The River Fergus, immediately adjacent to Scoil Chríst Rí in Ennis, Co. Clare presented a unique opportunity to develop outdoor physical activity programmes. Following a very successful pilot kayaking programme for 4th – 6th class from Scoil Chríst Rí, conversations about the possible creation of an urban outdoor adventure hub began. We secured funding from Sport Ireland Dormant Accounts for the creation of an Urban Outdoor Adventure Hub in Cloughleigh in Ennis. There were 4 key objectives of the funding outlined; 1. establishing a kayak club 2. purchase of necessary equipment 3. have qualified kayak instructors 4. develop a love of kayaking as a physical activity.
A kayaking club was established, Kayak Le Chéile, with members of the school, and community forming part of the club committee. Next, the equipment needed to run a kayaking club was purchased. Kayak Le Chéile purchased kayaks, helmets, paddles and life jackets for the children in the school and members of the community to use. It was also important for a storage shed to be built on the grounds of Scoil Chríst Rí as this is where all the equipment would be stored. Individuals with a passion for kayaking from Scoil Chríst Rí, Clare Youth Services and Gaelscoil Mhíchíl Cíosóg in Ennis were then given the opportunity to be trained up as qualified kayak instructors. Various kayaking programmes were run through Kayak Le Chéile, on the River Fergus and it is truly safe to say a love of kayaking as a physical activity has been developed and nurtured within the community in Cloughleigh in Ennis.
Two pilot primary school kayaking programmes resulted in over 70 children experiencing kayaking on the River Fergus. Following this, there was such enthusiasm within the school community, that a kayaking course of Dads was developed. Kayak4Dads introductory course enabled 5 dads, none of which had never kayaked before, and 4 of which were members of the travelling community, kayak down the River Fergus. On the final day of their programme, the Dads kayaked down the River Fergus to Scoil Chríst Rí where the were greeted and presented with their certs by their kids. The Dads who completed this introductory course went on to receive their Level 1 award also, presented to them once again at the school by their cheering children. A Kayak4Mums programme was also created which saw 7 mums take to the water and make history by kayaking from Ballyalla all the way to the school. Once again, the mums were greeted at the school by their children and presented with their certificates. The school and community have fallen in love with kayaking and fully support the newly established Kayak Le Chéile club.
Future developments of the Urban Outdoor Adventure Hub include the purchase of more kayak equipment and expansion of kayak shed to be able to safely store all the equipment. As well as the continuous training of fully qualified kayak instructors, there are also conversations ongoing about securing a climbing wall to add to the outdoor adventure hub in Ennis.