Being the first FULL season since we started our new activities company, I would say that what was most notable to me was that we got to see how the whole valley looked and changed as the seasons did. It was also remarkable how much wildlife we encountered along the way, I wondered was there exceptionally more this year than previous years or was it that I was just more aware? I believe it was the latter, having kayaked this river for the past eight years, we would regulary paddle in groups of friends, chilling out after a hard weeks work and enjoying the banter and fresh air, essentially making our way to a feature or weir that we could “play” on and try to advance our paddling skills (or indeed, our swimming skills!) and then carrying on to the next one to do more of the same. At that time I was more aware of checking my boat and the flow of water below me to see did I need to adjust my body weight or edge more to move my kayak to where I wanted it to be. Those trips would have been fortnightly at best and gaining my kayaking proficiency was the order of the day.
This season, on the other hand, we were bringing individuals or groups down the river up to three times a day, sometimes seven days a week on kayaks. Being sit-on-top kayaks, once we give the basic paddling introduction on the bank and a few minutes on the water to get their strokes in order, the participants nail controlling the kayak in the first 15 minutes, so they can sit back and enjoy the view. At this stage our instructing is finished as the participants are quite adequately “paddling their own canoe” so we can give our visitors a history lesson as we pass some pretty impressive sites AND let them have a look at the surrounding wildlife.
Like the two swans and their family of seven signets that we followed all summer. From hatchlings to the day Dara witnessed the swan teaching her cygnets how to fly and the apparent clumsy first efforts of her family to the eventual take off of their first flight! (By my own admission I envy my business partner being able to observe that!).
Or the time in the middle of Summer when two otters came swimming up river and buried their noses in the reed roots searching for a lunchtime snack. They were much larger than I expected.
Or the shy heron that I kayak past every day and she never moves until I produce my camera – then she’s off! The kingfisher that stops EVERYBODY in their tracks as she skims across the surface of the water with her piercing blue colour and makes their day!
Down river, the Cormorant waits on the highest tree and then dives at speed into the water and disappears. At first, I thought it must have hit the river bed, only for it to rise maybe 30 meters away. Impressive.
Launching our new Medieval Tour last year was also a reason we experienced more wildlife. As I said before, once the kayakers got a handle on their strokes, they got immersed in their new surroundings. The river has towering monuments standing on both sides of its banks so we would always gave as much information as we could on the ruins, so much so that we researched the area and started to use our rafts for our “Floating through Time” tours. We supply the life jackets and the footwear (wellies) and a knowledgeable guide. They float downriver in one of our spacious rafts for an interactive tour with a small bit of paddling. A unique way to see the heritage of the Boyne Valley.
Last year really was an exceptional year as regards opening our eyes to what we have on our doorstep. We have always prided ourselves on being professional in what we do and how we do it. We intended on bringing our love of kayaking to the masses and what we realised early on in our business venture is that we have stumbled upon is an area that is bursting with culture and awash with nature based experiences. So whether it’s kayaking with your family, rafting with a group of friends or cycling from a Medieval town to the seat of the High Kings of Ireland, 2013 has shown us that we are in one very special place.