Medway Canoe Trail, Nov 9th 2019

Medway Canoe Trail, Nov 9th 2019

8.75 Miles
Grade: Easy when the conditions are fine
Portages/Passes 6
Start: Tonbridge
End :Yalding
Canoes/Sea Kayaks


Guide to Medway Canoe Trail

Guide to Canoe Passes

Map of river level monitoring stations

Video from James 

 

On a very chilly morning a group of us loaded the canoes onto our cars and headed down to Kent. The plan was to do part of the Medway Canoe trail set in the beautiful countryside between Tonbridge and Yalding.

The satnav didn’t seem to cope well so it was after a few detours that we finally all ended up in the correct car park in Tonbridge.  The group comprised Peter, Paul, Catelin, Frank, Maxine, Jenny, Kathy(me) & Dan (our Leader) from HCC with David(Kayak), James, and Hannah from PDCC along with a small bear.

Having unloaded the canoes, 6 people drove the cars to the end point at the pub in Yalding while the rest of us waited, keeping warm as best we could.

The Thames had been on yellow boards all week and the Medway was also showing the same so I wasn’t sure what to expect. Fortunately Dan had checked the water levels and confirmed that all looked well and he was right. The conditions were actually good no flow, no rain and no wind.

The section of the trail that we were doing had 6 locks on it. All of which had canoe passes. The plan was to do go down the passes with the option to portage for those (me) who didn’t fancy it.

We set off into the mist and after a few miles we arrived at the first pass. This was closed and had no water in it, but we were still able to use the pass to get the boats across rather than having to carry them around. Pass number 2 was open and was a very gentle descent past the lock.  The next couple of passes were closed so we had to portage which also gave us an opportunity for a few well deserved snack breaks.  Fortunately all along the trail there were good platforms making portaging a breeze with only the small bear falling in.

The rest of the passes were open including the final grade 3 pass at Sluice Weir lock which had a steep drop. This (I was told) was the most fun although they did all seem to get wet and fill their boats with water….. Having now seen the passes another time I would be braver and do them except maybe not the last one!

We ended the trip at Yalding at a handily placed pub in time for a late lunch.

This was a great trip just a nice length to paddle in a couple of hours through beautiful countryside, fuelled on Jelly Babies with good company and the added excitement of the canoe passes.

Dan also pointed out that this trip could also be run as an improvers K1 trip using the portages so maybe next summer once it is warmer ……
Thanks to Jenny for the Photos also see link above to view the Video taken by James.

Autumn River Cleanup, Oct 2019

Autumn River Cleanup, Oct 2019

“Up the Thames, Down the Thames, Wombling free, the Wombles of Hampton Canoe Club are we!”

After threatening rain and fast flows all week, the weather and water were kind to the HCC Water Wombles tackling trash on the Thames on Saturday 26 October. The wind had other ideas with a “moderate/fresh breeze” but we still had a great turnout.

Armed with latex gloves, bin bags and litter pickers and fired up on a promise of tea and homemade cake at the end, the 12 intrepid explorers headed out in a mixture of canoes and sea kayaks after the all important safety briefing!

Amanda F, Lewis, Jill, Jana, Kathy, Maxine, Amanda G, Jenny John, Michele and Paul L, Chris B and Heidi headed downstream first, tackling everything in their path. Deflated inflatables, large strips of plastic boat (?) and suitcases were no match for the determined paddlers who took canoes in places they had never been before and loaded kayaks so high, they could barely see where they were going. As you can see from the pictures, a huge amount of rubbish was collected and removed from our beautiful stretch of river. Too many lighters and bottles to mention, a washing up rack, a sack of beans and a hoover pipe as well as a pair of shoes – each shoe found by a different paddler!

Everything needed a good clean after lugging that haul in – so once boats, paddles and paddlers were washed and dried, we gathered in the club house for hot drinks and Jill’s amazing cake.

Thanks to everyone involved with special thanks to Mandy F who supplied the much needed gloves and bags and Jill for the wonderful cake.

Heidi.

Pictures from the day from Jenny. (Click on image to show all as a slideshow)

West Scotland Kayak Trip : October 2019 – 4/5 days

West Scotland Kayak Trip : October 2019 - 4/5 days

14 of us braved the beautiful west coast of Scotland in October and the weather was surprisingly kind to us. It even saw me in a t-shirt on the beach on the first day. 

 

I scoffed a bit at those wearing dry suits on the first day as the conditions looked great, mild, sunny, no chop or wind. Well, never take things for granted on the sea I’ve now discovered! As a few miles before the end of our 12 mile trip the water got decidedly “spicy” to coin a phrase used by our lovely Scottish guide.

 

Well “spicy” turned out to be more Vindaloo than Korma for some. We had 3 capsizes on the first day but luckily 2 in dry suits. Jenny unfortunately got properly wet and had to be towed to shore but still retained her huge smile and her Jelly babies.

 

So we had 2 days of glorious Autumn sun and scenery and one day with overcast weather.

Secluded beaches, a random bothy you had to abseil to, and castle ruins were some of our lunch 

settings.

 

 

On the last day we met a very friendly local mussel fisherman on the water who ended up supplying us with 7 kilos of mussels for dinner! Though Mark, Derek and Morten did get shafted when it came to cleaning the mountain of mussels and may need till next season to recover.

 

Our accommodation and catering was organised by John F, who lives in Scotland; and the places were fab. Self catering with 4 very well appointed cottages all next door to one another. One even had a spa bath although not quite rivalling the hot tub on the Denmark trip last year! 

 

The catering was all in house with a great sense of camaraderie going on in the kitchen. And so much alcohol and cake we couldn’t get through it all…must try harder next time!

 

Scotland has some beautiful scenery and even if the sea is choppy you always explore the lochs and look for monsters and haggis.

 

We did enjoy some real wildlife too such as otters, harbour seals, tourist eagles (it wears sandals and socks)  turnstones, oyster catchers, herons, greylag geese, hooded crow, red deer and more.

 

There was also a lot of fun to be had with a pineapple one night but best to ask Maxine, Jenny or Tamra to show you the video of that….

 

West of Scotland is a long way to go paddling but really worth it if you have the weather and a good team with you.

 

Tamra 

Views of the South Downs, 28th September 2019

Views of the South Downs, 28th September 2019

Paddle from seven sisters country car park up the river Cuckmere with views of the south downs and the white horse at Litlington towards the picturesque village of Alfriston for lunch and exploring the village with the in coming tide, then return 8 miles.

3 Day Thames Trip, Sonning to Hampton, 17th-19th May 2019

3 Day Thames Trip, Sonning to Hampton, 17th-19th May 2019

Click on the link below  to view some video clips including the infamous lamb rescue.

Videos

Day 1, Sonning to Hurley Lock 12.4 mils,  3 locks, no portages.

We met at the club at a leisurely  9:00, to load 3 kayaks and  just one canoe, as John F had already taken a canoe the previous evening.

We arrived at Sonning at approx 10:30 where John F was waiting to meet us with his super fast sleek canoe. Then the task of cramming all our gear into the kayaks hatches, but this was made easier by the knowledge that anything that didn’t fit could go in John F’s car, as he was going to cycle back and fetch it once we arrived at Hurley lock !

Weather was overcast, but dry and not too cold. We departed about 11:00.

We stopped at the Angel on the Bridge, Henley for lunch. We chose a table outside near the bank and ordered our food. Then it was decided it was a bit chilly and windy on that table, so we moved to a sheltered one in the corner, and went and told barman that the 7 orders had changed tables.

After another 5 minutes  we moved again to a small inside bar,… orders amended to new location.

But the bar area didn’t have enough tables so we split into 2 groups in different parts of the pub, poor servers were chasing around trying to keep track of us.

Several of us ordered the small burgers, which when they arrived were surprisingly large and very good.

We paddled on,  and then I heard a couple on the bank, who had two dogs with them calling out to ask if we could help them, I paddled over, expecting to be asked to retrieve a ball from the water, only to be told “There’s a lamb in the water under the bushes”. Hmm, bigger job than I was expecting.  

The rest of our party arrived. The lamb was hiding under the bushes and bracken that overhung the steep bank,

I considered hopping out of my kayak, but it was about 3 feet deep, so instead Phil and Maxine manoeuvred their canoe in. The location of the lamb was found, and with a bit of persuasion from a paddle it was extracted from under the bushes, but it was hard to get hold off, and  there was no easy place to return it to dry land. Phil managed to grab it by a front leg and pull it out. Then with kayaks helping to hold the canoe in to the bank Phil stood up and passed the lamb to the guy on the bank.   Rescue accomplished, hail our hero Phil.

We paddled through Henley where the regatta course is marked by a  floating wood course boundary for about a mile. It was quite windy down the long course straight, waves even, so much so that when we reached a gap in the course boundary, we moved across to the edge of the river, even thought it looked like in the distance the boundary markers got closer and closer to the bank.

Frank questioned whether we would get stuck, I assured him it would be crazy if there wasn’t an exit, Frank decided to continue in the middle of the river, the rest of us went at the edge.

