Sunset over the Thames

Who says that you have to travel to foreign climes in order to see beautiful sunsets? The picture below was taken during our evening paddling session at Hambledon on Tuesday 22nd July.

Sunset over Thames

Sunset over Thames

We weren’t there just to enjoy the sunset though – we also enjoyed a fun paddling session.

Me enjoying a (brief) ride

Me enjoying a (brief) ride

Hambledon was being true to itself and still dishing out the odd beating…

I am in there somewhere!

I am in there somewhere!

Click on an image to see more photos. Credit for all of these photos goes to Amy Porter.

Mid-week respite

I was glued to the internet all day – kaaping a constant eye on the Hurley level. It had dropped down to two gates yesterday and was expected for one gate to follow quickly after. I was hoping that this wasn’t going to occur until after we had made it down for a paddle. Unfortunately, as I was walking home from the station, the dreaded news came in. It was time for a change of plan – we were now to hit Hambledon instead.

The feature at Hambledon is very fast and surgey, making it tricky to surf. Martyn and had had quite a few attempts each, with varying degrees of success. Martyn seemed to perfect the art of shooting straight across the face of the wave and getting airborne as he shot out the other side. My best move of the evening was on my final ride. Whilst front surfing, as I landed a bounce the front of my boat caught the flow of the water, shooting me forwards and down.  I had managed to completely submerge myself as well as the boat and reappear below the pile of the wave, still the right way up as if nothing untoward had just occured! Martyn, sat watching in the eddy, just saw me there one second, but completely disappeared the next, before reappearing a few metres downstream looking completely composed and ready to carry on paddling.

Martyn enjoying a brief surf

Martyn enjoying a brief surf

Making the most of the weekend

I made the most of the weekend just gone. The original intention was to go paddling on Saturday afternoon before enjoying a barbeque and a few drinks with Martyn to help him celebrate his birthday, folowed by a mountain biking on the Sunday. These plans changed when, on Friday, he realised that the rolling course he had booked himself onto the following day didn’t finish until the evening. A few phone calls were made and a new plan was hatched.

Saturday was to start with an early session at Hurley, to make the most of all the recent rain, before heading off to see my grandparents near Southampton for lunch. Hurley was on a low 4 gates and when I got onto my session I was to be the only paddler on the water for about 30 mins. I had only the geese for company.

Only the geese for company

Only the geesee for company

My new boat

My new boat

An empty Hurley

An empty Hurley

Sunday turned out to be another busy day. It started off with a nice ride around Bracknell Forest with Martyn and Chris.

My new boat

Martyn getting back up after a spill

And ended with an awesome 3 gate session at Hurley in the sunshine, where I met Simon, Dave Surman, Doug and Liz. It turned out to be the opposite from my session the previous day with large queues on bpth sides of the wave.

Hurley int eh sunshine

Hurley in the sunshine

A busy Hurley

A busy Hurley

High water on Dartmoor

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 River Tavy
Vicky on the Tavy

Louise disappearing
Can you spot Louise?

Simon fighting his way through the trees on teh Tavy
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
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
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/

Paddling galore…

Over the weeks since my last post, I have managed a considerable amount of paddling.

During the week of the last May bank holiday, I somehow managed to fit in 4 paddling sessions… Boulters on the Monday, Hurley after work on the Wednesday, Hurley again on the Saturday and Holme Pierrepont on the Sunday so that Martyn could demo boats in the hope of finding one that he can roll ;-).

Martyn and Chris on the entry gate at Holme Pierrepont
Martyn and Chris on the entry gate at Holme Pierrepont

The following weekend became only the fifth weekend of the year for me which did not feature any paddling: I visited an exhibition of my sister’s on the Saturday and then had to drop of my kit in Birmingham on the Sunday so that it could be taken out to the Alps in the van 🙂

From Saturday 14th June until Sunday 29th June, I was fortunate enough to be out in the French Alps with the uni canoe club ( I will do a write-up soon)

Jethro on Le Bachelard, France
Jethro on Le Bachelard, France

Jethro looking and some big holes on Fresquaire section of the Ubaye
Jethro looking and some big holes on Fresquaire section of the Ubaye

Group photo at the waterfall above Chateauroux-les-Alpes
Group photo at the waterfall above Chateauroux-les-Alpes