Thursday, 18 December 2014

A Trip to the Perigord in June 2014

We kicked off our summer of canoeing by doing a short week-ender trip down in the Perigord region of France with some guests from Hong-Kong. We squeezed the usual 7 day trip into a 4 day format to give our guests a taste of the area.

We took 2 days to drive down to Bordeaux, where we were to pick up our guests, and visited the Poitou-Charentes area on the way down to scope out the area and the river of the same name. We came off the motorway just after Poitiers and headed for Vivonne to pick up some lunch. It's a pleasant little town with a massive Super-U supermarket. I can't think now why I want to remember this, but I did.

Anyway we then pootled down to the town of Ruffec and got some information from the very friendly tourist office. We tried to find some canoe outfitters without much luck but we did eventually end up at a pretty spot for a picnic lunch before finding a swimming hole at Condac.

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I thought the river Charente here looked very pretty and certainly has potential for a future trip. We then jumped back on the main road and headed south, avoiding Angouleme, before following the river again to the town of Jarnac. The river here is larger now and perhaps not what we're looking for, but the town was nice and I think the whole Cognac region has potential.

It was late in the day now so we headed south again so we could be close to Bordeaux in the morning for a pick-up. We eventually found a camp-site somewhere near St. Andre-de-Cubac. Once again the tourist office was very helpful - we only just made it before closing time - and we were directed to a campsite run by a charming guy from Germany. We set up camp next to a pond. Only later did we realise that this was not a good idea. We were kept awake all night by croaking frogs!

We drove back into town to find a restaurant and were lucky enough to discover a little place overlooking the river Dordogne. It had been a long day so we were pleased to crash out in the tents. I don't think Steve was too happy though as his inflatable mattress thing malfunctioned and he ended up in the van. On top of that and the loudest frogs in the universe the night was interrupted by a massive thunderstorm.

So the next morning we were up early to pick up our guests from the Grand Hotel in Bordeaux (oooeee) and start our trip. Here's a few photographs:

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You can see more photographs here.

On the final day we returned our guests to Bordeaux and began our long drive back to Calais. We had decided to do this in two days and so made our way to Les Sables-d'Olonne which we were too tired to really appreciate. We did find a hotel finally and then had a surprisingly good dinner at a sea-food place on the sea-front.

I can't remember much about the long drive on the last day except that we stopped off in a very pretty village in Brittany which may ave been Blain. A place worth returning too, not least because the bakery and cafe were lovely but also because a canal goes through here and it might be worth exploring a barge holiday in this area.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

New web site for Green River Canoes

Green River Canoes 

Our travel company which provides Inn-to-Inn Guided Canoe Trips to the south of France, the Belgium Ardennes and the Garden of England has had a web-site makeover,

Although I was happy with the original site and the way it looked I had the feeling over the past year that some people were finding the site difficult to navigate. To find out everything for a trip you had to visit several pages. On the new site you can find out everything you need to know from one page: that is the Trip description, its scheduled dates & prices, the day-to-day itinerary and the details of the hotels we use as well as photographs and maps.

Design-wise I've gone for a simple bi-colour scheme based on the Pullman colours of Umber (Dark Brown) & Cream with a 3rd highlight colour a shade of Green. It terms of graphics I've opted for a simple silhouette style which echoes something of the Penguin paperback design ethos of the 1950s.

I was aiming for something that looked reassuring & comfortable and without the common 'in your face' promotional feel of many similar sites. I took some inspiration from the Rapha Travel site as well.

Although the site makes use of photographs from the trips - slide-shows are available for each trip - I've made extensive use of the 'posters' I made earlier in the year and these are used as menus to the trip pages from the front page.

Here is a screen shot of the opening page:

Green River Canoes - new web site

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Gin Infusions, Summer Cordials and Home-made Cocktails

Gooseberry Gin Martini

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You will need:

2 Measures of Gin
1 Measure of Gooseberry infused Gin
1 Splash of Elderflower Cordial
A couple of fresh gooseberries for decoration and and ice-cube or two

Of course the trick is to have the home-made ingredients to hand.

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Gooseberry Gin Recipe

If you are fortunate to have a glut of gooseberries one summer or can find some going cheap then this makes an interesting and tasty gin infusion.

You will need:

1 Litre of the cheapest gin
500 g of top & tailed and washed gooseberries, use pink ones for a lovely colour to the infusion
250 g sugar

Sterilise a preserving jar and fill with the gooseberries which you have halved or crushed. Add the sugar. You can use more or less sugar according to taste. Aim for less now and sweeten later if the infusion is too sour. Top the up the jar with as much gin as will fit in.

