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The Three Lakes - A Challenge For All Ages

The Three Lakes Challenge has been taken on by a wide variety of people since its launch but new stories continue to come in and inspire us.

This summer a group of home-educated children, who learn to paddle at Leam Boat Centre, Leamington Spa, decided they wanted to take on the challenge. A great deal of planning and practising went on over the summer months, with two of the children gathering sponsorship to raise money for their local Sea Scouts.

The group decided to complete the Three Lakes over a five day period, in order to enjoy the challenge and give themselves a chance to spend time exploring the areas around the lakes.

Start With Go Canoeing Flag

This is an awesome challenge that anyone who has some paddling experience could enjoy.

– Bethany Ellis

Six children decided to take on the feat; Bethany Ellis, 11yrs; Francis Fowler, 11yrs; three brothers; George Parry, 10yrs; Edward Parry, 13 yrs; Elliot Parry, 13yrs and Edward Horsman, 14yrs. Accompanying them on the water were to be Jenna and Libby; both coaches from Leam Boat centre and Bethany’s Dad, Mark. Other parents joined the trip also as support crew.

Starting at Llyn Tegid (Lake Bala) on the 21st September, the group were joined by two more of the children who paddle at the centre; Tegan and Tom. Bala is the shortest lake in the Three Lakes challenge and creates a round trip of seven miles. However it is not to be underestimated and poor weather conditions can make for some very tricky paddling.

Loaded Trailer

Having our coaches along was fantastic because they are very special, fun and knowledgeable. We totally trusted them and knew we were well supported.

– Edward Parry

Although the weather was breezy and a little chilly when the sun went in, it was generally kind to the group. They paddled to the end of the lake, had a nice lunch stop and then paddled back. The group found the scenery stunning and were very excited when their support crew came past on the steam train, which runs alongside the lake, cheering and waving their encouragement!

The team headed on from Wales to England and Windermere. Staying in a tipi at Hawkshead Youth Hostel overnight, they were up bright and early the next morning to tackle lake number two. Luckily the weather was very kind to the team on Windermere and they were bathed in sunshine for most of the day. Windermere is a very busy lake, with lots of other craft, of various sizes sharing the water; an added challenge for the intrepid kayakers.

Ready To Paddle

This was a fun, family adventure that will be remembered long into my dotage. It may be the beginning of kayaking adventures with my daughter.

– Mark Ellis

It was not just a paddle from one end of a lake to the other for the group, they turned it into a real day of adventure. Having discovered that some geocaches were hidden on islands on the lake they decided to go geocache hunting en route. They also spent time observing the local wildlife, climbing trees and even visited an adventure playground, before heading to their finish point at Ambleside.

There was a day's rest for the team before they took on the final lake in the challenge. Loch Awe is a true challenge to paddle. At 25 miles long and up to a mile wide in places the Loch can be intimidating to even the most experienced of paddlers.

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My highlights of the trip were; the obvious pride in the huge achievement of the youngsters involved. They are extremely determined and not only coped well but they masterfully paddled these fully laden sea kayaks through the conditions with style.

– Libby, Coach, Leam Boat Centre

The weather forecast was pretty bad for their final paddle, with winds of over 40 mph for the first morning. The decision was taken to set off late and only paddle as far as the island of Innis Errich on the day one. This would mean only completing the first seven miles of the paddle, leaving the group with 18 miles to complete on day two. It would, however, mean that they could miss the very worst of the weather on day one. 

Setting off in very choppy conditions and torrential rain the children stayed full of excitement and optimism. Elliot even said that he loved paddling in the storm as he found it exhilarating! Jenna and Libby had spoken to all of the team about the best way to paddle in the conditions and the trust that the children had in them meant that they all felt confident. They were also joined by another of the parents, Magali Fowler for this lake, for a little extra support.


The hardest part was keeping motivated and getting into soggy, smelly clothing

– Bethany Ellis

Battling the rain and wind really was worth it for the group when they arrived at their wild camp island for the night. The island has it’s own ruined 13th century castle and it wasn’t just the children who got excited and started to run around inside it!

All of the children loved their experience of wild camping on the island and felt it was a real highlight of the week for them. A real feeling of team spirit, togetherness and camaraderie came from spending so much time together.

Waking to sunshine on day two of Loch Awe the team had a good cooked breakfast and a final explore of the island before they set off the final leg of their adventure.

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My favourite part was seeing our team waving to us from the Bala Steam Train. Luckily there was a tail wind on Loch Awe, so we rafted up and fashioned a sail out of tarpaulin for a bit of fun!

– Francis Fowler

It was a tired but exhilarated crew who finally arrived at the railway bridge at the north end of Loch Awe that day. It can certainly be seen in the photographs how pleased and proud the entire team were to have completed this feat; with Bethany and George becoming the youngest female and male paddlers to complete the Three Lakes Challenge in solo craft. The children and adults involved all gained so much from this challenge and it seems sure to lead on to many future adventures.

You can read more about Mark and Bethany’s perspective on the adventure at their blog or donate to their chosen fundraising appeal here.

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It was wonderful to watch them work together, especially as they overcame unfamiliar and difficult situations, coping with wind, rain and horrible weather but they didn’t whinge once! Just full of enthusiasm and interest. An amazing trip!

– Jenna Sanders, Head Coach, Leam Boat Centre