British Universities Kayak Expedition Selection Weekend

A few weekends ago I was lucky enough to attend the British Universities Kayak Expedition 2015 Selections, having had my application accepted along with 19 others, out of 35 applicants.

I was initially quite nervous about applying as I was worried I wouldn’t be good enough, I might not get through and be very disappointed (and maybe a little embarrassed) as a result, and maybe my worst concern… the other people just might not like me!

Eventually having talked to a number of people (all of whom were very enthusiastic and supportive about me applying, which was a nice confidence boost) I decided to apply. I got my application in hours before the deadline, having taken a terrible selfie in rubbish lighting after hours of scouring my pictures and facebook for decent enough ones to put on of both me kayaking, and one of me recent enough to be recognisable (and evidently failing). I actually expected the written aspect to take me the longest, but it all flowed pretty smoothly; turns out I quite like talking about kayaking! After some minor proof reading and tweaking it just needed some pictures and colour! (I think I succeeded with the colour, see my previous post to read/view my application!)

I was pretty nervous for the weekend, not really knowing what to expect, although having been told the standard of paddling was going to be very high and that we’d probably be paddling the Fairy Glen… an idea that made me very nervous!

I turned up at my friends Rosie and Nicky’s house on Wednesday night and along with their friend Jack, we went for Noodles in Bangor and bought and played with some fire works. Thursday brought a pleasant trip on the Seiont which went a long way to calming me down and getting me into the right mind set (or maybe that was the nice hot shower after, who knows?).

My Sat Nav took me a roundabout route along all sorts of interesting and clearly not well-used back roads to get to the Imperial College Mountain Hut. Throughout the drive I was very nervous, but for no reason: I arrived and was greeted with smiles and beer! Throughout the course of the night people gradually arrived, and whilst people were obviously a little awkward to begin with, everyone was soon chatting and exchanging stories or their opinions on what ‘Boof left’ actually means…

Friday brought an early start heading to the Mawddach, where we split into groups of 4 or 5, mainly with new people so we got to know everyone on the water. I was paddling with Ant, Leslie and Campbell. I was extremely nervous, not really knowing what to expect, but the friendly and chilled nature of the group soon had me relaxing and enjoying the river. We arrived at the first drop and whilst nervy, I stepped up and decided to run it. Not an excellent line by any means, and no boof to speak of, but no roll either, and at least I hadn’t walked! So a happy start, and the guys’ lines were also pretty sweet, with considerably more boofy-ness than mine, unfortunately there were no pictures of my run, so I guess I’ll have to return and do it again some other time!

The rest of the trip followed in a similar vein with a relaxed atmosphere whilst still stepping up to fairly decent white water (certainly harder than I’d got on for sometime!) I walked around the second big drop, and everyone walked around Rhaeadr Mawddach. Myself and Campbell also walked around the first of the Three Nasties as we decided the trees were a bit scary! On the portage I also disappeared up to my thigh in a bog, to much amusement on Campbell’s part, and much struggling and cursing on mine until I managed to pull my leg out without loosing my canyoneer!

The rest of the river went smoothly and we got off feeling tired but satisfied!

Next we headed to the Wnion, which I was informed I would be able to cope with just fine. The groups were swapped about a little and I was now paddling with Greg, Calum and Matt. After the first couple of easy rapids I was relaxed and pretty confident all would be absolutely fine. The next two rapids were considerably steeper, with quite large boulders and holes to avoid, although still within my ability. I asked Greg in the eddy at the bottom if that had been the gorge… to which the reply was ‘ummm… no we’re not even in it yet!’ at which point I started to think I may have bitten off more than I could chew.

Once we were in the gorge we were fully committed, and we were told that if we swam, we were going to be swimming the whole thing as there was no where to get out! Fortunately the lines were actually pretty straightforward, and whilst I was certainly being challenged I was actually enjoying myself a lot too! It was far too fast for me to really concentrate on how scary anything was and we didn’t stop at all except for one accidental eddy. We came out at the bottom with huge grins on our faces, I was exhausted but absolutely thrilled! Probably my favourite run of a river ever!

