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2016 The French Adventure!
Experience Canoe Kayak is a Non Profit association offering fun, safe and educational experiences.
The association is a cumulative effort between Myself Adrian Durrant and my partner Jenny Ridley each bringing a individual skill set to the association.
Over the past few years both myself and Jenny have traveled a lot, paddling and enjoying the outdoors.
For 2016 we wanted to try something new, I had fairly serious shoulder surgery in December 2015 from a kayak injury. So knowing that I wouldn’t be either fit or able to paddle for about 6 months. The thought of missing an alpine season in Europe stuck watching everyones adventures was going to be a tough ask.
We decided together that we needed a new plan in life, instead of working to pay bills, we wanted some freedom and fun back in our lives. No matter how much we both love Ireland, and have learnt to call it home. We have a huge amount of friends in Ireland, but wanted to experience something else.
A new adventure, and Europe seems like the obvious plan, where everything is just a drive away no need for flights, and ferries. The opportunity to just hop in the van with everything you need and travel.
We set up the Association Experience Canoe Kayak in a small village of Noyers sur Cher, We had visited the region before and had found that there is little opportunity or facility to canoe locally with the vast river Cher on the doorstep we put our heads together to put a plan in place.
One of our goals was to promote Paddlesport within the local community, by showing people what is close to home showing them places they have never seen yet on their own doorstep. We had a huge push on promoting activities for people with disabilities.
Proving that Paddlesport can be accessible. This we have achieved with Jenny Ridley, as one of the top facilitators of adaptive outdoor learning, there really is no one better to promote accessibility. understanding injuries and needs as a Rehabilitation Specialist and offering coaching and support as a Double Paralympian, high performance athlete and Coach to some of the top athletes. Jenny has a host of experience but a love for water and paddlesports.
We have spent time building links with other local associations, we decided we wanted to use all of our own experiences to help others and teach them what we love about the sport.
The Core activity of our association is open canoe hire trips on the picturesque River Cher, as well as sit on top hire from our canal side base.
We offer daytime trips where families and groups can bring a picnic and explore the river as it winds it’s way through the Loire Valley as well as evening sunset paddles under the famous château Chenonceau,
We have a number of other more specialist options available with a number of river waves when the levels rise on the river Cher makes it the perfect location for freestyle camps and only a drive to any other River in Europe makes central France an ideal base of activities.
We managed to secure a base of activities with the local Marie. Utilising an old community camping ground, which had lay empty for a number of years.
In reality, it is a building with toilets and small office, as well as an area of land. Situated on the corner of a canal basin on the Canal de Berry. Offering easy access to the Canal and River Cher.
This provides the perfect location for a safe introduction. Perfect for groups and individuals, to have a go at canoeing, within the safe confines of the basin and canal.
The grass area also gives us the option for camping activities for groups wishing to stay at our base. or just for community activities, open days and BBQs its a super area for games and activities.
We have started to put in place multi day trips on the river Cher, canoeing and camping. With a variety of routes available, following the River Cher along its course.
The river experience is something we love offering and the Cher is such a beautiful river with low traffic.
Our big push is with our community programmes, offering children and other associations the chance to try something, which will help benefit their state of health and wellbeing.
We are one of the only providers to offer a full access guide for each of our trips online. Outlining the suitability and accessibility of each of our trips, and offering a bespoke trips suitable for individual needs, this is something Jenny has worked very hard to create and we are proud to offer.
”We aim to make as many activities as accessible as possible and can discuss any issues in depth whether a trip on the Canal or one of our alpine paddling trips we want to prove people are capable of participating by eliminating barriers.”
Since moving to France we have been working hard to learn the language. With enough French to make a conversation, we are picking it up quickly. With many clients also keen to practice their English it can get confusing. But the worry of a language barrier is something we have accepted and working on.
We have already made a number of friends here, who are all very supportive of us and the adventure which makes things much easier as they are always happy to assist. Everyday challenges like ordering in shops or big tasks like building the website we have overcome with patience practice and at times little google translate.
