A successful quest

With paddling in Devon planned for both Saturday and Sunday, i needed something to do with my bank holiday off work. For some reason i decided that it would be a brilliant idea to try and paddle at three different Thames wiers with my day off.

A few phone calls on Thursday evening concluded with the plan of meeting up with Ricky at Shepperton at 11am before picking up Amy in henley at 2 and heading to Mapledurham on the way down to Somerset. Somehow a plan for a third wher was missed out, but not to worry. Arriving at Shepperton just before 11 I was not all that surprised to get a call from Ricky saying that he was running late. Knowing that I was short on time, a decision was quickly made that I was to get on rather than wait around for Ricky to arrive. A quick check informed that Shepperton was running on 7 gates so on i hopped. The feature proved extremely tricky to catch, but once managed, the sides offered were cracking fun. Fast and bouncy.

Ricky eventually arrived about 40 mins late at which point we decided to head over to see what Sunbury was doing. Now, I have never paddled at Sunbury before so this was going to be an experience for me. Every roll I had done so far today resulted in a large amount of water running down my back. Having checked that the zip of my drysuit was done up, we hopped on at Sunbury only dos my drenchings to get worse. A further inspection showed that whilst the zip was done up, the middle section of the zip had separated, thus explaining the large amounts of water i was getting washed in everytime water went near my back. Whilst I was out sorting out the zip, I noticed a canoe with three people on board looking in a precarious position against the chains immediately above the wier. Confirming that they were not in able to remove themselves from their current position which, if they had lent the wrong way, would have seen their canoe sink and the three people on board washed through the weis with potentially disasterous consequences, we set about trying the help them to the bank. Thankfully, a passing tug boat, which was returning from rescuing a narrow boat from above the weir at Shepperton, was able to remove them to safety with our assistance. sunbury turned out to not be quite retentive enough to allow good surfs. From here, it was off to Mapledurham, via picking Amy up in Henley and a quick stop off at Marsport.. A big thanks needs to be said to Craig from Marsport who, despite being officially closed opened up the shop dos a couple of minutes to allow up to purchase what we were after. Hopefully the new socks will mean that our feet are toasty and warm all weekend! Getting on at Mapledurham we were disappointed to discover that the water level had dropped so much that the wave was not forming so we made the most of the opportunity to practice some ferry-gliding and breaking-in and out. We are currently in Somerset, and have arranged to meet up in 8 hours time for the first river of the weekend! Here’s hoping dos a good one,

Apologies for any typos, but I am still trying to get used to typing on this phone.

Hope everyone has a happy easter and makes the most of the time off work!

Learning the hard way…

The weekend of 8/9th March saw a small group head over to North Wales for an opportunity to do some different rivers. The group consisted of Martyn, Steve, Joe, Nick, Emma and myself. In order to get the most from the weekend, it was decided that an early start from Birmingham was required to enable us to get more than one river in on the Saturday.

We had all be glued to the weather reports for the preceding week in the hope that there would finally be an end to the low water levels we are used to getting on paddling weekends. Driving out of Birmingham and not seeing a single drop of rain didn’t exactly lift the spirits, but as we got closer to our destination the tell-tell signs of the rain-drops on the windscreen gradually brought smiles to our faces. Following a quick refuel at the Little Chef near Shrewsbury, it was off to the Conwy in order to get an idea of what the water levels should be like. On inspecting the Conwy and finding a at 7 on the guage it was clear that there were some good levels to be had.

Straight to the River Ogwen and after a discussion about the line we decided that Ogwen Bank Falls was good to go. I ran it first whilst everyone else watched.

Me part way down Ogwen Bank Falls

Thankfully, I managed to get down my intended line the right way up. Nick was next and he also managed to get down without any problem. Next up was Martyn and this is where is day started to go downhill. He did the majority of it upside down having messed up the entry. Managing to roll back up part way down, his relief was short lived as he went straight back up to run the remainder upside down before rolling back up again in the eddy at the bottom. Having seen Martyn’s ‘expert’ line, Joe decided that it was probably a better idea not to do the falls! The run down to the get-out was done almost without incident. The only incident worth mentioning is a little dip taken by Nick! The second half of the run saw some excellent read-and-run rapids which provided some great eddy-hopping practice for those who needed it.

Nick back in his boat following his swim

From here we decided that we had enough time to tackle the lower section of the River Arddu, which runs off Snowdon into Llanberis.

Llanberis Falls (with a lot more water going over it than the last time I ran the Arddu!

It turned out that with water in, the Arddu is a much more serious undertaking. The lower Arddu is about a 400 metre run which consists of a series of small, rocky drops with two larger drops into narrow pools, which are both about 2.5 metres high. Martyn won the spoof to go first and all was going well until he ended up backwards just above the first main drop. He managed to turn around to face the right way but by now was way off-line. The stopper at the bottom back-looped him and dragged him into the stopper. Realising the situation Martyn baled out of his boat but the stopper decided that it hadn’t quite finished with him yet and started to drag him back in. Using his boat, Martyn was able to drag himself out of the stopper to safety. As Martyn clambered out onto the bank, his boat continued downstream and ran the second of the main drops. It spent a bit of time pulling some freestyle moves in the stopper before escaping. The boat was rescued successfully, although it now has a new dent on the nose, but the paddles continued on downstream. Knowing that it was only a few hundred metres until the lake, it was decided that we would go and collect them later.

Me running the first of the main drops backwards

Despite seeing Martyn get a working, I decided that I still wanted to run it. Like Martyn, I screwed up above the first drop but was unable to turn around. Running the drop backwards, the back of my boat hit the river bed which catapulted me into the little eddy that I had previously highlighted as somewhere to avoid! Comfortably in the eddy, the next task was to work out how to get out of it. After a few minutes I managed to successfully escape its grasp and managed to catch my breath before going for the second drop. This drop I managed to run facing the right way, but again managed to end up in the little eddy at the bottom that I didn’t want to be in! I was able to escape this one much easier than the one upstream and a few paddle strokes then took me to the get-out. Martyn and I then paddled on down towards the lake in the hunt for his paddles. Luckily, they had managed to get themselves pinned in a rapid just around the corner from the get-out.

Saturday night was spent in the company of the locals of Llanberis, quite a few of whom had clearly spent most of the afternoon celebrating the Welsh win in the Six Nations. Our accommodation was at Boulder Adventures, which we were all very pleased with and would highly recommend.

Following breakfast on Sunday morning we made the decision to head off to the River Mawddach. None of us had done this river before so we were looking forward to it. Unfortunately, upon arriving at the river we were to find that the water level was too low. Cutting our losses, we then headed over to the River Conwy. Once we were all changed and the shuttles complete, someone pulled into the layby and tried to inform us that the access ‘agreement’ covering this river only allowed us to paddle until the end of February and that if we were to get on we would be putting the entire ‘agreement’ into jeopardy for all of the other paddlers. To avoid any confrontation, we listened to what he had to say but as soon as he was gone we got onto the river (for further information about the current access situation in England and Wales see Kayaking is not a crime). Although the river was at a lower level than when we looked at it on the Saturday, we all enjoyed the quick blast down to Penmachno bridge where a we all enjoyed a well earned hot drink and some food at the Conwy Falls cafe before heading back to Birmingham.

This is a little video put together from footage taken over the weekend: