Conquering Sweden by canoe for the Gold DofE Award

Written by Ellen, Ranger, 28th Wimbledon Rangers

This summer, the 28th Wimbledon Rangers set off on a quest to conquer Sweden. We were well prepared for the week, having completed our practice expedition about a month beforehand - a three-day paddle down the River Trent - which was extremely useful. We practised rescues in preparation for a worst-case scenario and learnt the importance of sun cream, especially after a particularly sunny second day.

The qualifying expedition was five days and four nights along the rivers and lakes of Vårmland, Sweden. This is slightly longer than the typical expedition length of four days, but it allowed us to complete a challenging distance without rushing too much. Each night we had to find a suitable spot to set up camp and cook our own meals. Luckily we managed to find campsites with a fire pit each night, which meant we could enjoy our food in relative warmth. Personally, my favourite was the third night where we camped on a little island in the middle of a big lake. We had our own space to enjoy the view and we even went for a swim as the sun was setting.

My team had a pretty regular structure to each day. We packed away and set off at roughly 9:30am, generally paddling quite hard in the morning and then a mid-morning snack kept us going until lunch. Unfortunately, there was very little current so the river didn’t take us very far without us paddling. We ended each day around a campfire and on some days took a dip in the water.

The trip as a whole was spectacular, but there are a few moments that were particularly memorable. During one of the portages (where we carry the canoes across the land) we found an old playground in a little village which we decided to try out. Despite the equipment looking slightly unreliable, it was very fun. On the third night, we went for our first swim. We took the opportunity to have a wash using environmental soap that would be harmless to the river and the animals that live in it.

On the final morning, we only had a short distance to travel so we woke up at 4:30am to watch the sunrise. Looking out onto a quiet Swedish river as the sun came up was probably my favourite moment of the whole trip. Once the sun had risen we promptly fell asleep again and slept in until 11am.

On our last full day in Sweden, we got the chance to visit the local moose farm. Although we hadn’t seen a wild moose during the expedition, these were still very impressive and we learnt about their eating and breeding habits. We got to feed the moose and even saw a mother with her small calf. This was particularly exciting because at one point she got very protective and began defending her territory from one of the younger males.

We finished the trip with a group outing to a nearby pizza restaurant before setting off the next morning. Overall it was an amazing experience and one that we’ll never forget. It was an excellent way to complete our Gold DofE Awards and a huge thank you to Sam, Keith, Sue and Helen who made this trip so incredible.

If you would like to have a DofE adventure of your own, find out how to complete the Awards through Girlguiding here.

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