Brathay supports F4H veterans in epic paddle across Scotland

A canoeing expedition through some of Scotland’s wildest open water has hopefully inspired participants to return as volunteer staff on future trips.

A group of ex-military personnel battled against the elements on some of the UK’s wildest open water by paddling a 10m voyageur canoe across Scotland.

The seven participants who have all been supported by veterans’ charity F4H paddled six hours a day for four days to complete the Great Glen Voyageur Expedition, an iconic 60-mile waterway route linking Inverness to Fort William.

The challenge was organised by us as part of the work we do on behalf of F4H. We ran the event but it couldn’t have gone ahead without funding from three further charities, all actively engaged in supporting veterans or other good causes: the Swire Charitable Trust; Lt Dougie Dalzell Memorial Trust, and Cumbria-based Michelle Jurd Memorial Trust.

The trip was run as a training expedition to equip former F4H delegates with the skills they need to work as volunteers for Brathay. It is hoped that they will return as volunteer co-leaders in future voyageur canoe trips, especially those that we run for young people completing their Duke of Edinburgh Gold Award.

‘We have been working with F4H for 10 years and we are always looking for engaging ways of supporting them,’ said expedition organiser, Gary Haughton. ‘The purpose of the expedition was to assist in their own personal development and transition into civilian life at the same time providing them with fulfilling volunteer opportunities which could even possibly lead them into new careers.’

The expedition was undertaken in one of our unique and much-cherished voyageur canoes, a more familiar sight on Windermere than Loch Ness. The boats are usually stored at our Ambleside centre for use on the lake during our residential development programmes.

In Scotland, the physical challenges were far greater as the group had to work as a team, tackling the Great Glen’s 29 locks within set timeframes, including the famous 8-lock Neptune’s Staircase and handling tricky cross winds and 1m high swells on Lock Ness, Loch Oich and Loch Lochy. The team camped and cooked outdoors along the way and also learnt how to operate the accompanying safety boat and carry out full capsize safety procedures.

F4H Chief Executive, Graham Brown, said: ‘This was a fantastic opportunity for the former delegates and F4H owe a huge thanks to Brathay for their belief in our people and for providing such a great chance for them to both give back and move forward in their lives.’

Three participants have already been identified as future volunteers and all have said they would be interested in returning to help us out on future challenges. One individual who served in the army for 22 years said: ‘I was starting to think that the best part of my life was over but after this expedition I now feel I am still part of this life and I can’t thank those who gave me this opportunity enough.’

Our next Scottish canoeing adventure through the Great Glen runs July 8th-14th and is open to anyone looking for a residential adventure experience as part of their Duke of Edinburgh Gold Award. Click here for more details.