The more we paddled the narrower the gap between the floating log boundary and the bank became, until we reached the point where the logs were touching the bank. Oops.  So we then had the first portage of the trip, hauling the kayaks out and back in further along, whilst the canoe was pushed over the logs and passed to Mr Smug Frank, who towed it further along.

We arrived at Hurley lock campsite around 5:00 and first had a well earned coffee at the lock cafe, whilst John F, retrieved his bike that he had left there, and peddled (not paddled) off back to Sonning to collect his car!

The campsite entrance was via a high metal gate secured with a combination lock,  having paid our fees we had the combination, but sliding the lock bolt was a real fight.

Having setup our tents and used the nice hot campsite showers we proceeded to the Rising Sun pub to eat. There was a closer pub, The  Old Bell, but Frank had been advised by the lock keeper that it was a bit up market and expensive I think he meant too posh for us scruffy lot !

Anyway the food at the Rising Sun proved to be excellent.

We had a noisy nights sleep, with noisy geese, music from a nearby wedding, and according to just Frank, fireworks.  

Day 2 Hurley Lock to Boveney Lock 13.7mls,  5 locks, no portages.

Breakfasts were the usual porridge, biscuits etc, 

We were up early to be ready to watch Tamra fold up her pop up tent, which she had practised  and videoed at home!    After only about 4 attempts she succeeded and packed it away in its bag, quite impressive.   However 15 minutes later she was packing it up again ????. Apparently the first time she had left her shoes inside, doh.

We set off at 9:30  I seem to recall Phil saying something like we could stop for breakfast and coffee after a short paddle, … but somehow he missed it, and we paddled on until we reached The Bounty pub/cafe at Bourne End where we stopped for lunch. 

The Bounty is an unusual quirky establishment. A sign outside proclaims “Welcome to THE PEOPLES REPUBLIC OF COCKMARSH, Enjoy your visit, The Laws Of Common Sense Apply” next to another sign ”Twinned with Chernoby;”  The get out/in was easy and the food was good, PLUS the sun came out while we lunched, so a very nice stop.

Onwards….towards Maidenhead over the route of the Autumn Colours trip, but without the colours at this time of year.

Despite it being Saturday, there was very little other river traffic to disturb us, and with light winds it was a pleasant paddle We stopped at a cafe at Maidenhead, for ice cream  ( ice cream and coffee for me, no its not a strange mixture)

Leaving the cafe it looked like it might rain,  most of us thought it would pass. One minute after setting off it started raining, quite hard, so had to stop and put cags on.  But it turned out the rain at that time was good, as it meant it stopped before we reached our Boveney lock campsite.

Boveney is a small campsite with limited amount of flat areas, and just one shower, token operated.

Nice view of lots of white scum coming past from the weir, apparently that’s a sign the river is healthy, it not detergent like I thought !

Mark was joining the trip at this point, but had a half mile trek from car to the lock. He delivered his tent and a bag of beer first, with a request that we put his tent up for him to save time while he went back to get his kayak.. With four of us the tent was soon up, then Tamra decided Mark should get a proper 4 star treatment, so she collected some flowers (well daisies)  to decorate his sleeping bag, with a complementary sweet (fruit pastille ) by the side.

With that done Phil, Maxine, Paul and myself set off for the 1 mile walk to the nearest pub The Palmer Arms. Frank promised he would catch us up, and Tamra, John and Mark would come by car.

Food was excellent, some of us had the lamb…..

On the way back it was misty,  and had an interesting ‘discussion’ as to whether the illuminated building in the distance with spire and flagpole was Windsor Castle or  Egham college.

We passed a car parked in the middle of nowhere with a strange woman in it,  she had been there when we were on the way to the pub, and had been flashing her lights at a car on the other side of the common.

Day 3,  Boveney Lock to Hampton, 20.3mls, 6 locks, 2portages.

Quite an early start, as we has 20 miles to cover, on the water by 8:30.

Phil had promised the previous evening that he would get us coffee from Windsor leisure centre which was about 1 mile away,  but guess what….he missed it and we paddled on….

We went through Romney and Old Windsor locks and didn’t stop until Wraysbury NT tearooms,  but found there was a 20 minute wait to be served, so back to the boats and on to Wraysbury Pleasure Grounds cafe, it was 11:00.

While stopped we booked a table at The Bridge pub Chertsey for 12:30,  seemed plenty of time.
But at 12:30 we were only just entering  Penton Hook lock, due to it being very slow getting though Bell Weir lock and into Penton Hook. We realised how lucky we had been with the previous locks, as we never waited for more than a few minutes at any of them

So it was decided we had better sprint from Penton Hook to Chertsey and portage there to get to the pub for the revised time of 1:00. 

