A day in the life of an Ardèche River Leader at PGL.
In the summer months, the Ardèche River in southern France becomes awash with enthusiastic canoeists, drawn to the excitement and the adventure of the rapids, and the beauty of the immense scenery. In this slice of European paradise, the PGL team works hard to deliver a fantastic experience for visiting groups, and this year we've seen lots of amazing photos and videos posted on social media showing our guests having fun and enjoying all the Ardèche has to offer.
So what's it like for our staff working out in the Ardèche? Lewis Hoadley, a River Leader at PGL Lou Valagran, tells us about working for PGL out in sunny southern France.
"A typical day for me starts by getting up bright and early and making sure everything for the river trip is ready to go. We check the weather forecast and river levels and prepare all the equipment for the day ahead. Our fleet of boats is checked before being loaded onto the van, along with spare equipment, clothing, food and plenty of water and sunscreen for the day on the river. Then it's off in the van to meet the guests down by the river."
"It's great to see the excitement and anticipation of our guests as they arrive at the riverside, eager to get on the water and begin their 19 mile journey along the Ardèche River. We spend time learning everyone's names and giving them an overview of the day ahead, before the all-important safety briefings and demonstrations of the key paddling techniques they'll need to navigate the rapids safely. Each group is divided into smaller groups which are assigned an instructor, and there is plenty of time to learn the basics, build trust and confidence on the water, and get the most from the experience. When everyone is feeling confident and ready to go, we drag our fleet down to the river to begin our paddling journey."
"Paddling through the rapids is always lots of fun, and we spend time on the river bank at lunchtime enjoying the water, taking in the beautiful scenery and the impressive rock faces that tower above the river. Guests have the opportunity at this point to do a rock jump, which is popular with the more adventurous, but the highlight of the river descent for many is paddling through the Pont d'Arc - a huge rock archway which has been carved out by the river over thousands of years."
In addition to paddling, guests can enjoy exploring the picturesque hills on a mountain bike, looking around the hidden caves surrounding the River Cèze, trekking alongside and across it to discover the stunning waterfalls at the Cascades du Saudatet, or journey downstream through waterfalls and plunge pools on our new canyoning activity. Sounds tiring, doesn't it?!
Lewis said: "When we arrive at the bivvy site - a beautiful shaded clearing by the riverside - everyone is usually tired but full of stories about the day's adventures. We set up the equipment and start cooking dinner for everyone. Our guests share their stories over some hot chocolate and then we settle into our sleeping bags for a well-earned night's rest, sleeping out in the open and under the stars. In the morning, we'll strike camp to begin another day's paddling through a new, but equally beautiful stretch of the river."
If camping under the stars on a overnight bivouac is reflective of Lewis's life with PGL now, it's only an extension of an interest he's had all of his life:
"I've always been an outdoors person, like the rest of my family, so I got into paddling and climbing early on. I started working with PGL in 2012 at Lou Valagran as an instructor and worked for two years before progressing to the Senior Paddle Development programme. I love working with young people and sharing my love for watersports with our guests, so I was really pleased to be able to develop my skills at PGL's other centre in the Ardèche - Domaine de Segries, where I went from Assistant River Leader to River Leader. Now back at Lou Valagran, I particularly enjoy using my knowledge of the river to help develop the team here as well as ensuring our guests get the most from their Ardèche descent."
"The best thing about my job is canoeing the Ardèche with our guests and watching them develop their paddling skills and overcoming their fears. Working for PGL allows me to help young people get outdoors and active in a stunning area of France. I have some great memories of working at PGL including my first season, my Senior Paddle Development training, being with friends, and paddling the Ardèche when the river is high at the start of the season. I love being able to share my passion for paddling with our guests and hopefully inspire them to take up the sport when they return home."
By Lewis Hoadley.
For further information about careers with PGL, visit our Recruitment home page.