and last but not least the CANI team of Rodger, Ashley and Siobhan who, as always, pull out all the stops and do such a great job.
See you all next year at the Big Bann Canoe Challenge!