There are many modes of transport in London. But when you’re invited out for Friday drinks, traveling to the pub by kayak is not necessarily the first thing that comes to mind.
But that’s where Secret Adventures comes in. The group organises outdoor activities for adventurous folk in the city. Based on the view that you don’t have to travel to Timbuktu to find adventure, they make it possible to walk on the wild side right in the heart of London, with a whole host of unusual and unexpected experiences on offer.
The kayak trip I joined went along the canals of East London, and ended with a few pints and stone-baked pizza at the waterside Crate Brewery in Hackney Wick.
But there are other options too. From kayaking under London Bridge after dark to moonlit wild swimming, followed by marshmallows and music around a campfire. The team aims to swim under every full moon this year, so watch this space for more adventures. And the events aren’t just limited to London either. Secret Adventures also holds some special expeditions further afield, such as their recent canoe trip across Loch Ness in Scotland.
The organisation started about two years ago, by founder Madoc Threipland, whose experience includes being an expedition leader and youth worker. Fast forward a couple of years and the project is going strong with more exciting activities added every month.
Kayaking the Canals
My adventure started at the Moo Canoes base in Limehouse, with a group of around 30 friendly people of all different ability levels. After getting kitted out in some rather fetching fisherman style waterproof dungarees (which I was thankful for once the paddling started), we hit the water and headed past the yachts in the marina and towards the canals.
Lined with houseboats, wild plants in places, families of swans and buildings of all shapes and sizes, we got a great view of this part of London. We passed everything from old warehouses that have been standing for a few hundred years to ultra-modern high-rise flats. Going under bridges and along the graffiti-covered canal walls felt a bit like rowing through an urban art gallery.
The water is quite murky but it was surprisingly peaceful gliding along the calm surface of the canal. And no one fell in (yay!).
The trickiest part was pulling up to the loch, when they closed the gates on us. A sludge coloured whirl of water filled the pen, raising us up to ground level again. And then before we knew it, we were approaching the finish line.
Paddling to the Pub
I’ve never paddled right up to a pub before, but it was fun to see the surprise on people’s faces as a whole squad of kayakers glided up to the Crate Brewery tables that line the canal and joined the party. It brought a whole new dimension to the idea of Friday drinks.
Crate Brewery has its own range of CRATE beers that it brews on-site, including IPAs, pale ales and ciders. And all the refreshments tasted particularly good after an hour and a half of kayaking. Crate also makes its own delicious and generously sized stone-baked pizzas. The bar is made from up-cycled railway parts and old ladders. One area of the pub is actually on a boat which sits on the canal, the Alfred Le Roy.
Secret Adventures had reserved tables for us in this part of the pub. Recalling tales of our recent adventure together, sitting in a floating boat bar, it was a fitting end to a fun evening on the waterways.