Glorious sunshine…

Following a couple of heavy nights and having to spend some time looking for a new car, I only managed one day’s paddling over the weekend just gone. As I was working in London on Monday, I was able to improve on this by getting out in my boat again on Monday evening, although a few recent very late nights were really taking their toll and I was severely lacking in energy by the end of the session.

It was lovely to be able to spend so much time outside enjoying the sunshine we were graced with, topping up my tan nicely!

Hambledon get-in

Hambledon get-in

Amy, Tim and Emma

Amy, Tim and Emma

Emma ensuring her kit is safe.... by leaving it lying in the middle of the car park

Emma ensuring her kit is safe…. by leaving it lying in the middle of the car park!

Sunset on Monday evening

Sunset on Monday evening

A lonely tree

A lonely tree

A few more photos are available at Http://photos.andywicks.com/HambledonInTheSun

Tantilisingly close…

A week before the four-day Easter weekend the weather reports were looking promising for a good weekend of boating. However, as the week progressed it turned out that the weather forecasters were just teasing us poor paddlers. By Maundy Thursday it was apparent there was not enough water anywhere to make a trip worth our while so it was decided to spend the weekend playboating on the Thames. The small amount of rain which did fall in the preceding days did raise the level of the Thames slightly – up to one gate with all side radials open at Hurley – but not enough for the elusive two-gates required to warrent a trip to Hurley. We paid constant attention to the levels over the weekend hoping that it would go up that little bit more required for two gates, but to no avail. Instead we made do with Hambledon. On Friday and Saturday the ramps weren’t configured to make the most of the wave which meant very short rides, if you managed to catch it at all. On Sunday morning CPCC adjusted the ramps which made longer rides possible.

On Friday Tim, Martyn and I popped down for an afternoon session where the longest ride managed was only a couple of seconds long.

A (very) brief surf from Friday afternoon

A (very) brief surf from Friday afternoon

Me getting a bounce

Me getting a bounce…

and what happens when the landing goes wrong!

…and what happens when the landing goes wrong!

After many, many attempts to surf the wave, I took a break to take some play with my camera and take some non-paddling photos.

Looking downstream from the wave

Looking downstream from the wave

How I keep my camera dry

How I keep my camera dry – an advertising shot

On Saturday I returned with Martyn for a morning session, but not before Martyn had managed to lock his keys inside his flat! The wave was the same as the day before, in that it was almost impossible to catch a surf. It didn’t stop us trying though!

Martyn getting swamped

Martyn getting swamped

Martyn almost catching the wave

Martyn almost catching the wave

On Sunday afternoon I paid another visit to Hambledon with Tim. By the time we made it down the ramps had been adjusted which made the wave work much better than it had for the previous two days. In addition to the better wave, the weather had improved and it was warm enough to bring my shorty cag back out. Long rides were now possible and I did my best to entertain the crowds constantly walking across the footpath over the weir.

Trying out the shutter speed settings on my camera

Trying out the shutter speed settings on my camera

Playing with long exposure settings

Playing with long exposure settings

Tim and I returned to Hambledon again on Monday morning, where the sun was yet again shining. I managed to suss out how to consistently catch the wave which made the session much more fun than the previous three had been, with less time spent paddling up the eddy only to miss the wave immediately and shoot back off down the wave train.

The lock-keeper's house

The lock-keepers house

Wisp-ey water

Wisp-ey water

My photos from the weekend can be found at http://photos.andywicks.com/easter2009

Shaken, not stirred…

With a distinct lack of rain recently, Hurley has dropped down to one gate. While I love being in my boat kayaking, a one-gate Hurley session was not particularly enticing, so Saturday saw our first visit of the year to Hambledon weir. On Friday night, a plan for the weekend was put forward which would see Tim, Martyn, and I enjoy Hambledon on Saturday afternoon, before heading back to Martyn’s for a night out in High Wycombe before heading out for a cross-country bike ride on Sunday afternoon. On top of this, I was planning on purchasing a new boat – a Jackson SuperStar.

