Banbury and District Canoe Club hold their annual This Girl Can Canoe Day

Sixty women and girls took to the Oxford Canal on Bank Holiday Monday, with Banbury and District Canoe Club’s annual This Girl Can Canoe Day.

Sponsored by Hayfield Homes – builders of the Hayfield Views development in neighbouring Great Bourton, the Cropredy-based club offered far more than 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.

Alice Murphy from Banbury and District Canoe Club 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!"

Another BDCC member – Sophie Rooney – brought her tent with her.  Not to sleep in, but to show how she will be living for the next month, as she is part of 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.

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 also 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."

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.

To learn more about Banbury and District Canoe Club and their upcoming events and sessions visit: banburycanoeclub.com

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