The guys all went for a ‘second run, twice the fun!’ but having survived the first one, and being very tired I decided to quit whilst I was ahead having had a fantastic day’s boating!

The evening was kicked off by a bolognese cooked by Ruth and Greg (YUM!) and followed by the destination presentations (well after everyone was drunk enough to stand up and present them first) which included: Laos, Sri Lanka, Azerbaijan, Greenland, South Korea, Ecuador, Guatemala and Costa Rica. The three finalists were Iran (which was George and my destination choices), Colombia (Calum Peden’s destination choice) and Madagascar (which was four people’s choices of destination!). After these were presented and whittled down to the final three everyone set about getting even more drunk before stumbling off to bed in the early hours.


Saturday brought a slightly less early start, heading to the Aber Glaslyn Gorge for a few laps and a boaterX! I didn’t swim at the Breaker this time so I consider my two runs (the second of which I forgot my bung! …rookie error!) fairly successful, but decided a boaterX may be pushing my luck. The group then headed to the Fairy Glen (some of us getting rather lost en-route) which I decided I wasn’t going to step up to after only 8 hours sleep total over the last two nights. I spent the rest of the day running shuttles and taking some (pretty bad) photos!


The evening was then filled with haggis, neaps and tatties from the Scots for tea, a few games such as climbing a ladder upside down (pretty tricky, especially when you’re as short as I am and there’s one rung effectively missing!) followed by the voting.

At this point I had pretty much decided I wasn’t going to go on the expedition, although the people were all amazing, and I’d had a fantastic weekend of boating, I was pretty much of the opinion that I wasn’t at the kind of standard of paddling I’d like to be at before heading out to the amazing destinations on offer. I felt like I probably wouldn’t get as much out of the expedition as if I waited a few years, and organising NSR this year and the amount of Uni work has been cranking up this year. I think I probably needed to focus on the stuff already on my plate before taking on anything extra otherwise I wouldn’t get to make the most of any of it. With this in mind, when they asked anyone who had decided they didn’t want to go on the expedition anymore I raised my hand. I wasn’t the only one, as Ruth had also decided similar things. The voting then took place, and it was difficult to choose only six people who I thought deserved to go on the expedition as pretty much everyone there were all incredible people who all would have brought different elements to the expedition. I did eventually chose six although I won’t reveal their names. Once the votes were in we set about with drinking games whilst the ex-BUKE paddlers counted the votes.

When they came back with the results, seven people had been chosen to go on the expedition: Josh Brewer-Smith, Calum Peden, Campbell Simpson, Leslie Simpson, Jacob Collings, Matt Brook and Samuel Lyons. Whilst I think many deserving people missed out, I also think the team is a very good one, and will have an amazing expedition to Madagascar (their final chosen destination)! Good luck boys!

The night dissolved into more drinking games involving funny animal noises and moving seats, whilst the team disappeared to talk about their expedition.

Sunday morning was filled with a few photos and lots of goodbyes as people began their journeys home or headed to various rivers.


A fantastic weekend was had and I’m so proud and thankful to have been part of it! I wish the 2015 BUKE team luck on their Madagascan adventure, and a little jealousy! I hope we’ll all be seeing each other on the river soon!

Applying for BUKE

After much internal debate, I decided to apply for BUKE this year, as I would not have another chance (unless I decided to do a masters or PhD).

Here is my application:


I found out I have made it through to the selection weekend in North Wales on the 6th of November, along with my friends Anthony Stewart, Mark Ledger and Steve Hopkins!

Exciting times!

I am currently researching my destination to present at selections, which is quite hard work as the idea is to go somewhere no one has been before…. meaning there is very little beta on the place!

