Arun, Sussex 19.2 miles from Black Rabbit upstream and back.
The key to paddling this lovely river is the tide. Obvious, really, but critical too: you can’t fight it, but go with it and you’ll make 4 knots.
Four of us, Sarah, Mark, Paul and Stephen, launched at Black Rabbit, just above Arundel.
Tide: We left the river bank 1 hr 15’ before HW at Arundel, going north (upstream) with a strong flow. We had no certain destination, but knew that we would make Amberley, where there is a riverside teashop.
The Arun changes character from mile to mile, narrow and enclosing, with forested chalk downs, wider as it crosses flat, open pasture. It twists and turns so a head wind can become a tail wind. There are few landing spots. We found a flat bank to haul up near high water. Before Amberley there is only a small landing spot at the village of Bury, but it’s easily missed.
2.5 hours after launching, with Pulborough 3 or four miles ahead of us, we turned round. We could have gone on with the remnants of the tide, but there was now little to stop us paddling against it. After 20 minutes or so we stopped at the riverside tearooms at Amberley, welcoming us with a sign: ‘move your gear off our stage or it will be returned to the water’. Hmm.
Near to the end of the trip we took a left-hand loop to add another mile or so, popping out on the main river just short of our starting point at Black Rabbit, both a place and the name of a waterside pub, once a favourite with Victorian boaters and with good parking.
Getting in and out: Earlier in the day we had put in at a muddy bank a few paces south of the pub car park – a difficult entry with barely room for a K1 to lie alongside. On our return, with a falling tide our put in point was now a long haul up a steep bank. Instead we landed at the pub steps, now no longer maintained but still usable with care. With around 45 minutes of stops we’d paddled 19.2 miles in 5hrs 15’. That’s an an average speed of 4.2 mph, or 3.5 knots. Go, man go!
Travel: We launched at 12.45 on a Saturday and with Saturday morning traffic it took 1.30’ to reach Arundel, with a quick stop to pick up pies from the market there. But as it’s a there and back paddle, there’s no car shuttling. And there’s always the railway that follows the river with stops en route.