When we got to the pub it wasn’t busy, plenty of tables.

Finally on through familiar waters, portaging through Sunbury ( why don’t more locks have rollers) to arrive back at the club by 4:45.

Thanks to Frank for organising, and everyone for making it a great trip.

Participants:Frank Bench (trip leader)
Phil Tauwhare (deputy trip leader and lamb rescue)
Tamra Cave (Tent and hospitality expert)
Paul Scott ( beer consumer)
John Stafford (scribe)
John Freeman (Paddler AND cyclist)
Maxine Nelson ( assistant lamb rescue )
Mark Lewis (part timer, free beer supplier

 

Regatta, August 2019

Regatta, August 2019

It all started with perfect organisation, good weather and a fantastic group of people. Firstly…. to scare away fisherman and get all the participants and numerous kayaks, SUB’s and canoes over to the Hurst park bank. By 10 am we are split into three teams, Hampton, Westel and Molesey and the judges taking their positions on the bank.

 

Warm up exercises began with a little bit of May pole dancing with paddles, standing in a circle, paddles held in front of us vertically, we move stealthily left and right leaving the paddles in situ. Of course everyone was coordinated, worked as one and not a single paddle fell to the ground…honest!

Event one: team relay: get each team member from the start line to the judges stand point, turn the boat around and back to the start line to tag the next team member to go…..without paddles! 

A few capsizes, wonky manoeuvres and one team not finishing led us into the second event; get your team from point A to B as quickly as possible in a canoe. Two tactics available, do you make a few trips quickly or load everyone in your boat and hope you don’t sink? After a couple of submerged teams and sunken canoes a hasty finish ensued and with the re-floated canoes back on land it was a race to the finish line but one team found their canoe had been tied to another boat, an act of sabotage resulting in quick thinking – why waste time untying knots when you can just carry both boats and win.

Next fun with balls…. line up your kayaks side by side, each paddler has a tennis ball, player one has to throw their ball to their adjacent team mate who then throws their ball and the ball just thrown to them to the next team member until all nine balls end up with the last in the line who then has to throw them all back along the line so that each player has their ball back again by the end of the line, all while trying to stay afloat and not drift out of line and into passing rowers and ferry traffic. A crazy race followed where one tennis ball had to be passed to each player before crossing the finish line, I’m sure nobody would have cheated here!

To end the event a ball throwing frenzy from the judges left the three teams darting around collecting the balls from the water (and not a Labrador in sight when you need one)…the winner would be the team that collected the most balls, over 60 balls were counted in but how many were thrown out…. surely no one cheated here.

To round the day off back at the club house with boats dried and put away, not just a bbq but an amazing feast, all washed down with a compulsory slice of chocolate cake, good company and an amazing club.

Amanda Fisher

Doggy Paddle : July 14th, 2019

Doggy Paddle : July 14th, 2019

A number of the club headed up to Leamington Spa to do the Doggy Paddle in aid of the Guide Dogs for the Blind. An 18 mile paddle along a lovely stretch of river between Leamington Spa and Stratford Upon Avon. 

Brittany Holiday: June, 2019

Hampton Canoe Club in North Brittany June 2019

For decades, the club has been enjoying its summer holidays abroad, and in recent years our holidays have been in sea kayaks on the Mediterranean.  This was our first venture onto tidal waters, their currents and the ever-changing size of the beaches.

Our guide was Agnès of Planètekayak.fr, a friend of mine who has lots of local knowledge, a reassuring manner, excellent judgement of paddlers’ capabilities and – maybe as important – kayaks for hire.  About half of us paddled in boats we’d brought over on the ferry, the rest were Agnès’.  Several of the paddlers had significant sea kayaking expertise, and everyone had met minimum standards of skill and stamina.

We stayed in the pretty town of Lannion, which had a variety of restaurants and crèperies.  We started out the first evening with a briefing and supper with Agnès.  That set the pattern:  good food, good company and a different route to paddle each day, selected by Agnès each evening.   For the record, here’s where we actually went:

Jill, paddling with the group for the first time, recorded her impressions:

This was my first sea kayaking trip with the club. I have to say that two weeks before going I was wondering if I had made a terrible mistake. Amanda Maxine and Tamra all assured me that I would be OK. Before going I tried to paddle as much as possible to increase my stamina as I was sure it needed improvement, and by the time Amanda and I got the overnight Ferry I felt I needed a holiday and would have been happy never to see a kayak again.