I will update my blog after selections – once I know whether I have got through or not, with some info about my researched destination, and (if my destination isn’t chosen) the destination that the BUKE will be going to!

Wet West Paddle Fest 2014

This year I headed up to the Wet West accompanied by my friend Bryn, and met up with a bunch of Durham University friends. We camped in Invermoriston which was quite pleasant apart from a lack of soft ground in which to put tent pegs. There was plenty of dry wood for a nice big bonfire.

The next day we paddled the Moriston followed by the Garry on the Sunday. The Saturday night was quite fun with a party in Ossians in Fort William. I won some Ainsworth Paddles on the raffle! Wooo hoo!


On the Monday we went for a walk along the Aonach Eagach ridge which was very scary!!! We were all very tired by the end, and when we went to camp at the King’s House at the top of the Etive we were swarmed by midges and quickly escaped to the climbers bar pub thing for food and warmth.


The next day we headed back to the Moriston but I was feeling very ill and didn’t paddle, whilst the boys put on and subsequently got straight back off again having had a bit of a kerfuffle on the top drop. We set off home and camped in Glen Orchy on our way. We stopped off at Bracklinn falls near Callander to have a scout, but it was very very empty!


The Farnes and St. Abbs

Having rescheduled two of our sea kayaking days with Kim Bull we agreed to meet at Seahouses for a trip to the Farne islands on the Tuesday before my birthday. This was one of the best days I have ever had. Initially I was dubious about the trip as I knew the Farne islands as a round trip was about 18km, which sounded like a pretty substantial distance considering I’d done relatively little sea kayaking before. So we set off with the intention of just going to Inner Farne and seeing how we felt. On reaching it, we decided to just do the next crossing to Staple island, and then the same again to go to Longstone for lunch at the light house. This involved crossing a tide race, a scary new experience, which I coped with fairly well, and even got a few surfs on the waves up the race.

Aside from the tide race, the major highlight of the trip was the sheer number of Seals, which we first encountered on Inner Farne, a large number of which followed us round the islands for the whole day! I had a GoPro and took lots of footage of the ‘Seal stampedes’ as they rushed into the water where they feel most comfortable. I was very impressed with their curiosity and was just as curious in return!













When we finally made it back to the beach I was probably the most tired I have ever been! So we headed to a nice little café for some wake-up coffee before the drive home.

The second day, we headed to St. Abbs, where we went on a rock hopping tour of the coastline around from Coldingham Bay to Pettico Wick and back. Along the way we saw lots of sea birds, but far fewer seals than on the Farnes trip. Unfortunately my GoPro was playing up so I got very little footage from the St. Abbs day.

Sea kayaking in Northumbria

Having really enjoyed Mull with S.O.C., Mum and I organised a few days paddling in Northumbria with Kim Bull. The first and second days we spent in Amble harbour, learning skills in the enclosed sheltered space. I was a bit nervous so we didn’t actually leave the harbour shelter. Kim unfortunately had hurt his knee so these were the only days we got to paddle, whilst we re-arranged a few more days in August for when he’d recovered. Instead we went fossil hunting and walking along the Northumbrian and Scottish border coast.

We visited St. Abbs, Siccar point, Howick bay and Cullernose point.


Sea kayaking and Geologising in Mull!

Whilst everyone else seemed to have set off on their European adventures for the summer, I was still stuck at home, revising for my summer exams! Mum and Dad had planned a sea kayak trip to the Isle of Mull with S.O.C. so I decided to invite myself to cure my boredom!

We dragged the shed (caravan) and put all the sea kayaks and bikes on the car and set off. The journey involved 2 ferry crossings, the Corran ferry and the Lochaline to Fishnish ferry. The scenery was pretty spectacular and we arrived in time to get everything set up before bed, at the Fidden Farm campsite.

We went paddling from the campsite around Erraid, so I could get used to the unwieldy sea kayak thing I was using. There was a seal in the bay, and lots of nice sea birds around.

