Driving a F1 car over a ploughed field…

Following on from a full-on bank holiday weekend, my paddling still hasn’t abated. With Hurley droppind down to one gate in the week following the bank holiday, it was looking like Boulters might be the only option for the coming weekend. That was until a call came from Martyn mentioning that Hambledon was still open and looking good to go. Now, I had only paddled at Hambledon once or twice before and it always offered some entertaining rides – if you can call them rides. I rather like this description, courtesy of Matty from TVFreestylers

“The best kind of picture I can paint of Hambleden is being stuck somewhere between a particle acceleratror and an avalanche! Or what I imagine it to be like driving a F1 car over a ploughed field. It is great fun and lesson in fine edge control mixed in with some very amusing head ruddering”

The eddy queue was bigger than I have ever seen at Hurley, but the ferociousnous of the water meant that rides were only a few seconds long – no-one hoggng it.

Martyn looking on from the bank

Martyn trying to show who is boss

Dave Hodgkinson is in there somewhere!

Finally sussed how to stay in control!

Not quite what you normally imagine the Thames to be like

A bank holiday sandwich

Hmmm… 3 days off work, with a wedding (a long way Up North) on the Sunday.

For quite a while Martyn and I had been working out how we can combine the wedding with a paddling weekend. In the weeks leading up to the wedding, water levels were not looking good if we wanted to hit any rivers so we decided on a Wedding/Hurely sandwich. This was paddle at Hurley on the Saturday, go the wedding on the Sunday, and then paddle Hurley again on the Monday evening.

Having finally decided on an 11am meet on Saturday, I set off on a mission of going to Whitewater the canoe centre in Shepperton to get a new spraydeck and footrest. From here it was a quick visit to Woking to collect a pair of paddles which were lost on the club Devon weekend back in February from someone who found them a couple of weeks after we lost them! Many thanks if you are reading this; hope to see you on the river sometime – we owe you some beers! With the paddles in the car, it was time to head across to Hurley to meet Martyn.

Getting on, we were greated with an almost empty eddy and three gates. What was going on? We had both expected it to be heaving, what with it being a bank holiday weekend and some mighty-fine weather. It was not long until we had the weir entirely to ourselves 🙂 It was during a quick break on the bank that Martyn jokingly said that it was almost be an insult to leave the weir, in such good condition, if there were no other paddlers to take over from us. This ‘joke’ soon become a rule, and despite our tiredness and need for food, we were not allowed to leave! Thankfully a couple of other paddlers turned up after we had been on the water for a couple of hours, meaning that we were able to go in hunt of food. A couple of hours is the length of a normal session, but with no-one else there to queue up and allow you to catch a breather, a couple of hours felt like much much longer!

Feeling better following a ‘healthy’ pub lunch, we got back on the water to discover that in our absence the lock keeper had made an appearance and dropped it down to two gates. It was still a really nice feature, and the second gate was allowing some really enjoyable rides.

Sunday we headed North to help the new Mr and Mrss Birkett celebrate their big day – and boy did we celebrate. I don’t think I have ever had such a bad hangover as the one I ‘enjoyed’ the following day. I put it down to still drinking champagne with fruit shots in at half-past three in the morning! This lead to a very slow and sore morning before heading back south again. On the drive home I managed to pursuade Martyn that, despite us both feeling rough, we should pay a visit to Hurley that evening.

Still feeling rough as I drove to Hurley, a quick roll in the refreshing water yet again proved to myself that there is no better hangover cure. We managed about a 90 minute 2-gate session before were both completely knackered. It was great level that allowed for some nice long rides.

What an end to an amazing weekend!

New car, Tryweryn and Hurley

Since I wrote my last post, things have been going strong. I have managed to keep the paddling going, but unfortunately missed another weekend.

On Friday 11th April I was at Sandhurst helping Chris celebrate his commissioning. It was another fantastic party that carried on almost until the sun came up! After a couple of hours sleep I set about missioning it to Warrington on the train (which turned out to be a lot further away that initially thought!), in order to pick up my new car. Unfortunately, Sunday spent tidying up my old car ready for sale meant that this was to become the 4th weekend this year on which I did not go paddling 🙁

The following weekend I did my best to make up for this. Saturday saw a trip to the Tryweryn, in North Wales, for a paddle with Amy and Steve. This was an opportunity for them to spend some time on the water before their finals took hold and give them some practice before the Alps.

The weekend of the 26/27th saw a bit of a mission. I returned to Wellington for my first school reunion on Saturday. Despite the low turn out it was an enjoyable day where we were able to meet up with some of our old teachers, see the new developments going on, watch some cricket in the sunshine, as well as discovering that the school dinners menu hadn’t changed since I started school!

On the drive back from Wellington to London, I made the obligitory stop-off at Hurley, although this was slightly later than orignally planned due to the enjoyment of a few too many beers the night before! Martyn came up with some excuse for not paddling, but I had a thoroughly enjoyable 2 gate session. I was really starting to feel like I was finally making progress following all my paddling so far this year.