New Year’s Eve Paddle 2018. Shotford Bridge to Homersfield by Graham Day
The 2018 New Year’s Eve paddle proved to be a record year with 21 people taking part.
Again to save on the initial car shuttle, the well rehearsed plan to meet at the car park at Homersfield Black Swan PH, was put into action. After the transfer of boats between car roofs and the pairing of passangers we made for Shotford Bridge. At Shotford there were more paddlers waiting and we all set about preparing equipment for the trip.
Having got everything ready we had a group photograph and started getting onto the water.
Gordon was there, but as he was launching his canoe on the other side of the river and was otherwise engaged so missed the photo opportunity. Anyway getting on was quite quick and we eventually set off ahead of schedule.
The weather was fair, not too cold, but there wasn’t much water, despite the rain before Christmas. This proved to be blessing as a few trees fallen across the river would have been more of a hazard if the river had been higher.
We soon came to a fallen tree that was impeding our progress. Fortunately Gordon not only had the tools but proved good at topiary, so with a bit of elbow grease the obstacle was soon moved and we were able to proceed. Nothing else got in our way and we soon arrived at Mendham.
Obviously those with helmets were keen to run the weir, but the initial scouting suggested that there was not much flow and there were objects caught on the structure. Consequently most people had left the water and were preparing to portage. Then Rob arrived. His assessment of the situation was more positive and after an initial scout he ran the weir successfully. Having seen the possibility, all those left on the water followed down the weir. This resulted in a number of those that had left the water deciding to get back on and run the weir themselves, including some canoes.
Whilst there was just enough water to run the weir, the re-entry to the river at the bottom was at best tame. Consequently there was some disappointment on show as boats dropped off the ramp and back into the somewhat static river. This disappointment was most evident when Gary’s shoulders visibly dropped as he came off the weir.
Once all were back on the water, we headed off downstream towards Homersfield. It was largely an uneventful paddle, until we reached the long portage at Wortwell. Everyone got out and when we had arrived at the re-entry point, it was a convenient stop for some light refreshments and a catch-up with those that we hadn’t seen for a while.
Clearly the house owners are not the canoeists friend and there are many signs out to encourage use of the portage. Consequently I did question whether Dawn could read, but she quite rightly pointed out that she was in a kayak, not a canoe, so the sign did not apply to her!
Meanwhile Carl was in a contemplative mood
Everyone else was just milling about and getting back on the water
Before setting off again there were some words of advice about the imminent arrival at Homersfield Weir. As the river levels were low previous experience suggested that boats could ground and suitable space needed to be left in case people became stuck. As it turned out there was enough water to pass the shingle stretch, which replaced the weir, without incident. So much so that Harry got out and re ran it for some added excitement.
All that was left was the paddle down to Homersfield and the get out. Due to the low levels there was plenty of head room at the bridge and the get out was not difficult, just a bit slippery.
As it customary at this point, dry clothes were put on, cars recovered, boats put back on roofs, and for those that had time a well-earned pint in the Black Swan.
The perfect end to a pleasant day’s paddling. Thanks to all that came and see you again next year.
New Year’s Eve Paddle 2016. Shotford Bridge to Homersfield by Graham Day
Roll Call: Graham, Rob, Dawn, Ben, Maxine, Carl B, Hazel, Carl C, Tracy, Paul, Jenny, Gary, Harry, Alan.
The day started frosty and cold, but nothing that was beyond a bear suit and dry suit.Most people met in the car park at Homersfield Black Swan PH, where we combined the journey to the start point with the car shuttle.
After the movement of boats between car roofs we made for Shotford Bridge. At Shotford we were met by Alan, who was initially a bit concerned that he was the only person there.
Having offloaded kit, scouted the portage point and established that there was not much water, it was time for the all-important photograph to prove we had all braved the elements. Maxine reported that he phone had gone missing, so another was used to call it. The quacking sound coming from somewhere deep in the front of her cag meant that the search could be called off.
Our first obstacle was a fisherman on the opposite bank just downstream from where we were putting on. After a brief discussion over his preferences the plan was to get on and paddle past him as a group. It seemed to take a while, but eventually we were ready to leave by 10am, so meeting early at Homersfield had paid off. The fisherman had just reeled in to check his bait, so we took the opportunity to get out of his way.
There was not much in the way of further obstructions apart from the odd fallen tree and the regular shallow water, which caught out those that were not observant or who had enjoyed extras of Christmas pudding.
On the approach to Mendham Tracy (who had not paddled the river before) enquired if we were there already, but was reassured that we were only half way. Those in white water boats shot the weir, which would have been sticky where it not for the slime, everyone else portaged.
Whilst waiting for the touring boats to get back on the water it gave everyone else time to check the plans in place to celebrate the New Year.
With the group reassembled next stop was Wortwell Mill. The lack of water had reduced the flow, so there had been a lot of paddling to get here and arms were aching. Consequently it was not quite the right time for the longest portage of the day. Across a field and through two farm gates to make it back to the river. By this time there also seemed to have been quite a bit of mud collected. Again it was a team effort to get everyone back on the water with the minimum delay and we were all off again.
