Basingstoke canal explorer 2017 : leg 2
All packed and loaded, we headed off to the Barley Mow ready to launch. Conditions were good, the canal was calm, and we were ready to go on the second outing to the Basingstoke canal – to cover the next 13 miles eastbound from the paddle that took place earlier this year on the first 10 miles.
Then 15 mins in – progress was stopped. Signs indicated that the footpath and the river navigation was closed.  At this point we continued to paddle – as we had er…only made it 1/2 a mile.  We could scrape past the works floating platform – but then became hindered by a sharp ‘chicane’ blocked by a floating yellow rubber boon across the canal which stood a ‘huge’ 4 inches above the water line.  The sea kayak of Andrew and Norma, as well as the canoe of Sarah and Steven could push past – but the K1’s and K2’s just bounced back.  Sarah came up with a plan to put the Sea kayak one one side and the Canoe on the other side – pushing down on the barrier – to allow us ‘more delicate’ kayaks to paddle through the middle.  A new technique was born (well it was new to me) – and I for one was grateful – good teamwork all round.
We made smooth progress moving along – with just wildlife and the odd walker/jogger to be seen along the bank.
A brief stop at the Fox and Hounds on the outskirts of Fleet (or Church Cookham as the pub address proudly indicates) revealed a modern pub (alas closed) with good mooring.  A welcome and er….exciting fusion of spanish and english was had with flapjacks from Paul and Chorizo from Norma.
Further relaxed progress was made, south on Farnborough airfield.  We passed the place where previously – the infamous ‘worlds angriest swan’ lay waiting for unsuspecting paddlers.  All swans we passed on the day seemed most chilled.  So far so good.
We made a late stop for luch at Ash Lock – which fortunately was easy to disembark at.  The solitary picnic table was free and the sun was shining.  We were alone save for the busy road nearby but we were soon joined by a gaggle/skein of inquisitive geese – hungry for any leftovers.  The K1’s could be manhandled under the bridge via a footpath, whereas the longer/wider craft were carried over the busy road – with traffic begrugingly stopping when necessary.
Continuing our journey, the canal passed over the A331 via an aqueduct – alas a bit too tricky to exit out of due to indented banking (probably designed to stop inquisitive paddlers…).   Further along there were several areas where the canal opens out into small lakes, with the last being Mytchette Lake – which for me was a first as I’ve never paddled in a ‘lake’ before.  Alas much of it was cordened off as it’s a wildlife reserive – but for me – it was a taste of the Canadian Lakes in er…Farnborough.
Our trip ended at the Basingstoke Canal centre – with cafe facilities, clean(ish) loos and it’s obvioulsy popular with the locals. Here you can hire peddelos & rowing boats. Whilst we waited for transport, we watched a familiy with their brand new 2 man inflatable kayak – lot of laughs but boy it looked a bit unstable and seemed to be visibly deflating. Worth suggesting to the comittee that the club should get several inflatable Kayaks….?!! Maybe not.
Thanks to all paddlers for making it a grand day out.
Phil Tauwhare, Michelle Sugrue, Paul Scott, Andrew Wallace, Norma Morris, Sarah Potter & Steven


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