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We have many scheduled tours on our itinerary but we can also cater for groups that want to have a tour to themselves and perhaps concentrate on a particular activity in addition to the canoeing. This page describes some ideas..
Photography is one of my personal hobbies and something that I do on every canoeing trip.
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.
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.
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 in the 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 it 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.
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.
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.
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. From 2015 the replica Chauvet Cave in the Ardeche will also be open for us to visit. These were only discovered in 1994 and contain the oldest known cave art in Europe.
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.
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 6 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.
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.