Leave to infuse for 6 to 8 weeks. Strain through a muslin cloth and transfer to sterilised bottles. Sweeten to taste if necessary.

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Elderflower Cordial Recipe

In the early summer you can make a delicious cordial from Elderflowers.

You will need:

25 to 30 Elderflower heads freshly picked with the insects shaken off and quickly rinsed
1.5 Litre of water
Zest of 2 Lemons and 1 Orange
Juice of 2 Lemons and 1 Orange
1 kilo of sugar
50 g citric acid (optional)

Put the flowerheads in a large bowl with the zest, cover with 1.5 litres of boiled water and leave to infuse for 24 hours.

Strain the infusion through a muslin cloth and return to a pan with the sugar, the juice and the citric acid. Warm gently until the sugar is dissolved. Leave to cool and then transfer to sterilised bottles.

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Green River Canoes: The Poster Collection



The Collection

All the posters are collected here in a Poster Collection magazine. I originally posted 28 Reasons to go Canoeing day-by-day through February 2014. They are all here with a few posters that didn't make the cut thrown in for good measure.

The posters were originally published on the Green River Canoes blog.

Our Posters, Prints, T-shirts, IPad and Phone cases are for sale at Redbubble and Posters and Prints are for sale at DeviantArt.

Details about Green River Canoe Trips, downloadable Brochures and Newsletter Sign-Up.

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Green River Canoes: Fishing Trips


Fishing in the Belgium Ardennes
Canoeing and Fishing

Without a doubt you could easily mix a canoeing trip with a fishing trip and their is no reason why you couldn't use a canoe to fish from just as the locals in France and Belgium use the small flat-bottomed punts. You have to admire these punts because you often see them partially drowned tied up to the bank and you must wonder if they will ever be used again, but I've seen a seemingly lost boat patiently bailed until it was afloat again and then pushed out into the stream for an hour or so of fishing.

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The rivers we paddle in France and Belgium do not allow any motorised boats on the river, apart from a small stretch of the Dordogne where the Gabarres run between Roque-Gageac and Beynac offering a tourist service.

Most of the fishing we see is from the bank or fly-fishers stood mid-stream. Only a few fish from boats. The fishers are friendly too and don't much mind the canoes as we go by. This must be because the river is not at all busy. My friend and I were once briefly the scourge of fishers as we paddled through Tours on the river Loire. We didn't have room to skirt them in a wide arc as we had a rapid to negotiate. We were not popular and some even chased us downstream to pass on some advice and encouragement! Normally however a friendly nod and a wave is enough to pass pleasantly.

On the Célé river the fishers are given the river to themselves before 11am and again after 6pm and it is only between these hours that you are allowed to paddle the river. It seems fair, but I wonder what they would say if you were fishing from your canoe.

In all the ten years I've been taken canoe trips down these rivers though we've only ever had one person who trolled from the back of his canoe. He enjoyed himself too although he had to rely on the patience of his partner to do his paddling for him. He didn't actually have much luck in the actual fishing department. The Rainbow Trout and the Barbels eluded him but he did manage to catch one small but handsome Perch, which he gallantly put back.





Anyway the point is if you like fishing then I'm sure we could arrange plenty of time for it on our canoeing trips. We have plenty of time in the early mornings and in the long warm evenings to fit in some bank-side fishing and of course trolling is always a possibility. If more serious fishing time was required then we would re-arrange our schedule to fit it in.

We would also organise the licenses and search out the shops that sell bait and tackle.


Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Green River Canoes: Special Interest Trips


Fly-Fishing on the Semois

Custom  Canoe Trips with the Focus also on ...

We have many scheduled trips on our itinerary but we can also cater for groups that want to have a trip to themselves and perhaps concentrate on a particular activity in addition to the canoeing. This page describes some ideas.

Photography

 

Photography is one of my personal hobbies and something that I do on every canoeing trip.
 
You can see my personal photography on my website and on flickr.
 
It would be fantastic to take a group of enthusiastic photographers on a canoeing trip and I think the combination would work well.
 
I’d expect the kind of people who would do this combination trip would be into Landscapes and/or Nature photography, and I’m confident that we could could manage both elements very well.
 