We met up with the group after their first day paddling, and had the obligatory galette in the evening, one of many that week. We had a fairly early night in preparation for what I felt would be the ordeal ahead.

 

 How wrong could I be, I should have listened to the others. Tamra and I shared a double kayak and although I felt the first day challenging I was pleased with how we managed to keep up and I found I was enjoying the paddle. We went to the Sept Iles unfortunately it was misty but was still stunning. We saw seals, puffins, and on Bird Island hundreds of Gannets. I had been there before by boat but this was so much more enjoyable as in a kayak you can get so close to the wildlife. 14.3 miles that day, I am not sure I have done that distance before. My hard work before paid off as I was not as exhausted as I thought I would be.

 

All the days were very good with different scenery and different conditions. Lunch each day was great thanks to Tamra and John who did all the catering every day. I cannot believe how much I ate.

 

Our guide Agnes was so professional, she knew the area  well, was able to work out the tides and the winds and ensure that each day we had an enjoyable safe paddle. The tides can be very tricky in this area and she used them to our advantage. She made sure that Tamra and I were able to cope with the distance, the waves wind and tide. Each morning we had a briefing and at the end of the day a debrief.

 

The scenery was stunning the Rose granite coast is one of my favourite coast lines you could never be bored as the scenery changes constantly. The day I enjoyed the most was from Tregastel to Plouminarch it was the shortest paddle only 7 miles (may have been a factor in my decision) but it was my first experience of coping with waves which I loved as it made it more interesting.

I was a newcomer to this group, everyone made me feel very welcome the whole group looked after each other, I was never made to feel bad that the group may have to wait for me. I felt safe and supported I was given tips on my paddling technique which has helped. Agnes our group leader commented that we were a respectful group and she was right. It was a fun holiday, thanks to all who attended.

 

Maxine & Peter !

Maxine : summarises the trip and covers that roll!

When we stopped for lunch near the rock house at Le Gouffre we finally felt the sun strongly –  which means it’s good weather to try rolling. Maxine had agreed with Agnes that today she would try a ‘real’ roll – in a fully laden boat, in choppy ocean (and very few people knew about the agreement). On the way back from lunch Agnes gave Maxine the nod, near a rock [which wasn’t in the agreement] so that it would be even more real, and Maxine rolled and kept her glasses and hat. And it was all over before most people knew it had begun.

With only one and a bit days remaining, time was running out to see whether a double sea kayak could be rolled this year without any outside assistance. With Jonathan in place as safety boat, Maxine and Peter  decided that not only should they try to roll the double, they should try to do so with greenland paddles.  People looked up from packing up the boats to see how many attempts it would take … and it only took one…so Maxine and Peter quit while they were ahead. 

Saturday, Day 7 – Open crossing to, and around, Ile Tomé

On the first day Agnes told us that we would paddle between 9 and 13 miles, depending upon how we felt and how we paddled. We paddled the full 13 miles, which set the tone for the trip. By partway through the week we were ferry gliding across tide races to and from Ile de Brehat, and by the last day we caught a tide race back from Tome Island. We had pushed ourselves a bit and become comfortable in different environments. 

Cardboard Canoe Challenge : 2019

Cardboard Canoe Challenge : 2019

Another year another set of crazy cardboard creations. 

8 boats went out and amazingly all stayed afloat for a while ……

Annual Prize Giving 2019

Annual Prize Giving 2019

The annual celebration of club paddlers – fast, slow, wet, dry and more took place at the old Swan at Walton on 27th April. 

The list of prizes was as follows.

The list of prizes was as follows.Best newcomer : Jana – for organising lots of weekend paddles from the club

Best newcomer : Jana – for organising lots of weekend paddles from the club
Best Xmas lights – Robert & Lourette – for the K2 reindeer sleigh
Outstanding contribution – most challenging club job – Anne-Lise – for being rack manager and dealing with all the difficult stuff
Outstanding contribution – Dan Bownds – for organising many trips, canoe sessions and other skills training
Rupert magic carpenter – for restoring the club bench.
Kathy- for doing such a great job with the website.
Wildlife Warden of the Year: Derek, for going into the sea at the back of a Menorcan cave to rescue a sea bird
Travel Agent of the Year: Morten, for booking us into a sumptuous Danish mansion for our paddling weekend.
Amanda Gosport, “Best litter picker”, she managed to find a toilet in the river, and picked it up, yuk!
Jenny, “jelly babies Queen”. She always has a stash of jelly babies on hand on every trip.
Maxine Nelson, “club rock’. from a beginner to a level 1 coach and committee member – does so much for the club
Frank, materials science award for best cardboard boat 2018