I used to own one of the original model Superstars, but this was slightly too small for me and, at the time, I was far from being able to utilise enough of its capabilities to warrant the suffering my feet endured. I replaced this with a SuperFun at the start of 2008 and was perfectly happy with my decision. Well… I was. That all changed a few weeks ago at Hurley when Peter suggested that I have a go in his, new model, SuperStar, which has a bit more footroom than the original version. As soon as I got it onto the wave I was hooked – the boat is simply amazing. It was so loose and easy to throw around. I have been working on my blunts since the autumn, with a limited amount of success. With my first ride in this boat I was able to get them going straight away! I know these moves are possible in SuperFuns, but they are much easier in the SuperStar!

My new boat

My new boat

The wave at Hambledon on Saturday was not really retentive, although on occasion both Martyn and I managed rides of a few seconds! As I have written before (Driving an F1 car over a ploughed field), paddling at Hambledon can be a bit of a bumpy ride. Even on Saturday, when you couldn’t really surf the wave, the attempted rides where still bumpy. The water comes through the weir at a rate of knots – much faster than at Hurley. Added to the surges of water that comes through every few seconds it makes for interesting times.

Martyn trying to catch the wave

Martyn trying to catch the wave

Martyn happy after catching the wave for a couple of seconds

Martyn happy after catching the wave for a couple of seconds

After a few hours trying, and mostly failing, to catch the wave, we decided that it was beer o’clock and therefore time to leave and head to a place where they serve refreshments in the form of curry and beer. After possibly a few too many alcoholic beverages it was decided it was time to call it a night, especially as we needed to be on top physical form for our bike ride the following day.

Sunday dawned with a little headache, just in time to watch the build-up and start of the Malaysian Grand Prix and the realisation that we had to be fit for our ride in only a few short hours time. Before heading to the curry house the night before, we had scanned through the ride-guide and selected a difficult looking ride with plenty of uphill to keep us on our toes! The way I was feeling made me start to question the sanity of our decision!

We arrived in Woodcote, the start of our ride, at about 2pm to meet James and Andy. After getting ready we set off down the road, full of energy. It wasn’t long until we turned off the road for our first taste of single-track descent, scooting down between the trees and over the roots and rocks whilst doing our best not to fall off. A few km on the road followed and it was not long afterwards that we made our first big mistake. We missed a turning onto a bridleway and instead climbed a particularly nasty hill on the road. We continued up the hill and along the top still looking for this turn-off before concluding a mistake had been made. Martyn took a look at the map and thought he had worked out where we were and how we could get back on the right track. Following his directions, we set off again. However, it was not long before we were confused again. We tried to work our way back to the route, before realising that we were no-where near where we thought we were on the map! Having sussed out exactly where we were, we set off again. Riding along the ridgeway it was not long before we had our first off-bike experience of the day. First-off Andy messed up a short ascent and came unstuck, but Martyn was soon to trump that. Coming to a stop, he failed to unclip his shoes from his pedals and slowly toppled to one side into a nettle bush. He would have gotten away with it had Andy not rounded the corner just as he extracted himself from said bush! Aside from one more ‘not quite on the route’ period, the remainder of the ride was relatively uneventful and we rode back into Woodcote about 4 hours and 30+ kilometres after setting off.

I was somewhat surprised when I woke up on Monday morning not to find my muscles aching from the day before. That was the longest ride, by a considerable margin, that I have undertaken since sometime last Autumn. Here’s hoping the pain doesn’t set in later in the week!

More photos from Saturday are available at http://photos.andywicks.com/Hambledon4thApril2009

Axes and alcohol

Last weekend saw a small group head to North Wales to assist in Tim celebrating his birthday.

The birthday boy pulling his best smile for the camera!

The birthday boy pulling his best smile for the camera!

The group consisted of Tim, Martyn, Steve, Amy, Emma P and myself. We had accommodation booked in Betws y Coed, Pen Y Clogwyn. It is a fantastic little cottage located a 10 minute walk from the road through the middle of town, at the top of a crag. Martyn and I had both stayed there before – spring 2004 – so were aware of the 300 metre walk from the road to the cottage. However, this time the route through the woods was better marked out and much easier to accomplish in the dark.

