A couple of weekends ago, I was fortunate enough to spend three days with 10 wonderful women in the Devon outdoors. A hen party full of laughter and fun and outrageousness.
We’re not the kind of girls who pamper ourselves with face masks and dress up in heels – we’re the kind of girls who get muddy and laugh too loud and have a very limited quantity of f’s to give.
With this in mind, we head out onto the River Dart from Stoke Gabriel with Backwater Adventures on 6 Canadian Canoes in scorching, glorious, beating sunshine and a few bleary hangovers to boot.
Andy and Charles, our two guides, took on the challenge of 11 women with nothing but pure enthusiasm. They taught those of who had never canoed before how to paddle, turn, not fall in and briefed us on the day ahead: a leisurely paddle up river to a pub before hopping back in the boats, making camp and cooking over an open fire. Bliss.
After a 45 minutes or so of paddling to the pub, we moored up, found some seats in the sun and feasted on seafood and cider. There was no pressure to move on, no structured itinerary. It was perfect.
Eventually we found our way back to the boats and turned back on ourselves for a short trip to our camping spot. Here, we would hang hammocks in the trees, cook stew and sit around a fire until the early hours. We sawed trees in half and practised shooting, laughed some more and got wholly inappropriate with a bottle of Jagermeister.
After a night of sipping boozy drinks around a fire and swinging in hammocks, we scoffed a breakfast of bacon, coffee and marshmallows before setting sail one final time, back to Stoke Gabriel.
The guys at Backwater Adventures in Devon dealt with us all with a healthy dose of humility and tightened our knots that we were too gin-heavy to tie properly. They laughed with us, were shocked by us, ate with us and drank with us, all with the professional air of people who spend their time chaperoning idiots down rivers.
A huge thank you from all of us to Andy and Charles. We had a blast (but please don’t publish those photos anywhere!)