#ShePaddles Interview – Charlotte Ditchburn

Last week I announced that I have been selected as a British Canoeing #ShePaddles Ambassador. There are 15 other Ambassadors with varying experience so lets get to know them in the #ShePaddles Interviews.

The premise of my She Paddles interview series aims to show that the She Paddles Ambassadors are inspirational whilst also being normal people, that paddling is super good for us, that we can paddle in all kinds of places/ways, and that paddling is for everyone and all sorts. This is an opportunity to show the paddling sport and recreational side of it and encourage other people to get paddling. This week we will start to get to know me and then go on to meet the other ladies each week.

Tell us a bit about yourself. What’s the day job? How do you fit paddling in around daily life?

I work in the access sector working for a local authority and work on the rights of way network everyday. My work is Monday – Friday and I volunteer as a Riding and Carriage Driving coach at Calvert Trust every Saturday and a Brownie leader during the week so there isn’t a huge amount of spare time in my weeks. I fit paddling into any spare day, morning or evening I get. Having only been paddle boarding for a year in the small amount of spare time I have there hasn’t been a routine for paddling, it’s been micro adventures, especially due to the 2020 pandemic I’ve only paddled locally and up in Scotland and handful of times but I’ve loved every minute.

How did you first get into paddling?

I joined an outdoors group called The Outdoorsy Type UK, this involved going along to group walks, swims and then in September 2020 the opportunity for a paddle boarding lesson came up. I joined the lesson, within the first two minutes I’d fallen in several times and loved every minute. I was a wobbly wreck but did manage to stand for half of the lesson. I then took the plunge and bought my own board in November this meant that I could develop my skills and build my confidence. I’ve made plenty of friends on the water and have enjoyed many days out on our boards. I’ve since taken my board to the Yorkshire coast, the Outer Hebrides and the waters of the Lake District.

Tell us about your favourite paddling experience.

My favourite paddling experience was on a late summers day in Norfolk out on the Broads. I was recceing a route for an Outdoorsy Type UK event we were hosting at the weekend, I headed out on my own up the River Waveney. As I set off I saw lots of other paddlers at the pub where I launched but as soon as I headed upstream there was no one on the water. I spotted a king fisher flitting along the riverside and enjoyed filming under the surface to see the fish among the river reeds. I had checked the forecast and knew rain was on the way and half way through my paddle the heavens opened, it was magical sitting on the water as the rain bounced off the river. It felt amazing to be sat in nature with no distractions just letting the rain fall and listening to the world go by.

Do you know what percentage of rivers across England & Wales have clear rights of access? How do you find out where you can paddle?

Yes, less than 4% of rivers across England and Wales have a clear right of access, meaning that the great majority of the public are at very real risk of confrontation and challenge each time they take to the water for enjoyment. This is because access to those waterways has been disputed for more than 60 years and the situation is getting worse. This is a subject that I feel very passionately about and would love it if everyone who’s passionate about paddling could sign Clear Access Clear Water’s petition and write to their MP.

I use Go Paddling to find paddle points that others have explored before, I also use Ordnance Survey maps to find places to paddle.

Where is your favourite place to paddle?

My favourite place that I have paddled so far is on the white beaches of the Isle of Uist on the Outer Hebrides. A perfect place to build my confidence and play with our dogs.

Tell us about the paddling moment you are most proud of.

I am still quite unbalanced on my board and not yet happy standing on my board in open water choppy conditions. I enjoy pushing my comfort zone and whilst paddling along the Yorkshire coast with large rolling waves I found my feet and stood for my whole paddle. It wasn’t a long time on the water or a long distance to paddle as we explored a small bay, but I was proud to be on my feet in conditions I wasn’t familiar with.

What is the one piece of paddling kit you couldn’t do without?

Obviously my PFD is one piece of kit I couldn’t paddle without to keep me safe. But my Red Original deck bag is my favourite essential piece of paddle kit. It’s a dry bag big enough for my first aid kit, change of clothes, waterproof cag, lunch and snacks with drinks pockets on the outside and elastic on the top to keep flip flops or any spare pieces of kit.

How has paddling improved your wellbeing (mental or physical)?

Paddling has hugely helped with my wellbeing by giving me a safe space to immerse myself in nature. When out on my paddle board I’m able to let my worries and stresses slip away, by the end of a paddle I feel very peaceful and calm.

Why do you think other women should get involved in paddle sports?

I grew up seeing mostly men lead sports in the outdoors, being part of Scouts I found it was seen as strange for girls to enjoy outdoor activities and when I discovered paddling in my mid twenties I found only male instructors near me. I’d love to see more women on the water no matter their experience, it’s a wonderful way to meet like minded people and build a strong community of women.

She Paddles Interviews

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