After arriving at our accommodation on Friday night, we all enjoyed a few drinks whilst Tim taught us how to turn chunks of wood into kindling for the fire. Unfortunately Amy didn’t quite grasp the idea as you can see in the photo below!

Amy not quite grasping the idea that we were only supposed to be chopping the wood

Amy not quite grasping the idea that we were only supposed to be chopping the wood

Before someone takes this a bit seriously, the photo was posed and Steve was in no danger at any time! Quite a few drinks were enjoyed before we retired to bed. For some, unknown, reason Emma decided to get up stupidly early to cook us bacon sarnies for breakfast. We were grateful for the food, but not for the early wake-up! We ended up going back to sleep before waking for a second round of breakfast at a more sensible time. After checking the river levels and confirming that there was no water in any of the rivers we would have liked to run, we decided that it was the Tryweryn or bust.

Tim looking out over the Graveyard

Tim looking out over the Graveyard

For both Emma and Tim this was their first visit to Canolfan Tryweryn, the national whitewater centre located on the banks of the river Tryweryn just a few miles upstream from Bala. We worked our way down from the ‘chipper’ (the top of the section we were able to run) down to the Internation Wave section practicing our break-outs and break-ins, before making an attempt at Miss Davies’ bridge. Unfortunately, this rapid unsettled Tim, causing him to go over. His first roll attempt almost worked and his second attempt was cut short by his paddles getting ripped out of his hands. Well, that was the excuse he was sticking to in order to justify his swim! After recovering all his kit, we decided it was time to make the most of the facilities available and enjoy some lunch in the riverside cafe.

Making the most of the riverside cafe at the Tryweryn

Making the most of the riverside cafe at the Tryweryn

After a nice break, Martyn and I got back onto the river for another run down, testing ourselves by trying to get eddies that were indicated to me on my last visit a couple of weeks prior. With some mixed success, we called it a day and headed back to a pub in Betws y Coed to enjoy a refreshing pint (or two…). As Martyn, Tim and I finished our pints, Steve, Emma and Amy disappeared back to our accommodation to get dinner on the go. We arrived, having had to endure the tricky walk up in the dark as none of us had torches, to the sight of a roaring fire, balloons and a banner, accompanied by a rendition of “Happy Birthday”. Dinner of Sausage and pear-mash, followed by Terry’s Chocolate Orange birthday cake, were thoroughly enjoyed by all and we then settled in front of the fire for conversation and a few drinks. Tim was not particularly surprised as Emma started mixing him a ‘special’ birthday pint.

Emma mixing Tim's birthday pint

Emma mixing Tim’s birthday pint

Tim about to enjoy his special pint

Tim about to enjoy his special pint

We saw in the start of Tim’s birthday on the Sunday before we again retired to bed. Sunday started at a much more reasonable time with sausage and bacon sarnies. The water levels were the same as the day before so it was back to the Tryweryn for us. All was going well, until Tim attacked the Graveyard and lost, dramatically. He swam. As we went for the rescue the reason for the swim became apparent – he was still holding his paddle, but only half of it. The paddle shaft had snapped clean in two. As we rescued his boat we saw the other part of his paddles float past, concluding that would be the last we would see of them

Amy descending Ski Jump

Amy descending Ski Jump

Me breaking out of an eddy

Me breaking out of an eddy

As we finished our final run of the weekend, Emma decided that she would like a go at swimming the last rapid – NRA bridge. As I helped her back into an eddy to get out of the river, I caught a glimpse of something yellow wedged between the rocks. On further inspection, the blob of yellow turned out to be the piece of Tim’s paddle we had seen float off a few hours earlier!

Tim with the retrieved part of his paddle

Tim with the retrieved part of his paddle

On the drive home we all stopped off on Llangollon for the traditional refreshment break, but this time was slightly different. We enjoyed some more of Tim’s birthday cake. Hmmm 🙂

More photos from the weekend are available at: http://photos.andywicks.com/TimsBirthdayWeekend