We have loved exploring the lakes on the Lower Mill Estate in the Cotswold Water Park in our Canadian Canoe but we have been intrigued to try out a Stand Up Paddle board (SUP). We have seen lots of pictures of people on SUPs and have watched people using them but now it was time to try them out for ourselves. The Family Adventure Store have SUPs for hire on the Lower Mill Estate so we headed in their direction. We had arranged to have a board from 11am on Saturday morning. We had imagined heading out onto the water under clear blue skies, but it was not to be. The skies were grey and it was raining. We weren’t too worried as we were fairly convinced that our first encounter with a SUP would end with wet clothes – swimming things and waterproof jackets were the order of the day. We met Jenny at the Family Adventure Store and walked to collect a SUP. The Stand Up Paddle board the Family Adventure Store have available to hire is an inflatable version – don’t think squishy beach ball – more rigid board with a tiny internal honeycomb structure making it really firm, but not too hard to carry. The other vital piece of equipment, other than buoyancy aids which we were already wearing, was the paddle. A SUP paddle is much longer than a canoe paddle and the paddle part is quite shaped. Jenny talked us through how to hold it in the water (the opposite way round to the way we would have assumed) and how to steer. As you stand in the middle of the board you steer with the start of your stroke, rather than at the end of your stroke as in a canoe. We carried the board down to the edge of Somerford Lagoon, the largest lake on the Lower Mill Estate.
Setting off on a SUP is very different to setting off in a canoe. In a canoe it is helpful if someone gives the canoe a push off into the lake. When you a standing on a SUP, the last thing you want is for someone to give the board a push, upsetting your balance and propelling you into the water without your board! We were surprised to find how straight forward it is, and were quickly exploring the lake – it’s fun being that much higher than you are when you’re in a canoe – you have quite a different view. We quickly forgot that it was raining and enjoyed using the SUP. The children were very keen to have a go. We started off with them paddling while one of us sat on the back of the board, but we soon realised that they had taken to using a SUP like ducks to water and our role was redundant! As the children are shorter instead of using the SUP paddle they used a canoe paddle. Within a short time we felt at home with the SUP – and decided it was time to collect our Canadian canoe so that we could have more of us on the water at one time. The canoe is kept in the Lower Mill Estate boat park, 10 minutes walk from Daisy Chain, or a 10 minute paddle across the lake. We discovered that the SUP was quite capable of carrying one adult and three children across the lake! At the boat park 3 of us jumped into the canoe and our son enjoyed paddling the SUP back to Daisy Chain. It was fun to watch the terns diving as we passed by.
By Saturday evening the rain had cleared and so it was time for a barbecue. It was lovely to be able to barbecue by the lakeside while the rest of the family continued to enjoy playing on the lake in the canoe and stand up paddle board. There is an island in the middle of Somerford Lagoon which is fun to paddle around. From the middle of the lake the hungry paddlers could smell the barbecue cooking and so soon returned to shore for food!
The forecast for Sunday was grey – the weather forecasters seem to excel in talking down the weather. The sun came out and we had beautiful blue skies with fluffy white clouds and very light winds. Perfect weather for paddle boarding. We set off around the edge of the lake – there is always more wildlife to be seen in the reeds at the edge and we enjoyed gliding silently towards egrets. The SUP is able to explore slightly smaller, shallower passages than the canoe, so it was fun to explore new places. By staying close to the edge of the lake we were able to come ashore to swap paddlers. Whilst we discovered that it is possible to swap vessel in the middle of the lake it was slightly more wobbly, although our confidence had meant that today we were wearing shorts and t-shirts rather than swimming things! There were lots of swans on the lake, and it was lovely to watch a couple of them running across the water, lifting off and flying across the lake.
Jenny told us that a recent guest on the Lower Mill Estate had swum around the edge of Somerford Lagoon and measured it as 2.2km. I think we’ll stick to paddling (not with our feet!) We loved our adventures with a SUP and will definitely be spending more time on them. The children were very excited to tell their friends about their adventures on returning to school this morning!
To contact the Family Adventure Store to book a SUP, or indeed a kayak or bike for your holiday on the Lower Mill Estate give them a ring on 07971 252394 Hire charges are by the day or 3 days, but have a chat about what would work for you as they are very happy to work around you.