As I was preparing dinner on Saturday night, I received a message from Simon saying that it had rained a lot on Dartmoor during the day and was I up for a trip down on Sunday. With little hesitation, I was signed up and agreed to meet Simon, Louise and Vicky just off junc14 of the M4 at 0630. Following a bit of thinking, I realised that to make it for that time, I would have to leave home at 0500…. and there I was looking forward to a nice relaxing weekend, complete with lie-ins!
Sunday morning came all too quickly and, with the others now picked up, we were on our way to Dartmoor. After a quick stop of at my parents’ house so I could collect my new helmet, we discovered that the Environment Agency had just put out flood warnings on the River Dart, which was to be our first stop of the day. Consulting the guidebook, we decided to head to the Erme instead, which we expected to be at a good level. Upon arrival in Ivybridge, a quick glance at the rapid in town proved our expectations to be wrong – the river looked very high and not particularly enticing!! Needless to say we decided to head elsewhere.
Further consultation of the guidebook ensued and we decided to head off to the Upper Tavy, just outside Tavistock. This turned out to be a really nice little river, although low trees did ensure we were kept on our toes. Vicky took a little swim after capsizing and getting pushed up against a wall, preventing a roll. At the get-out I realised why it is not such a good idea to volunteer to drive on a paddling trip if we are only taking one car. Having paddled the 5km stretch from Hill Bridge to Harford Bridge, I was now faced with the walk back to the car up small country lanes. I was hopeful of hitching a lift, but I managed to get two and half miles up the road before I anyone stopped and gave me a lift for the remaining mile to the car, for which I am very grateful.
Vicky on the Tavy
Can you spot Louise?
Simon on the Tavy
With the car loaded, a decision was made to head across to run the Upper Dart, in the hope that the level had dropped off since the morning. Arriving in Dartmeet car park, we were greeted to an “on-the-newbridge-ledge” level, which I would equate to a high medium level. We started off, and things were looking good. I foolishly started to think that I might manage a roll-free day – but more of that later!
All was going swimmingly – well, until the swimming started! First off was Vicky. She managed to get herself stuck in a hole. Louise dropped in and knocked her out of the hole, but as Vicky carried on downstream she went over and failed to roll up. As Simon and myself went off to rescue Vicky, Louise was still playing in the hole she knocked Vicky out of. After fruitless attempts at escaping the hole, she popped her deck and joined the day’s swim list. Thanks are owed to the group from Southampton who aided in getting the kit out of the river.
Vicky and Louise on the Upper Dart
With paddlers and boats reunited we continued on downstream towards Euthanasia Falls. I went over first, and capsized almost immediately. I ended up running the entire rapid upside down before rolling back up at the bottom. As I broke out into an eddy, I looked upstream to see Louise emerging from the rapid the wrong way up. She managed to roll and break out successfully although she had managed a knock the head resulting in a grazed cheek. Next up we saw Vicky run the falls. She also managed to go over and, after a couple of attempts, roll up before immediately getting into trouble again and over she went. This time she managed to snap her paddles whilst upside down and she knocked up her second swim of the river. Ensuring she was safely out of the water on a rock, I went off after her boat.
Louise following her river bed inspection at Euthanasia Falls, Upper Dart
I have come to the decision that boat chasing down this type of river is enjoyable. As you are paddling down there is a sense of isolation – just you and the boat you are chasing. Your senses have to be heightened as there is no-one around to look after you.
Getting the boat pinned, albeit it not very well, just above the run-in to Surprise Surprise, I turned around to see Simon coming down behind me with Louise in the water and Simon trying to get her boat. Ensuring that Simon could handle Louise, I went off chasing Louise’s boat. Surprise Surprise turned out to be a really nice level, which I ran hard left riding the rock which forms the edge of the slot at lower levels. I have tried for this line before, but this was the first time I managed it 🙂 I managed to pin the boat against a rock in the middle of the flow at the start of the next rapid. By the time I had broken out and struggled to get back upstream towards the boat I saw Simon paddle down the rapid accompanied by Louise’s boat. He had taken the call that we would struggle to get the boat back from where I had pinned it and, knowing there was a nice pool just downstream, knocked it off the rock.
By now, Louise, Vicky and Vicky’s boat had walked downstream on the river right bank to level where we were. Louise had hurt her shoulder during her last swim so they had decided to walk off. Stashing Louise’s boat where we were, Simon and myself then paddled on down to Newbridge without further incident. On arriving at Newbridge, we were boat able to beach ourselves easily onto the ledge.
Once the shuttle was done, Simon walked back upstream to recover Louise’s boat while I waited for Vicky and Louise to arrive at the car park. It turned out that it was considerably further than we had thought to where Louise’s boat was!
We later discovered that Louise had managed to dislocate her clavicle, and I wish her a speedy recovery.
Additional photos can be seen at http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=23289&l=0bcbf&id=503679286
Simon’s write-up of the day is available here: http://thedrownedfish.co.uk/2008/07/08/nineteen-hours/