Making a splash with Sussex Central

Taking to the water with units from Sussex Central at their Brownie Canoe Regatta

27 June 2024

On a gloriously sunny Sunday in Southwater Country Park Brownies and their parents gathered in anticipation for the 2024 Sussex Central Brownie Canoe Regatta.

The event takes place at the county’s canoe club and is a yearly county institution. This year it’s part-funded by the adventure fund - money which is being distributed over 2024 in collaboration with countries and regions to celebrate and enable adventure in Girlguiding.  

We spoke to the amazing volunteers on the day who are making adventure happen for the girls of Sussex.

‘The event is something we’ve been doing for a long time,’ county commissioner and canoeing instructor Wendy Colson says. It's a great way to celebrate ‘the unusual nature of setting up a canoeing facility in our county.’  

Open since 1991, the centre allows the county to provide regular water activities for the girls. As well as hosting weekly rolling sessions for units across Sussex, the club also runs bigger events like the Brownie Canoe Regatta.

This year's programme included a duck race, where girls in kayaks used their hands as paddles to collect as many balls as possible from the water followed by a boat race. For the race teams paddled to and from a buoy before coming back on land to complete a puzzle with the fastest team winning. From the sidelines parents and leaders called out support, while Brownies cheered their team mates on. 

‘The Regatta is my favourite part of it all,’ water sports instructor Caitlin Fielder says. ‘I came back from university in Exeter for two things this weekend, one to go to Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour and two to attend this Regatta’. As Wendy's daughter, Caitlin started her journey as a Brownie and worked all the way through the club programme to become an instructor.

For her the best part of getting out on the water is that the girls get to make new friends and build their confidence. ‘At the start they don’t often know each other because they come from all across the county’, she says. 'They don’t talk to each other, look reserved and don’t like the water. But then by the end they’re all friends and jumping in and ‘rescuing’ each other. That was the story for me too!’ 

Assistant Brownie leader with 1st Henfield unit Amy Collis agrees. ‘I think girls get confidence doing adventure,’ she says. ‘We see our new Brownies and they’re super shy and quiet and by the time they’ve done their 3 years they’ve got so much confidence and like meeting new people and doing new things.’  

‘And they’re helping to look after the younger Brownies,’ unit leader and Amy’s mother Elise Collis says. ‘We’ve seen that today where [during the duck race] an elder one helped a younger to get the balls because [the younger one] didn’t have any.’ This understanding that adventure helps girls gain confidence, grow and feel stronger is something which is integral to Girlguiding. 

For Caroline Brameld, who runs the Southwater Guides Canoeing Ranger unit, it's this sense of girls helping one another and progressing that motivates her. ‘I love taking the girls through from Brownies to instructors,’ she says. ‘It’s brilliant to see the progression. The instructors now were Brownies and Guides paddlers from the past, and some of the Brownie and Guide leaders who used to paddle with us are now introducing their Brownies to canoeing. The cycle continues.’ 

Ensuring the club's future is what the money from the adventure fund has gone towards. ‘The adventure fund meant we were able to give some money towards the cost of the Regatta,’ Wendy says. ‘Meaning any additional income from the day could be spent on essential equipment for the canoe unit like new buoyancy aids and paddles to ensure we can continue to offer the canoeing facility to girls.’ 

Wendy and her team are dedicated to continuing to provide adventure opportunities like the Regatta for their girls. ‘Doing adventures in Girlguiding offers the girls an opportunity to experience adventure in a fun, safe and controlled way,’ she says. ‘Many girls don’t get the chance to experience adventure outside of Girlguiding. That’s why it’s so important to provide opportunities within the local area that are easy to travel to, inclusive and affordable.’  

Since we launched our adventure badges a year ago over 22,400 water badges have been achieved. A huge shout out to Wendy, Caroline, Caitlin, Elise and Amy, and all the incredible volunteers who are making these amazing adventure events happen across Girlguiding!  

Find out how you lead your girls on a water adventure via our adventure activity finder.