I’m often of a mind to go on a long walk before breakfast; often getting up at sunrise or even before. Over the years I’ve been doing these trips I’ve got together a whole sequence of walks which are loops from our lodgings. This can range from 1 to 3 hours in length. They almost always include fabulous views over the region we are visiting.
 
The same principle would apply in the evenings so that we would arrange our evening meal so that we can be out and about when the evening light is at its best. In the summer of course we are blessed with an early sunrise and a late sunset, but even towards the autumn we can still make use of the light.
 
This leaves the middle of the day, and this is, of course, when we will do our canoeing. Notwithstanding the fact that cameras and water don’t mix very well we will have a great many opportunities for taking macro wildlife shots and any other type of shots in and around the rivers.
 
I think that makes a great start for designing a Photographic/Canoe Tour, but we also have all the elements of the trip which are away from the river too; the pretty villages, the castles and churches and monasteries and gardens.
 
In addition I think that when we sit down and design our photographic itinerary we can mutually decide on our aims and plans. We can also bear in mind that we have a minibus with us and we can use this in the morning and evening for reaching places which are too far for hiking.
 

Nature Watching

 

Observing nature is also one of my interests and forms a large part of my interest in photography too, as I mentioned in the previous chapter.
 
On these canoe trips we have plenty of opportunity for observing Butterflies, Odonata (Dragonflies and Damselflies), Birds, and River-Life. We also, of course, have a great opportunity for observing the botany of the regions we visit.
I myself am very fond of photographing butterflies as well as dragonflies and damselflies.
 
I think a very useful trip could be designed to incorporate a great deal of nature-watching both whilst we are on the river and on evening walks and hikes in the mornings and evenings.
 
I’m very familiar with the butterfly species to be found in and around the areas we visit and of the times of year when particular species are to be observed.
 
Although I’m not a bird-watcher myself and don’t photograph them often (not having suitable lenses) I do observe them whilst we are on the river and am familiar with most of the common species to be found.
 
Botanically the areas we visit are also very interesting and I’ve come across many beautiful flowers and plants on my travels. Finding orchids for example is always a pleasure as is identifying the different trees that grow along the river and being able to recognise them in all the seasons. Quinces and Medlars, for example, can sometimes be found.
 

Fishing

 

I’m not a fisherman myself so I wont pretend to know anything about it. What I do know is that I’ve seen plenty of people fishing in the rivers we visit. It is obvious that the rivers provide very good fishing indeed.
 
Many of the rivers are good trout streams and we have seen many fly-fishermen standing int he rivers in the early mornings.
 
The Semois and the Lesse in Belgium are well known trout streams as is the Cele in France. The Cele in particular is dedicated to fishing as canoeists are not allowed on the river until after 11am; before then is fishing time.
 
We have also observed people fishing from boats, though I should point out that these are usually punts of some sort. No powered boats are allowed on the streams we paddle, excepting the Gabarres which operate on the Dordogne between Beynac and Roque-Gageac.
 
On some occasions we have had guests trolling from the canoe and they have enjoyed themselves immensely though they tell me this is not the way to catch trout. A perch perhaps.
 
The rivers we canoe usually run clear, except after a storm, and we often get a good view of the many fish in the water. This excludes the Vezere which more often than not runs a chocolate colour. The fish we have seen, and recognised, are Rainbow Trout, Perch, and Barbel. No doubt several other species are swimming beneath us.
 
If we were to organise a canoe trip around fishing then Green River Canoes would ensure that the appropriate licenses are acquired and that enough time is allocated to fit the type of fishing that is needed to balance with the canoe time. We would have the minibus for example to those that fish to take us to and from the river for early morning or evening sessions.
 

Hiking

 

Walking and hiking is a feature of our canoe trips already. For those that are keen walkers each place that we stay has an early morning, before breakfast, walk that we can do. It is not compulsory!
 
On some of the longer trips we also take a day or two off from the canoeing to explore the area by foot.
 
I’ve walked many of the footpaths in and around the areas where we canoe and have a range of walks wherever we go.
However if we have a group that requires a different balance of canoeing and hiking then I’m certain that we could arrange a trip to suit. We would also of course decide on the length of these hikes and the amount of time we think they need.
 
Both France and Belgium have a great many long-distance trails which are well way-marked. There are also a great collection of hiking maps on which these trails are clearly marked. It would certainly be possible for example to accommodate several days hiking on one of these trails with a multi-day canoeing trip.
 