We have found it best to give it a try whether ordering lunch or buying stationary, most of the time people will help you. Everyone we have met has been polite and helpful and clients love that we want to learn. The Language has been the single biggest barrier, but its been a challenge, and the sense of achievement after a successful phone conversation or booking is always a great feeling.
As well as the local paddling Experience Canoe Kayak are offering alpine adventures with the focus on taking people to some of our favourite places with Oetz one of our favoured destinations.
We ran a successful trip in October 2016 and looking to build on this with two trips scheduled so far for 2017.
We are really running these trips as experiences. We want to really show you what we love about a region with a mix of time on the river and visiting some of our favourite spots, the sight and smells or just the views. Many paddlers visit a region without ever exploring outside the river bed and campsite.
I have been guilty of this on occasion, but having taken the time to explore and find so much more, it’s always about the trip not just the river. So by handpicking the destinations that we love hopefully will allow you to fall in love with our favourite locations also.
A huge draw to living in France for ourselves is the opportunity to drive anywhere, load up the van and the dogs and head. To Switzerland, Austria, Slovenia, Italy, anywhere we want. Having both myself and Jenny competed internationally in numerous sports we have many friends all over Europe. The opportunity to visit them and see them has been a major motivation. With every trip comes a new adventure.
We currently have over 50 boats between 3-4 seat Canoes, Sit on tops, Junior, Adult and Family, River kayaks, and other Specialist boats we can cater for upwards of 80 persons on the water at any one time.
As well as our land based offerings through Pilates, Yoga and functional movement sessions the base can be a hive of activity.
We have a couple of vehicles our trusty white van, Blue 9 seat Bus and Trailer so we can move people and boats easily wherever they need to be.
In 2016 We have had over 850 People out in Canoe and Sit on top, this is great achievement in our first season. With 29% of visitors local from Noyers sur Cher We were proud to welcome other visitors to the region from all across Europe.
Our first season was hampered with a bad start, floods across central France left us looking at the Cher running in excess of 800 Cumecs (our typical summer level is closer to 10 Cumecs) Luckily the Canal held, and gave us an outlet to get boats on the water. As the levels dropped the sun started to show and gave us a busy August.
Where we are based we have both the Loire and the Cher within easy reach. With much of our emphasis on the underutilised River Cher, still known to many as the wild Cher.
The main section we use is between Chabris and St Aignan. This Stretch is fantastic for its sights and sounds. The fauna and flora have been virtually undisturbed, unlike other busier sections of the river. We are also lucky that the stretch we use contains no weirs, (ecluses) making it safe and friendly for all the family.
With many opting to bring a picnic and spend the day exploring what the river has to offer. We also have the Canal De Berry outside our base and the Province Trois Lacs perfect for a short trip or a activity.
In the evenings we offer a sunset paddle at the beautiful Chateau de Chenonceau, one of the Loire Valley and Frances most famous Castles, built spanning the River Cher. Our trip lets you explore Chenonceau by water weaving between its grand arches with the sun setting and the hot air balloons over head. It is one of our favourite times to be on the water.
During the summer season we aim to get both tourists and locals out to experience the beautiful river, using this income generated to then fund our community programmes. working with schools and associations to introduce them to the outdoors through educative lectures and experiences.
We are proud to also offer a donate a place system, where people can purchase online a child’s session for half price, these are then donated to local associations to bring out children for a canoe experience.
Take a look at our Donate a Place page – HERE
Over the coming year we have a number of other projects we want to complete both personal and to increase business but keeping the focus very much on the community we really want to get as many people on the water as possible whilst allowing us to enjoy the French climate and paddling opportunities.
Moving to France has been a huge step from the get go it was never our greatest plan but we have turned it into what is a continuing adventure.
We have made France our home and we welcome you to join us to Experience what we are lucky to see every day.
If anyone is interested in coming over for a canoe experience please check out our web page and get in touch we want to be a French base for Irish paddlers to drop in on their way to other places or to spend time with us exploring the region.
A huge thank you has to go out to the brands and companies who have supported us with this adventure so far and looking forward to a successful 2017
Experience with us.