The Scouts organise canoeing group expeditions and to find out more about how to get involved and current expeditions please click here .

Fun when Canoeing with Scouts, By Leslie Carswell (B.E.M), 2nd June 2020

CANI member, Leslie Carswell, received a British Empire Medal (B.E.M.) in the New Year’s Honour List in 2020 for services to Scouting in general and canoeing in particular. Leslie tells us of how he first experienced canoeing through the scouts and what he has enjoyed most and learned since.

Leslie Carswell (B.E.M.) paddling

 “My first contact with canoeing, in a Belfast scout troop about 60 years ago building three canoes from floorboards and a new product at the time, PVC! They were so heavy that when tied to the roof of a car, we had to be careful about turning a corner.

Leslie warming up a group of Italian Scouts (only one of whom spoke English)

There was a gap until I moved to Ballymena in the 1970s. My first trip with Scouts there was down the river Bann but the kayaks were too easily turned compared with the dreadnoughts I helped build so many years ago. As I was doing a few `pas de deux` on the trip I realised it was time to do some training. Fortuitously a few of us commenced training before the infamous Lyme Bay incident.

Spreading the joys of canoeing was an easy task now we were trained. In Scouting this meant bringing Cubs, Scouts and Explorer Scouts out onto the water in the hope that many would take it up as a leisure activity and some to challenge in a sporting capacity. This also meant that fellow Scout leader, Mark Dick and I extended our role to give the opportunity to County Antrim Scout leaders so that they could take it further once we trained them to (in the old days) 2 star level. Our longer term idea was that they could eventually take over from Mark and myself in this role. However, it is too enjoyable for us to step down.

Finishing a pyramid of 11 Canadians and 3 kayaks at a local jamboree

In Scouting we have Jamborees, events for Scouts that include canoeing as an activity. I was called upon a couple of years ago to take charge with one day’s warning as the original leader suffered an injury. However, all went well with over 800 getting on and off the water safely over the week. Not bad for a 70 year old. In the next year I had a role as a Duke of Edinburgh Silver assessor for NI scouts on a wild camping/canoe trip on lakes in Canada.  Our own troop carry out a river Braid clean-up every December (an excellent way in a flow to train manoeuvring to get that pesky bit of plastic hanging from tree). 

Annual River Braid clean-up with trailer filled to brim with plastic bags

Many of us have enjoyed canoeing in different parts of the world but the greatest total enjoyment is canoeing in our own fantastic country. Within short distances we have rivers, coastlines, lakes, even swimming pools to use when weather is inclement. Let’s all celebrate what we have on our doorstep, share our enjoyment in what is a prime leisure activity. I hope you have enjoyed reading this, after all it’s all about sharing experiences, training and having FUN. Isn’t it great one gets an award for an activity we enjoy doing. It will be great when our present `lochdoine` is over!

Poling in Scotland