History

 

With a little bit of work the trips to the Perigord and Lot could concentrate (when not canoeing) on the 100 years War,  Crusades, or perhaps the Middle Ages. These trips already visit several castles and chateaux in the region but a little bit of effort on the schedule could bring the history into focus.
 
The trip to the Belgium Ardennes could also be tweaked so that we have an opportunity to visit some of the sights associated with WW2. Although the coming years will be the anniversary of the Great War this is of course more focused on Flanders to the north of Belgium. This is not the area where we canoe. However if there is some real interest in this then with some planning we could arrange to paddle on the Somme and in the area around St. Omer in northern France.
 

Cave Paintings

 

Our trips to the Perigord and the Lot already include a good look at the cave-paintings in the region such as Lascaux, Peche Merle and Castel Merle. Sadly access to Font de Gaume which was also on our itinerary is becoming increasingly difficult as visitor numbers have been drastically reduced and advance bookings removed.
 
Many other caves are available to visit in the region however and with a bit organisation we could certainly tweek the itinerary to include other caves.
 
It may even be possible to include Font de Gaume if we are prepared to arrive early and queue on a particular day.
 

Wine Tasting

 

Would it be possible to paddle from vineyard to vineyard? I’m not sure about this as we are usually too far upstream to be in vineyard country. However when we visit the Perigord and Lot regions in France we are certainly within striking distance of vineyards.
 
On the 5 Day Cele trip or the 12 Day 3 River trip we have often taken a day off the river to visit the vineyards of the Cahors region which is a short 40 minute drive down the Lot valley. We usually have the time (and inclination) to visit 3 or 4 vineyards for tastings which are on or close to the Lot river itself.
 
The vineyards on the Dordogne are a bit further away. Bergerac and Perchamont however are reachable.
 
On the Ardeche trip we arrive through the Rhone vineyards between Avignon and our first lodgings on the Ceze river. It would certainly be possible to arrange some vineyards in this region, both in the valley itself and in the tributary valleys coming into it.
 

Beer Tasting

 

A Beer tasting and canoeing trip would certainly be possible in the Belgium Ardennes. We travel very close to two of the Trappist Monasteries that still make beer at Orval and Rochefort. It is possible to visit Orval so we could easily include this on our trip and make the necessary detour.
 
The other three Trappist Monasteries that brew beer in Belgium are further to the north in Flanders and separated from the Walloon region where we go paddling. Nevertheless Belgium is a small country and an itinerary could be arranged.
 
In any case if we extend our search outside of Trappist Beers (and Belgium has many hundreds of other to choose from) we could visit some small and local breweries closer to the rivers we paddle.


 


Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Green River Canes: Expedition Trips

Canoeing in the Belgium Ardennes

Multi-Day Canoe-Camping Trips

Every year we will propose to do a long expeditionary trip at the beginning of each season. If it proves popular then we could add another trip at the end of the season too.

The idea of these trips is to have a long continuous canoe down a single river.

The intention is that we will camp on these trips and where possible we will prefer wild-camping over camp-sites. This means we will have to cater for ourselves too and do own our cooking. This will not however, preclude us taking the odd night in a B&B if we want to, or indeed frequenting restaurants, cafes and bars whenever we find them!

On our usual trips we always have a support van. To help reduce costs on these expeditions  we will have to decide whether or not we want to have a support van to chase us down the river.

Unlike our Inn-to-Inn Trips these Expedition Trips are more co-operative. Green River Canoes will ensure that the canoe equipment is booked and ready for us, will guide us on the river and will have all the necessary details and maps for camping and supplies along the route. If a support minibus is required then Green River Canoes will supply this too, along with a driver.  Green River Canoes will ensure that we are transported from the rendezvous point to the start of the canoeing and for returning everybody back to the rendezvous point from where we finish the canoeing. Green River Canoes will also provide the necessary safety equipment and water-proof tubs for storing stuff in the canoe.

The participants on the trip will be expected to provided their own camping equipment and will be required to set up themselves and help with all the necessary cooking and cleaning jobs etc. If portages are necessary then then will be expected to help with these too.

The cost for the trips will be calculated on the canoe-hire costs and the minibus rental costs (if used) plus the use of a guide. These will be the only charges required before departure. All other expenses will be calculated and shared 'on the road', such as camp-site fees, eating and drinking, shopping, fishing licenses etc and so forth.

It will be the responsibility of the guests to get themselves to the rendezvous point for the trip departure.

We at Green River Canoes will suggest a variety of itineraries for each season. Those that are interested will then be asked to reach a consensus on the following aspects of the trip.