Over the showery August bank holiday, local charity and canoe club Paddle Peak gave a record breaking 300 local Derbyshire youngsters the opportunity to try kayaking on the beautiful and historic Cromford canal.
Back to back thirty minute sessions of ten kids at a time took place over each of the three days as part of the Cromford Mills Adventure Weekend. Visitors could also enjoy other exciting activities such as paddleboarding, rock climbing, archery tag, bush craft and more.
On top of the daily come and try kayaking sessions additional demonstrations and coaching clinics were performed for the crowd to enjoy and be inspired yet further. Paddle Peak’s regular group of local youngsters were given the opportunity to join in with the experts.
On Saturday Olympians Adam Burgess and Kimberley Woods took time out from their busy competition schedules to come and visit Cromford. They coached local youngsters on the River Derwent, in front of the magnificent Willersley Castle.
Then during the lunch break took part in a fun canoe slalom race on the canal. Paddle Peak members had a chance to complete two runs of a ten gate slalom course against the clock with time penalties added for hitting or missing the gates ( two poles hung above the water ). The slalom race ran through the heaviest downpour of the weekend, but undeterred the youngsters raced well against their Olympic role models. Overall 9yr old Eadie Whiting from Milford won the top spot, with Wirksworth’s Eli Hill, also 9 years old placing top lad!
Over Sunday's lunch break there was a demonstration of Kayak Cross - a new Olympic paddling discipline that will debut in next year’s Paris Games. Local juniors and veterans took part in a time trial, followed immediately by a knockout head to head parallel slalom race in the canal basin. Milford’s vintage master and past world freestyle medalist Andrew Whiting took the overall win with Derby’s Jess Shreeve top lady and Cromford’s Matt Rogerson top junior. Awesome racing!
On Monday onlookers witnessed an incredible Freestyle kayak demo by World Champion James Bebbington and up and coming star Sam Booth. They wowed the canal side full of spectators with their aerial kayak stunts including front flips, super clean cartwheels ( end over end with no paddle assistance! ) and space godzillas ( a front flip with a twist! ).
This was followed on by a demonstration of canoe polo ( a ball game, similar to water polo played in kayaks ) by the local Viking from Belper - multiple times national champions. Paddle Peak’s youngsters were given the opportunity to join in a match with the local experts that ended with an exciting penalty shoot out!
Event co organiser and Paddle Peak founder Pete Astles commented on the weekends action “ it was incredible to see so many local young people enjoying kayaking on the Cromford Canal in such a stunning and historical location. Despite the weather we exceeded previous year’s to make this the best attended Adventure Weekend yet! This just shows the interest and potential kayaking has for local young people. I’m looking forward to seeing some of them again on our regular sessions. Perhaps one day as future Derbyshire Olympians! “
Paddle Peak would like to thank all of their tireless volunteers and athletes, without whom none of this would be have been possible. Huge thanks to the Arkwright Society and Cromford Mills for hosting the event. Manor Adventure at Willersley Castle for welcoming local young people to the River Derwent in front of the home of Sir Richard Arkwirght. Derbyshire County Council Countryside Services for the use of the Cromford Canal and Wharf. The crew of Birdswood and the Friends of Cromford Canal for manoeuvring their narrow boat so safety through the canal full of youngsters in kayaks!! Special thanks to Peak Paddlesports, Pyranha Kayaks and Ainsworth Paddles for supplying the event equipment.