We also did a trip from Carsaig bay to Carsaig arches and back (which was pretty tiring, as we did lots of rock hopping in between!).


We also spent several days doing Geology excursions, with one day at Carsaig bay where I found an Ammonite amongst a good horde of other fossils.











A day on Mull, where Dad and I collected lots of specimens of Iona marble.


We also went for a walk along the Wilderness coast to visit an unconformity, which was pretty cool… Fern certainly enjoyed her walk!


I had a really good trip and was really enlightened by sea kayaking! I have now planned a trip to Northumbria to go sea kayaking again with mum and Kim Bull, and will write another blog post about that after I’ve been!


Skiing in Sölden (Austria)

This Easter (due to University not having half terms) we had a family ski trip to Sölden in Austria. I was very excited as I hadn’t been skiing for two years due to having been on my gap year the year previously (poor me!).

Despite going the last week of the season, we got very lucky with the Snow, and we actually ended up with about 10% of the seasons total snowfall all in the last week! This meant powder galore, and a happy Waddington family (and the Normans)!


Tees Race

This weekend I went to and competed in the Tees Race. A new event organised by Rory Woods and Lee Royle, on the Upper Tees section. There was a relatively good turn out, with over 50 people attending. There was a time trial, followed by a boater X, with a Ladies category. It was a really fun day with people chipping in and helping out where ever they were needed. A fun atmosphere and some nice lines, despite there being virtually no water.

I came 2nd, out of 3 Ladies, by a three second margin in the time trial, but significantly more in the boater X. I was very pleased as whilst on a normal day at the Tees I find the Jacuzi Shoot line quite intimidating, I knew it was faster, and every race run, it was an easy call to take that line for the added speed, without a second thought.



Dad even entered in his Pirouette for added speed, unfortunately he was missing the last foot of it, so not as much speed as he’d have liked.


Dad came 32nd, I came 25th and Mike came 17th overall, with times of 4.23, 4.12 and 4.00 respectively!

I also won a very small (since no one else would fit it) Typhoon onesie, and a SheWee!

The National Student Rodeo – Heroes and Villains

Having managed to snag myself a position on the LUUCC committee as competition secretary, I was very aware at my first Rodeo, that I would be running the next one. The weekend was spent trying to take in as much information behind the scenes as possible, whilst shadowing Andy and Sam and helping as much as possible.

I also managed to get out with my camera quite a lot!

I was particularly impressed with our Novice women’s entrants, all of whom were ridiculously enthusiastic and had a great time showing off their cool moves on the inlet gate!

There were lots of fantastic costumes both throughout the day, and in the evening at the party.


Unfortunately a large quantity of people from Leeds ended up with Trent belly on arrival home. Luckily I managed to avoid this, I suspect due to not having got on the water, and having a shower on the Saturday night! Otherwise a great weekend was had by all!

Christmas on the Nile

As a family (plus Anthony and with Lowri as a coach/guide) we headed back to the Nile, this time for a Christmas dose of sunshine boating. We stayed at NRE for Christmas, eating yummy food at the ‘Black Lantern’ restaurant, and spending the days surfing at Super Hole or paddling the section from the dam down to Itunda.

We moved down to the Hairy Lemon for New Year to avoid the drunken tourist hordes at NRE for New Year’s Eve. We spent a wonderful week chilling on the Island, playing on Club wave and the boys sometimes got on Nile Special if it was running, as well as several more trips from Kalagala down to Nile Special. We also played a lot of frisby golf, card games and ate a lot of the wonderful self produced food they have on the island! The trip was a lovely break from the wintry weather at home, and a nice respite from the revision I was supposed to be doing for my January exams (oopse!).


I’m sad to know that this may be the last chance I get to go to the Nile due to the next dam that is being built which will probably submerge the Hairy Lemon, and back up all the way to Kalagala.