Recently I’ve found myself getting a lot of fresh air! On Saturday 12th I drove along the coast to the picturesque New Forest to have a go at kayaking on Beaulieu River. Even though it wasn’t technically part of the experience, I feel I have to mention the drive through the New Forest, it was just so lovely! Turning off the dual-carriageway, you head down this long, straight road with all manner of wild animals to see. I saw two hawk-looking birds grappling overhead, and had to stop several times to let horses, pigs and cows cross the road. The animals were totally used to the cars going past, never once glancing up in interest.
Anyway, enough about the wildlife. Personally I found the centre very easy to find, but Robb, who I was going with, managed to get a bit lost. Eventually we met at Bucklers Hard, a Georgian hamlet located in the Beaulieu Estate. Within the centre, there’s the Maritime Museum, a cute little tea shop, a number of private dwellings, a pub and the marina. We couldn’t quite work out whether people lived in the houses, it seemed like a very touristy location, but the houses were well-kept and could easily be occupied. Altogether it was a very beautiful place.
Down by the river, we met James who would be our kayak instructor for the session. Inside the hut we were kitted out in waterproofs and spraydecks, which are skirt-like garments that attach to the rim of the boat to stop water getting in. Joining Robb and myself on the river were three young boys who were celebrating a birthday, as well as James.
I’d never been kayaking before, only canoeing, so being completely strapped into a little boat was quite novel for me (everything seems novel to me since starting this job). We dragged the kayaks down to the water edge, then climbed in and attached the spraydecks. Placing our feet in the foot pegs, we were ready to go. Kayaking is actually very different to canoeing, with your feet on the pegs, you are practically at one with the boat, meaning every time you move, the kayak moves.
James pushed us off from the ground, and we were floating away. It was a strange feeling being so close to the water, but it helped greatly with changing directions and controlling the speed. After a quick practice at turning on the spot and coming to a stop, we were paddling off down the river towards various checkpoints along the way.
It was very relaxing work, and not at all difficult. The sun was shining and there was hardly any wind, meaning the journey was very pleasant indeed. The only place you get really wet is on the arms, where the water runs from the paddle up your sleeve, but I could cope with that! It doesn’t take long to get used to the steering (do you call it that?) and manoeuvres, although I did find myself facing the wrong direction on a couple of occasions.
Halfway through James set us up for a race! We had to paddle round a pontoon and under a bridge, then do the same but in reverse, then do a 360 on the spot, then back to the start line. I think we all got a bit muddled and no clear winner was decided, but it was very fun nonetheless! Kayaking backwards is definitely something I may need more practice with.
After the race we headed back down the river to the marina, rescuing a soggy bee on the way. Just before getting back on dry land, two of the boys decided to capsize their boats, which was quite entertaining to watch! After that it was time to paddle up the slipway, and climb out onto solid ground.
What a great experience! This was definitely one of my favourites so far, it wasn’t too long or too short, and there was a variety of kayaking moves to make it interesting, rather than just paddling up and down. James was great and really helped us get the most from the activity. Everyone enjoyed the experience, meaning it’s perfect for all ages!
Having done a kayaking and archery experience with New Forest Activities, I know just what fun days out they have to offer - but that doesn't mean you do! Below is an interview with Laura, talking about their fantastic outdoor adventures and exciting plans for the future.
1) Please explain your journey as ‘New Forest Activities’ so far.
When I started at New Forest Activities we had a small team of 5 and worked from a small building, which was an old dairy, in Beaulieu. Over the past few years the company has grown massively and now has 12 permanent staff that grows to 20+ over the Summer months. I really enjoy working for such a fun and proactive company. The tourism industry is never dull and working to provide fun activities that bring people an experience they’ll remember fondly is really fulfilling.
We are always thinking of ways to enhance people’s experiences with us, creating new products such as paddle to the pub, and new courses so people can grow with us. We want to give people a reason to keep coming back year after year.
2) What has been the biggest or most memorable event you've provided?
There have been loads of events over the years. We’ve done lots for big corporate companies such as Vodafone and Microsoft, giving them team-building days and fun away days. We had the team from GAME down who did a military style training event with our Battlefield LIVE, this included full army get up and drill sergeants!
We’ve had the local radio station Breeze FM in to meet the team and report live from our offices for a week. We’ve even had a few celebrities out on the water; one was booked on in secret and taken out by the team…Kerry Katona!
We regularly have youth groups down and do a lot of work with Princess Trust groups. It’s very satisfying to see the kids develop skills and really grow with confidence over the week they are with us.
3) Is there any inside information you can give us?
New Forest Activities is open all year round but obviously are at our busiest in the Summer. During the Winter months our paddle sports especially aren’t quite so popular. If I’m honest this is where people are missing out! The Beaulieu River is stunning throughout the year and on a crisp Winters day it is truly beautiful. There’s also different wildlife and a different feel to the experience. It’s a shame people shy away from it when a few decent layers and you’ll be just as warm. As they say, there’s no such thing as bad weather just the wrong clothing!
4) Do you have any exciting plans for the future that you’d like to tell us about?
New Forest Activities have grown so much over the past few years and don’t intend to stop! We now have activities available all round the New Forest and surrounding areas. This year alone we started offering Kayak hire at Sopley Lake and another Archery session in Burley. We are also developing new packages that are perfect for groups such as Stag & Hens and children’s parties. Who wouldn’t love a Pirate party as a kid?! Not to mention we now have a mini bus which is ideal for group hire or collecting people from their accommodation. The paddle sport side of things is more exciting than ever with more trips and courses available. The Winter will be used to work out more products and even more activities for next year. Watch this space!
5) What would you say is your most frequently asked question?
Will I fall in?! A lot of people are worried about falling out of their Canoe or capsizing their Kayak, but the boats we use are very wide and stable making them perfect for beginners. You really do have to try hard to tip them! We obviously have more advanced kit such as our Sea Kayaks that allow people to develop their skills and progress in the sport.
We often get asked if our Battlefield LIVE game hurts…not at all! The guns use an infra-red technology which means there are no projectiles, no lasers, and no pain!
Lastly we often get asked when we close for the Winter. We don’t. New Forest Activities is open all year round and just as fun in the Winter as in the Summer!
Check out the range of experiences, here:
Dorset Sea Kayaking Half Day Trip
Hampshire Canoeing Taster
Archery Experience - Adult
Archery Experience - Child
Archery Experience - Family (4 Tickets)
New Forest Sea Kayaking BCU 3 Star
Any questions? Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Group Size & Spectators:
There will be a maximum of 6 participants per instructor.
Spectators are more than welcome to come and watch your wet and wonderful Kayak Course.
BCU 1 Star Kayak Course is available all year. There is limited availability in the winter.
Warwickshire centre finishes in September and starts up early in the year.
This is a 6-8 hour course to be completed in 1 day.
This course can be affected by the weather. If in doubt please contact the center before you set off for the day.
The centres will provide you with the kayak, but not all will provide a wetsuit.
You will need to bring :
- Swimming Costume
- Sun Block (Summer)
- Warm Clothes (to change into afterwards)
Minimum Age: 12
Maximum Weight: 16 stone
No experience necessary - aimed at people wanting to learn the basics skills and principles of kayaking.
Reasonable fitness and confidence in the water is required.