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Town to get paddleboarding, canoeing and punting

PUBLISHED: 16:20 13 November 2019 | UPDATED: 14:21 14 November 2019

Reporter Emily Thomson paddle boarding on the river in Thetford as Bush Adventures UK aim to get people using the river more.  Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Reporter Emily Thomson paddle boarding on the river in Thetford as Bush Adventures UK aim to get people using the river more. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Copyright: Archant 2019

A town's river is being put "back on the map" with plans for paddleboarding, canoeing and punting in the pipeline.

Reporter Emily Thomson joins Paul 'Chuck' Norris, centre, of Bush Adventures Uk, and Sean Ready, of the Thetford River Group, paddle boarding and canoeing on the river in Thetford, as Bush Adventures UK aim to get people using the river more.  Picture: DENISE BRADLEYReporter Emily Thomson joins Paul 'Chuck' Norris, centre, of Bush Adventures Uk, and Sean Ready, of the Thetford River Group, paddle boarding and canoeing on the river in Thetford, as Bush Adventures UK aim to get people using the river more. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Thetford's river runs through the heart of the town and is a source of natural beauty, but members of the community say not enough people are making the most of it.

Paul Norris, also known as Chuck, his Border Collie Millie, and Sean Ready, are some of the town's biggest river enthusiasts and have spent the last few years trying to get people out onto the water.

Mr Norris, founder of Bush Adventures UK, started the community interest company to use the outdoors as a way to improve mental well-being and has been instrumental in many projects on Thetford's river.

He said: "I found it crazy to believe that we have this gorgeous river that runs through the heart of the town, it is one of five rivers fed by chalk bodies of water, super important with so much history, and it wasn't being used until now.

Sean Ready, of the Thetford River Group canoeing on the River in Thetford.  Picture: DENISE BRADLEYSean Ready, of the Thetford River Group canoeing on the River in Thetford. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

"Thousands of people visit Thetford Forest but no one comes into the town. Through funding, in January and February we plan to build a jetty and a boat house, then come spring we will be ready to provide strong paddleboarding and canoeing services as well as punting to get Thetford's river back on the map."

MORE: Thetford homes to become 'punting capital of the world'

Mr Ready is the founding member of the Thetford River Group which is a group of volunteers dedicated to looking after the river. This year alone they have removed nearly three tonnes of litter.

He said: "For me, I like the mindfulness of being on the river. We go out regularly and collect litter to make sure it still looks beautiful.

Reporter Emily Thomson joins Paul 'Chuck' Norris, of Bush Adventures Uk, paddle boarding on the river in Thetford as Bush Adventures UK aim to get people using the river more. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYReporter Emily Thomson joins Paul 'Chuck' Norris, of Bush Adventures Uk, paddle boarding on the river in Thetford as Bush Adventures UK aim to get people using the river more. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

"We hope more people become aware of it and make use of it. It's an asset that hasn't been used for a long time."

Mr Norris added: "People don't know how lucky they are to have such a beautiful area.

"I created Bush Adventures to help people, both young and old, to improve their mental and physical well-being. By spring we hope to have everyone out on the water and feeling better."

Reporter Emily Thomson joins Paul 'Chuck' Norris, of Bush Adventures Uk, paddle boarding on the river in Thetford as Bush Adventures UK aim to get people using the river more. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYReporter Emily Thomson joins Paul 'Chuck' Norris, of Bush Adventures Uk, paddle boarding on the river in Thetford as Bush Adventures UK aim to get people using the river more. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Reporter Emily Thomson got her feet wet trying out paddleboarding in Thetford. Here's how she got on:

"As the low morning sun gleamed through the trees and leaves of yellow, red and orange fell delicately onto the still water below, a feeling of calm and serenity descended.

"But calm quickly turned to panic as I crawled from the muddy river bank onto my paddleboard, trying not to fall into the freezing cold water - in November.

"Once you find your balance, and work out how to navigate the paddle, it's easy to see why this is such a popular sport.

"Not only is it great physically but there is something therapeutic about being on the water and in such an idyllic location.

"As we travelled very slowly along the river Chuck - who skilfully paddled with Border Collie Millie between his legs - spoke passionately of its history and uniqueness.

"Despite having walked through Thetford hundreds of times, seeing it from the river adds a whole other perspective - which many more people should get the chance to experience."

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