Next was the removed weir at Homersfield. You would expect this to make things easier, but the lack of water meant that there was not much clearance above the rocks and boulders, which have been installed to allow fish and eels to move upstream. Unfortunately it has the opposite effect on kayaks trying to get downstream and most people got stuck a few times, requiring unorthodox paddling techniques the type of which you would not see in any theory books.
We were nearly there now and all that remained was the shallows and rapids which waited under Homersfield Bridge beside the get out point. Again it was a shambles with boats stuck everywhere. The chaos was best demonstrated by me hitting Jenny on the head with my paddle, when it was accidentally sandwiched between two boats. Not my finest hour and everything I tell the Paddlepower group to be careful of. Sorry Jenny. Must take my own advice in future.
By now many had decide to walk the last bit of river and help pull stranded kayaks off the rocks that they were stuck on.
It was back to the cars to change for those that had dry clothes. We had got the car keys in the right places, but Dawn’s dry clothes were in Maxine’s van at the start. Another lesson to be learnt perhaps.
Having recovered the cars from the start, Dawn was able to get changed and it was time for a celebratory drink in the Black Swan. The perfect end to a pleasant day’s paddling. Thanks to all that came, perhaps this should become an annual event.
Shingle Street. A Salty Dog Paddle. A report by Keith Poulson
Why do they call it Shingle Street?
Sunday 1st November was forecast to be very foggy. Salty Dogs Dave, Dawn, Rob, Paul and Keith planned to paddle from Orford to the bar at Shingle Street and play in the tide race as it storms up the Ore and attempt towing and rescues.
When we reached Orford the fog had lifted and it was beautiful sunshine, we set about getting prepared when the search and rescue turned up then a fire engine which parked nearby. Then the bomb disposal arrived with another search and rescue team. We informed the search and rescue what our plan was and duly set off.
As we approached the bar in sunshine we could see fog ahead and by the time we arrived at the bar we were fully enveloped in thick fog not being able to see the other bank.
Dave tested the flow as the tide was now streaming in and could not paddle against it and decided it was too risky to do anything on the water that we had planned to do.
We thought a leisurely coffee and snack on the point would give time for the fog to lift. Rob had brought his VHF radio so we listened to the weather forecast and waited. Next came over the radio Security, Security, Security this is a warning to shipping on the Ore! There was going to be a controlled explosion on Dove Point in 20 -30 minutes and shipping should remain clear for a 100metres. Panic set in as we thought we were at the point and thought we were about to be vaporised. We quickly gathered our stuff and looked at the chart and fortunately Dove Point was at the bottom of Havergate Island a little way away. We then heard a dull thud of an explosion and decided to make our way back via the other side of Havergate Island.
It was quite disconcerting as visibility was quite poor and you could only see one side of the bank.
On reaching Orford Rob used his newly designed tow rope and had a practice towing one then two kayakers. We discussed the new design and benefits of being able to shorten or lengthen the tow rope and called it a day returning home to brilliant sunshine.
Footnote – These estuary paddles are always interesting as we usually see seals, marsh harriers or many other sea birds. The only downside however, is to have to sit down and watch a gloating Paul Jary eat his usual homemade meat pie.
Cardington White Water Course 2015. A report by Hilary Tate
On the 27th and 28th June, WVCC joined Lowestoft Canoe Club for their annual trip to the Cardington Whitewater course in Priory Park, Bedfordshire. The course provides a great introduction to moving water and we had a range of ages and abilities, from those who had just completed their 1star, to more advanced paddlers.
This year the features were arranged to provide a more challenging layout compared to that of 2014. The course catered well for the full range of ability levels, with a straightforward run down the 120 metre long course providing a suitable challenge for less confident paddlers, while by concentrating on one of the many customizable features, more experienced members could develop specific skills and techniques.
Coaches were positioned at each stage of the course to help people master some of the white water techniques by guiding their boats into the flow, and providing assistance in the event of a paddler getting into difficulties.
A fantastic weekend for both paddlers and spectators!
See our album of photos by Hilary & Brian Tate here.
River Wye Camping Trip May 2015. A report by Gordon Goodsell
A group from WVCC went for a couple of days canoeing and camping on the banks of the River Wye this late May Bank Holiday. Some were reluctant campers, some were seasoned and hardy campers, some even were full on outdoor types, sleeping in a hammock slung between two trees. There were a couple of princesses for whom a dozen mattresses would not have saved them from the deadly pea. They had to have proper beds and a roof over their heads.
BUT all Paddled! 14 on the river on Saturday, Hoarwithy to Ross on Wye and 16 on the Sunday, from Welsh Bicknor to Redbrook. Everyone made it through Symonds Yat rapids more or less dry but all up the right way. A fabulous achievement for all but especially those who had never paddled the distances involved, let alone through a set of grade two rapids.
The weather was more than kind with beautiful sunshine for the whole time spent on the water. A great weekend. Thank you all for your company. Special congratulations must go to Hugo and Michael for having to put up with being in the same boats as their fathers for most of the weekend! They both showed great tolerance and fortitude. Also after last years incident it was noticeable that the lovely Mrs Phipps was a reluctant passenger in any boat being driven by her equally lovely husband.