Dan, Norma, Phil and I met at Bell Hill at 9am. Christine, who as agreed, arrived slightly later, looking all refreshed after her previous evening exertions doing Scottish Dancing.
Emily was running the 2 star course this weekend and had reserved a number of kayaks and all of the canoes. I have only had experience of the Tercel but this was the boat of choice amongst the 2 star people. So I plumped for a Cirrus as an alternative.
All our chosen boats were laden by 9:30am for the short drive down the A3 to Guildford. As we set off, the plucky 2 star people were beginning to assemble. Peter and Richard arriving back from a quick paddle on the Thames, before the start, as if the two day course is not tiring enough.
We met up with Dave, who had brought his own boat, at the launch point, just outside the Rowbarge pub, upstream of Stoke Lock. The weather was being exceptional for an early spring day. With bright blue sky, a warming sun and only a breath of air. The Wey had a small but noticeable flow. In contrast to the last few months where red hazard boards have been in force. The Wey is now fully open for the first time this year.
Today the conditions could not have been more perfect for the leisurely paddle to Godalming. All boats from the party were on the water promptly for the upstream paddle towards Guildford centre. Norma and Phil were sharing the big orange K2, Dan in a Hobby and Christine in her tried and trusted boat. My Cirrus was proving to be a tight fit for my feet, due to my clumsy training shoes. Making the steering difficult and resulting in me zigzagging from one river bank to the other.
A number of other Kayaks from Wey Kayak Club were also out on the river. A lot of youngsters were being coached in technique, while others were having a race. One of the coaches enquired on the well being of Val and Clive. I reported that I had been out on the Wey with them, the previous weekend and that they were both very well and pleased to be back on the water after the prolonged floods. I’m sorry I did not ask for the name of the coach but he said that he and Clive use to race together.
At Millmead, the first of the four locks. I was glad to get out and adjust my seat position. I also decided to take off my trainers and paddle in socks only. This did make a difference but it took further adjustments of the seat at each portage to finally find an ideal paddling position. We arrived at St. Catherines Lock approximately one hour after launch. Phil informed me, that this was the midpoint of the Hare & Hounds race. He and Adam in the previous autumn had posted a very respectful time of 65 minutes. The more serious racers, taking only forty minutes to complete the return trip. So it is safe to describe our initial speed as sedate.
With the sun shining down we continued upstream to Godalming for our lunch stop at Hectors Tea Rooms, Cattershall Lock. Here Dave and Norma took our orders for cheese Panini’s. Whilst the remainder of us continued on slightly further upstream to the Limit of Navigation. Phil exchanged the K2 for the use of Dave’s boat. Which he found was both smooth and comfortable. We made it back for lunch promptly at 1pm. Waiting to meet us at the Boat House was Norma’s sister Carole, who was joining us for lunch.
The rest break was very pleasant, the food delicious and nutritious. Discussions over lunch included the upcoming summer kayaking trip to Germany and theories for the disappearance of the Malaysian airliner.
For the return leg we had the stream in our favour but a slight cross breeze had developed. Even so the pace was quicker with the boats becoming more spread out. I had eventually got a good seating position sorted and was concentrating less on not falling out and more on the surrounding countryside. This was the first time I had paddled this stretch of the River Wey Navigation. On this fine day it was stunning and a pleasure to paddle on.
I was pleasantly surprised by the quietness of the river, with regard to the small number of barges and leisure craft. Especially when compared to a sunny day on the Thames. However around Guildford, some barges appeared, passing through the lock. I wrongly decided to try and overtake a barge, on the outside of a blind bend. As I could not see the oncoming traffic I stayed close to the barge but as the barge turned around the bend in straight lines, his rear end side swiped me and I was gently bounced off the side of the barge!
Turning to offer my apologies I then had to make a hurried course adjustment to stay well clear of a weir, one of only a few hazards on the whole of this journey. I put the experience down to some vital lessons learned and made a note, not to make the same mistakes again. (lesson here – in constricted waters always talk to the skipper of a long boat to ensure they are aware of your intentions – they will usually pull over to help you get by – Ed)
Back at Guilford Town Wharf, crowds of people had gathered to make the most of the bright spring day and lovely surroundings. A short distance further on, we finally reached, for me the best sight of all. This is when we complete the final bend and see the finish line and the sense of achievement this brings. The return trip of 12.2 miles, if you include the extra section to Godalming Wharf, took exactly 4 hours. Resulting in an average speed of 3 miles per hour (not sure that this should be reported in knots). With a top speed recorded at 8.6kmph for the final kilometre.
Portaging at MIllmead, Dave with kayak, Stuart faffing with his footrest, Dan behind
Heading upstream from Millmead lock, Dan, Stuart and Dave
Dave Kew powers onwards in his snazzy Lance K1
Long boats moored at Farncombe by Catteshall lock and Hectors tearooms