top of page
  • Joe Lo

February Newsletter 2024

In this issue

  • Trip Report - Usk White Water Trip

  • Recent First Aid Courses

  • Dates for your Diary

  • Topic of the Month: UHCC White Water Development Steps

Trip Report - Usk White Water Trip

The Usk, February 2024 (Credit: Luke Shute)

Another fab trip to South Wales for the club this month. A large group of us headed for the Brecon Beacons, staying at the Penstar bunkhouse for our now annual Usk trip. The rain gods were in our favour and for the Saturday we had a good medium level on the Usk - quite a change from the last few years of low water. We set off in three groups from Sennybridge after an extended relay event of getting into the wet and muddy parking field at the get-on. The drink-themed groups set off with Vimto leading the charge, this was the peer group with the experience to scout out the features and check the routes. Next was Team Tango, led by Barney, - this was the Award level paddlers who enjoyed testing and developing their skills. Finally came Team Fanta, with the Explorer paddlers, four of whom were paddling the Usk for the first time, including Mike experiencing his first white water river. We paddled down to Aberbran; as well as the three main features to conquer, we found lots of play waves to provide additional fun. The lead groups checked the features and all the paddlers took on the slab drops and conquered them with a grin. Getting to meet the water fairies was quite rare in all three groups. By the end of the day we all finished with smiles on our faces, looking forward to dinner. Martin had booked the Tai’r Bull to provide us with an excellent pub dinner in the evening, which we all keenly tucked into.

A couple of snaps from the group dinner on the Saturday (Credit: Martin Mitchell)

The rain gods were a little too generous on Saturday night… so much water came from the skies that the river was brown chocolate in spate condition. Discretion being the better part of valour, we retired to the coffee shop in Brecon to plan out activities on land.

An excellent Usk trip although kerbed slightly for different reasons than normal. Nonetheless another great trip for the club. Thanks to all the organisers, leaders and enthusiastic paddlers.

Recent First Aid Courses

In early February 17 UHCC members completed Outdoor First Aid training. The course was run twice, on consecutive weekends and was a great way to boost our club’s safety operation and develop our own people. Thank you to Tom Mace for organising the two courses.

Dates for the Diary

Club Social

7.30pm Monday 11th March 2024 at The Cricketers, Chestnut Avenue, Eastleigh, SO53 3HN - Catch Up and final Dart planning

For the following trips I will be putting out Google forms for people to register interest and sign up:

Dartmoor 15th-17th March 2024

River Dart Paddlers Party weekend, please arrange your own accommodation. Details to follow for those who want leading.

Surf Trip 19th-21st April 2024

Luke Shute is bringing enthusiasm to the wave hunters of the club so we have club surf trip now planned. The location will be North Devon to allow the choice of Woolacombe, Croyde and Saunton at the weekend. We are suggesting people find their own accommodation around Croyde and Saturday night we will visit one of the village pubs.

White Water Development 10th-13th May 2024

A weekend for getting your White Water Safety, training and qualification. We will be using the Dee and Tryweryn as our locations staying in Llangollen as a base.

Upper Wye Tour 23rd-26th May 2024

A couple day trip down the Wye taking in the scenery and joys of canoe camping

Medway Circuit 5th-7th July 2024

Revisit to an old favourite paddle tour in the garden of England a paddle tour and couple of weirs to spice it up a little

Symonds Yat 20th-22nd September 2024

The club standard, some touring and some introduction to White Water on Symonds Yat.


There are also our regular Barkstore Sunday meeting for your weekly fix.

Call for Coaches and Leaders

I will email out to the club as a whole to check on those who want to support coaching and leading in the club. We need to confirm your qualifications and competencies and will run some development for those who want to go further.

I plan to send out emails twice a month as well as the monthly blog.

Topic of the Month: UHCC White Water Development Steps

We are looking to have a clear progression pathway to demonstrate how a club paddler can develop their skills against a framework that creates a clear ladder for White Water skills. We will use the British Canoeing terminology and below I have attempted to explain what the various terms mean. 

What are the paddler levels of development?

British Canoeing has a suite of gradings/qualifications that we can use to describe your level. These are explained in the context of White Water paddling, they also apply to other disciplines and there is a table later to explain the relationships.


So below are the British Canoeing terms that I have related to white water river grading. 

Explorer: River Grade 1-2 

Award: River Grade 2-3

Progressive: River Grade 3-4

Advanced River: Grade 4-5

To give a little more context, the following table has information from British Canoeing.

River Trips

Grade 1

Moving water with occasional small rapids. Few or no obstacles to negotiate.

Stour/Iford Weir

River Wye

Grade 1-2

Small rapids featuring regular waves. Some manoeuvring required.


Lower Dart

Symonds Yat

Grade 2-3

The overall standard of the run is grade 2, but there may be a few (normally one

or two) grade 3 rapids that can be portaged if required.

Dart Loop

Cardiff- 4 Cu

LV Legacy

Grade 3-4

Most rapids will have irregular waves and hazards that need avoiding. More

difficult manoeuvring will be required but routes are normally obvious. Scouting

from shore is occasionally necessary to maintain line of sight


Cardiff -8 Cu

LV Olympic

Grade 4-5

The overall standard of the run is grade 4, but there may be a few (normally one

or two) grade 5 rapids that can be portaged if required.

Upper Dart

Grade 5

Extremely difficult – long and very violent rapids with severe hazards. Continuous,

powerful, confused water makes route finding difficult and scouting from the shore

is essential. Precise manoeuvring is critical and for kayakers, rolling ability needs

to be 100%. Rescue is very difficult or impossible and, in the event of a mishap,

there is significant hazard to life

Upper Dart in spate

Copyright BC/Environmental Definitions and Deployment Guidance for Instructors, Coaches and Leaders/V1, 6 Jan 2021

White Water Skills Development

The table below relates the British Canoeing Awards to environments and some you can identify from club activities.

Personal Performance Awards




Of where to be confident before moving forward



Paddle Start

Paddle Discover

Very Sheltered Water

Upper Hamble


Paddle Sport Instructor

Paddle Sport Instructor

Paddle Explore

Sheltered Water

Easy Moving Water

Upper Hamble


Paddle Sport Leader

Sheltered Water Coach

White Water Award (Kayak)

Able to have a successful day paddling on Grade 2


Lower Dart

Woodmill Weir

White Water Leader

(WWSR required)

Moderate Water Coach

Development Zone

Able to have a successful day paddling on Grade 3



Dart Loop

White Water Leader

(WWSR required)

Moderate Water Coach

Progressive White Water Award


Able to have a successful day paddling on Grade 3/4

Tryweryn (Bala Mill)

Dart Loop

LV Olympic

Advanced Water Leader

(AWWSR required)

Moderate Water Coach

Advanced White Water Award


Able to have a successful day paddling on Grade 4/5

Upper Dart

Advanced Water Leader

(AWWSR required)

Advanced Water Coach

British Canoeing has a suite of gradings/qualifications that we can use to describe your level.

I hope the tables and explantions above give you some idea of the steps of development for a paddler. Perhaps you would like to grade yourself. Drop me a message if you want to know more or have a look at the British Canoeing website. Even better though, go get out for a paddle and enjoy yourself.

Keep paddling,


Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page