Arun Canal 4 miles 18 April
Dan, Sarah and Stephen took to the water at Loxwood in Sussex, by the Wey and Arun Canal Trust building from where narrow boat trips explore the ‘Loxwood Link’ in both directions. Next door is the Onslow Arms. There is lots of parking and a put in for kayaks, a grassy bank and bench for a picnic lunch.
We began by heading south (actually east, but towards the sea), paddling along to Brewhurst Lock and shortly after that Baldwin’s Knob Lock. Now, call me picky, but if you’re offered a way into the water then it’s probably fair to expect a way out. Nope. But what fun trying to get in and out at these two locks: Sarah’s technique refined by watching otters play on the riverbank; Dan’s by rock climbing; mine by getting Dan and Sarah to lower me in and haul me out. And the banks were dry.
Anyway, onwards and over the little Drungewick Aquaduct and to the Drungewick Lock.
‘Dan, is there water the other side?’.
Well there was water, but only another 50 yards of it.
‘Well, you didn’t ask how long it was’.
At his point, after about 1.5 miles, the canal fizzles out in a little lake and a muddy ditch. We hauled our boats back beyond Drungewick Lock and retraced our route back to and past our starting point, and through Loxwood Lock and adjacent Horse Bridge. Both are new, and both are gorgeous. Beyond them there is another half mile of water that Dan and Sarah paddled while I did nothing.
In all, this restored stretch of the cut adds up to around 4 miles. More than that, to think that in 1970 it was a muddy ditch is barely credible and truly humbling. And it’s a joy to paddle.
River Arun, Pulborough and 5 miles upstream. 19 April
Dan, Sarah and Stephen joined the Wey and Arun Canal Trust Rally to explore the upstream reaches of the River Arun. Launching at the Sussex town of Pulborough, we took to the river against the flow, 3.5hrs before HW by an ancient three arch bridge. (If you are going to attempt this upstream paddle, then local knowledge says launch 2.5 to 3 hours before HW at Pulborough – we were keen to go.)
The rally is open to all boats, and we left with half a dozen white water kayaks and a motor boat with a hacksaw. Later, we’d meet canoes, inflatables and a dinghy. Our touring kayaks cut a dash, and cut beautifully through the contraflow along a wide and open river surrounded by fields and under the lovely bridge at Stopham where other boats were readying for launch. After Stopham the river was straight and wide for a mile or more and soon the wake of playboats was but a distant memory as we tore along.
At some point, maybe after 2 miles, the river narrowed and willow branches, logs and reeds and sharp bends slowed our progress. The paddles were more effective on muddy bank than in water. Here and there we battled against the stream, and twice got out of our boats to carry them over fast-flowing shallows. A canoe caught up, but where was the man with the hacksaw?
More good but narrow water through lovely countryside and we were alone once more. Half an hour before HW and the flow up here was easing but still enough to keep both hands on the paddle. Another chicane or two, a duck of the head under overhanging branches and a tree trunk lay across the river. With no way of portering and the water several feet deep it was time to turn around, at 5.2 miles.
Our return with the tide in deeper water was a joy, no carrying and a fine flow through the upper reaches. Lower down the wider river was a haul once more and so, if you are going to do this trip, remember you’ll need strength to get back to the start. We completed 10.5 miles in around four hours. There was a stiff breeze but we were mostly sheltered and the day was fine. It’s a beautiful river.
HW Pulborough is HW Dover +3.50.
Flood is 4 hours, ebb is 8hrs.