Blessed with warm weather and fantastic sponsors, this year’s This Girl Can … Canoe was better than ever, with sixty women and girls taking to  Canal on Bank Holiday Monday.

Club Coach, Alice Murphy said “We wanted to make the day bigger and better than before, and to inspire women and girls to get outdoors and be adventurous – preferably with some canoeing involved!” Sponsored by Hayfield Homes, the Cropredy-based club was able to do just that, by offering far more than the just canoeing or kayaking.

With gazebos set up around the site, visitors had the opportunity to talk to adventurous women; “Meet the Elite”; warm-up with a physio; and take part in games and challenges.

Although one BDCC member on the GB squad – Amy Turner – is currently on duty at the sprint World Cups in Europe, another – double Olympian Angela Hannah – was on hand to inspire the next generation, whilst she takes a few months off racing to have a baby. She was joined by the holders of the women’s record in the 125 mile Devizes to Westminster race – Kat Wilson and Alex Lane. Lane is also the current U23 European and World Marathon bronze medallist and, with all three having come into the sport at different ages and through different routes, they had plenty of advice to offer.

Another BDCC member – Sophie Rooney – brought her tent with her. Not to sleep in, but to show how she will be living next month, as she leads a group running across Iceland. She also shared stories of her time in 2016 when she became the first woman to run the length of Scandinavia solo. From that success, she was invited to support multiple Guinness World Record breaker Mimi Anderson in her run across USA last year. Mimi repaid the compliment, and came to Cropredy to talk about the joys and challenges of endurance running at any age, and had a paddle with Sophie. Despite having run through the hottest deserts, highest mountains and the arctic – Mimi apparently found getting in a boat far more nerve-wracking – a lesson for all about individual challenges.

To help everyone prepare for the new sport, Danielle Lester from Banbury’s Reboot Injury Clinic was on hand to lead the warm-ups. She also found herself sorting a few little niggles that the paddlers discovered, before she too ended up having a go in a boat.
After all that, there was tea and cake in the clubhouse, which raised about £60 in donations for Birmingham’s Acorn Children’s Hospice – the charity Sophie and her team are supporting with their Icelandic run. With free gifts for everyone, and a multitude of prizes provided by generous supporters of canoeing and women’s sports, everyone went home happy. Many even signing up for the next stage by the end of the day.
The event was part of British Canoeing’s Go Canoeing week, and all the participants paddled their target mile. Jenny Spencer, Go Canoeing’s Development Manager came to help and said “It was fantastic to see so many women and girls turn up to the day and the club did a great job of creating a welcoming and friendly environment with so much on offer for people to try. Within British Canoeing we are running an initiative to encourage more women to try paddlesports, so it was great to see the club supporting this. There are many perceived barriers, but if people get out on the water and see how enjoyable it is, these are often overcome. We hope that a number of people come back and get more involved in the club.”

Hayfield Homes, currently building a small development in neighbouring Great Bourton, were the main sponsors of the event.  But there were also goody bags for all the attendees, with vouchers from Boudavida; free Go Bites from Go Faster Foods, and a discount voucher from Banbury based Reboot Injury Clinic.  There were also prizes drawn throughout the day – with kit from Boudavida, Peak UK, Icon and Marsport and some physio kit from Reboot.  We are incredibly grateful to all these companies for their support.