13 paddlers from Maldon Canoe Club met at Yalding in Kent for a midwinter trip on the Medway on Sunday the 30th of January.
With boats dropped at Yalding and cars relocated to East Farleigh, everyone made it back in good time for the launch. Clint did run his fuel level into the red though whilst touring the Kent countryside trying to find his way to the shuttle point.
The original plan had been to start higher up the river, but in the weeks that followed adding the trip to the clubs calendar, it was found that one of the sections was to be drained for lock repairs. So now the paddle was to start in Kents white water playground that is Hampstead weir.
Trevor (on water lead) inspected the weir whilst the cars were being relocated and as it was running quite fiercely between the arches a plan was made to ensure we’d get everyone through safely, after a play in the wave train, without any swims.
A few in the group approached Teapot Island with some trepidation at the mention of white water, but after a paddle of not much more that 200m the group found themselves beginning a portage to re-enter below the weir via the River Teise. Completely unimpressed by such a short paddle, Clive, who’d brought his open Canoe, did a 180, and led a small band of brothers back along the canal to rejoin the Medway further downstream and paddle back up to the weir. Peter, organising his first club trip was now re-thinking his plans, ‘why didn’t we just walk across the weir bridge and put in straight into the Teise’ he was thinking, but he kept it to himself. (until now)
On exiting the Teise there was a distinct quietness on the river, not from the paddlers because of their impending battle with the weir stream, but from the river itself. What was a raging torrent just 30 mins earlier, was now nothing but a trickle as the weir gate had been shut down! What a disappointment, but never mind there was the huge seal launch ramp awaiting it’s first customer (victim) on the banks of the Kent White Water Actions site. Wisely, but with no end of encouragement to ‘go on Ade, you can do that easily’, Adrian didn’t fall for it
And the group set off to rejoin with the ‘unimpressed’ who were coming up-river to meet them.
At the rejoining of the two groups, some of the 180 splinters were by now even more unimpressed. Dave had only followed, thinking that he wouldn’t need to release the warm air he’d been nurturing beneath his spraydeck by avoiding the portage into the Teise. What he hadn’t realised was that there was an even longer portage at the end of the canal and he’d now chilled off a bit. Paul however, having just spent a week in North Wales without finding any white water at all, was disappointed again having been promised it in the blurb promoting this Midwinter Medway!
On passing the Ramblers Cafe at the midpoint in Waterinbury, Chris and Del began to edge in the direction of the oncoming waft of bacon and it was all the group could do to stop them eddying out for a bacon butty.
Woolly hats had now been removed and most were complaining of having too many layers but even though it was blue skies, sun and not a whisper of wind, to have stopped we’d surely have chilled off pretty quickly. But stop is exactly what the flotilla did when chief wildlife spotter Rachel pointed out first a Kingfisher and shortly after an Otter who swam less that 10 metres away from our group and then put on a display as it climbed the steep bank. (There’s a Backshall in every paddle group so it seems).
Next, the canoe slides at Teston Lock, with a few wobbles from the longer green boats and ever the showman Rob performed a reverse slide and attempted tail spin to the enjoyment of the on-looking riverside. walkers
The poor water flow over the weir was made up for by the impromptu photoshoot under the arches of Teston bridge, surely one for the club photo calendar. (Ed)
Pogies were proving useful to most, but Mags (gloves on / gloves off / gloves on …) kept trying to tough it out and warming up with speed paddles through the fleet to warm up.
On reaching East Farleigh after a most enjoyable paddle, many gave a hand to portage the long canoe through the narrow cycle barrier and tricky footpath as boats were relocated to the cars for the onward journey. Chris however stayed with Paul on the riverside, saying that they were going to have lunch in the sunshine on the riverside bench. We know they made it home, but none of us will be surprised if Paul didn’t manage one or two bags of litter from East Farleigh, as he had done at Yalding before the off. Paul, did you get the two bags at the end or just the one?
All in all what a great social paddle the day turned out to be and planning has already started for an away day paddle, to a ‘not too distant river’ for a date in March, so keep your eye on the schedule paddlers.