Trip duration: 3 hours | Approx cost: £40 | When: November
Doinit factor: A unique way to experience London!
It’s hard to imagine that an icy, dark, wet November evening could potentially provide such a unique and fun experience. Throw a canoe and the Thames River into the equation and you’ll soon forget all about this miserable winter, get active and start enjoying the sights of London in a way experienced by only a few. Londoners and tourists alike flock to the many different tours and vantage points this great city has to offer, most recently the Shard. There seems to be some kind of instinctual urge, deep within the human psyche, willing us to find that perfect view; for Moo Canoe, it’s a completely alternative approach which they have begun to successfully pioneer.
This night-time experience, with small groups of 2-person canoes, really adds to the experience, as it seems the entire river has been opened up to only you. The occasional barges and clippers occasionally dash these thoughts, giving rushes of excitement as you begin to lurch up and down suddenly. These winter months bring the dark evenings around quicker, as I casually arrived after a hard day’s graft in the office, ready to unwind well after the sun had set. We started our mini adventure by Limehouse, where we were met by Katy and Alfie, who kitted us up and went through the evening’s plan. Kindly, waterproofs and additional clothing were offered to those who had left anything behind and, after introductions were made, a flight of stairs led down to the riverbank. White canoes with black patches awaited us, clearly living up to the ‘Moo Canoe’ name.
Above: Getting ready to paddle
Sitting in the canoes, we shuffled them towards the water and, moments after, we found ourselves gliding through the waters of the Thames. The Canary Wharf estate lights towering above us, lights twinkling far above and reflecting from the wet surfaces of surrounding glass-fronted buildings, the highlight, of course, was One Canada Square and the city’s financial centres dwarfing our floating group. The first few minutes on the water are quite surreal but a truly amazing collection of sights. Safety was certainly paramount. Our instructors emphasised the importance of sticking close together on the water, especially in the dark. A vigilant eye was kept on us as we paddled downstream, as we marvelled at numerous sights we had seen before but from totally different perspectives. A real treat so say the least. I soon realised paddling is hard work! My muscles began to strain at the constant movement and my ‘technique’, if it may be called that, was somewhat questionable. The instructors were on hand to put this right with efficient and helpful coaching tips.
It was a little over an hour when we approached the spectacular Old Royal Navel College at Greenwich, before paddling at full speed to beach ourselves on the southern bank of the river for a well-earned rest. Dinner in the Trafalgar Tavern by the riverside was our interval treat. Less than an hour later, we boarded our canoes for the final return trip back as the tide started to come in. It was then that I decided to try out some photography, quickly realising the almost comic futility of it. It’s literally a balancing act holding the ore, trying to stay with the group and taking photographs with a slow shutter speed on a moving canoe. What was I thinking? I gave up and enjoyed the rest of the ride back to Limehouse.
Above: Trying to take a picture in the dark on a canoe on a freezing November night – it was never going to happen
The entire evening took three and a half hours and accumulated around 6 miles worth of canoeing. I was exhausted, my upper body ached and the buckets of splash-back from a childlike rowing ‘technique’ means my waterproofs were soaked. For this, I would certainly urge all those who are considering trying this out to realise the essential nature of waterproofs and, if you have any gadgets accompanying you on the canoe (cameras, phones, etc.), I would strongly suggest to bring an Aquapac to protect them. It’s certainly an incredible experience, so who wouldn’t want to capture this on film? Here’s hoping you’re more successful than I was!