Hello, my name is Mal Tabb.
Thanks for visiting our web pages. Marion & I operate a small outdoor activity organisation called Canoes, Mountains & Caves. We provide activities for: adults, young people, schools, charities, families & individuals. A key aspect of our work is the provision of a "Community Programme" which is offered free of charge to participants. If you think we might be able to help please don't hesitate to contact us, you can find out more about what we do on our main website www.canoesmountainscaves.com

Monday, 24 November 2014


2014 has seen me on a continued journey of challenges, but in very different circumstances.  Some of those challenges have been repeated ones, requiring new thinking and responses to generate positive change; others have been new challenges, embraced to build courage, strength and confidence to deal with the former.

 I would say one of my biggest ‘overcomers’ has been to conquer the overwhelming fear of drowning in deep water, something that I have carried with me since an early age. 

Although having the ability to swim in a ‘controlled’ environment, for me Centre Parcs pool rapids was very much ‘living on the edge’ and tentatively achieved.  To be in open water conditions was not a concept I had considered greatly.  A one off canoe trip seven years ago with the kids had been fulfilled with much hesitation and anxiousness … shore being kept well within reach, and no hurry to repeat the occasion!

The summer of 2013 had witnessed me refusing point blank to venture out on, what appeared to me to be, the dark waters of Llyn Gwynant, Snowdonia; a moment of general announcement that water and I were not well acquainted and this was likely to be the case for some time.  As for gorge walking, well that had even less of a chance of appearing on the ‘list of things I must achieve before I reach the age of 90’!!

So what happened?

A visit to the Lake District, by a friend from school days, in April of this year saw us offering a day of activity to her and her family … to be included in this, a time of canoeing!


As we made the journey to Ullswater, my mind was set that I would be remaining on dry land.  This thinking, however, had not taken into account my friends statement of, ‘I’ll go in with you Marion’!! This was a day for them to experience and enjoy, so how could I spoil that by not actively taking part? Realised or not, the challenge was set; another one of those dig deep, bite the bullet and take the plunge moments … thankfully not quite literally!

Buoyancy aids well and truly in place, we tentatively pushed off the banks of Ullswater and ‘tickled’ the waters lying close to the shore. Returning to firmer footings I found that there had been a sense of enjoyment from the sound of the quiet trickling under the vessel, and the gentle relaxing motion as we had ‘glided’ through the water.


The rest, as they say, is history.  Many outings since April have seen me paddle the waters of Derwent Water, Ullswater, Ellerton and Lake Bala; each one drawing me further away from the water’s edge into the ‘challenging deep’, progressing to the moving waters of the River Tyne.  Many of these journeys have been shared with Mr Tabb, who has guided, directed and instructed en route … a presence that has brought much safety and security.  Solo trips that have taken place have been on gentle waters and without hazard; that was until 2* training day ……

I had graced the waters of the River Tyne as co-paddler to Mal back in June. My recollection was that the rocks had overwhelmed the water and paddling near to shore was futile. For the canoe to come to life that day a big push was needed from the banks enabling the paddle to weave its way through the flow and be used to steer and control.  Not so, however, as the Tyne became our destination for training three weekends ago.  Where dry land had been our friend a few months before this was now submerged in water and the river flow seemingly much faster; not much of a push needed on this occasion to reach the water that would allow the paddle to do its work … and this time no ‘riding tandem’!

Already facing personal emotional challenges in day to day life, I was struggling to engage with the morning’s instructions and the difficulties they were presenting, a brief break for lunch was most welcome!  It was on the return to the water for the afternoon session that, for a moment, time seemed to ‘stand still’ and that fear of deep water once again wanted to rear its head. As I lost control and found myself sitting in the canoe, facing up stream, all I could do was frantically paddle against the rivers flow for dear life!  All the strokes that I had learned in my level one, and just minutes before was being taught how to apply in moving water situations, got lost in the moment of panic. Glancing behind, my mind was racing as to where I might end up! I needed to compose myself, refocus and trust in the help that was to hand to assist me to more controlled waters; and with buoyancy aid in place what was there to be afraid of!

‘Rescue’ successfully complete I was left pondering once again on the parallels of my outdoor experience with life itself. 

The challenges we face can often come out of the blue causing us to feel unprepared, inadequate and unequipped, subsequently undermining our strength and confidence.  We can become so overwhelmed by the circumstances that we can easily forget the most simplest of ‘common sense’ attitudes and actions to help us through.

Even for those on a Christian journey it can be easy to get caught in the ‘flow’ or ‘storm’ of a situation and momentarily find ourselves floundering almost without hope, forgetting the promises that Jesus has shared with us. A false panic setting in blinding us to the truth that we are not on our own in this ‘journey’, that Jesus is with us; bringing others around us that He can use to assist us to ‘calmer waters’ with spoken or written words of encouragement, instruction and direction; and like the buoyancy aid, bring directly Himself a peace that all will be well, even in difficult times. 

As the words of one of our wedding songs puts it:

Scars and struggles on the way
But with joy our hearts can say
Yes, our hearts can say

Never once did we ever walk alone
Never once did You leave us on our own
You are faithful, God, You are faithful

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