Kayaking the Dart Loop and River Barle

Regents Canoe Club on Dart Loop October 2015

Dave Preece tackles two new rivers and Dulverton Jager Bombs

Having heard tales of a dry Scotland being recounted and the forecast rain never materialising, we set off on Friday evening more in hope than anticipation of paddling the River Barle and the River Exe in the beautiful surroundings of the Exmoor National Park. I arrived at the accommodation late (well after last orders) but found the traditional Regents Friday night social in full flow. A good few glasses of Merlot and some Babybel related shenanigans later it was time for bed.

Next morning we awoke to find that our prayers to the rain gods had not been answered and instead of the mighty Barle we were to take a short trip to paddle the Dart Loop. Following a trip to the Lower Tryweryn on the last Mile End Mill trip (10 T-rescues, no swims, 1 quiz question), it seemed like myself and Racheal finding ourselves on rivers harder than what we signed up for was fast becoming a tradition. Always good to push yourself I kept being reminded…

After the standard faffing including attaching some devil horns to my helmet for Halloween, we did some warm up ferry gliding it was time to set off. I really enjoyed the Dart Loop, with its good mix of features, wave trains and more mellow moments it was ideal for practicing the skills required for white water paddling. Helped by the expert leadership of Ian and Mel and possibly the low water levels, my paddling confidence increased and although nerves were aplenty this was the first time I was able to enjoy going down rapids at the time rather than after a few beers in the pub afterwards.

I was told that the river was at a good low level for beginners; however the flood debris high up on the banks served as a frequent reminder of the levels and power that this river is capable of. Aside from Racheal becoming a bit too closely acquainted with a fallen tree and a few minor swims, the river gods were feeling kind. After some food, drinks and a couple of stealth Jager Bombs the whole group agreed that we’d had a great time paddling such a beautiful and enjoyable river.

The following day after some well needed tea and toast we walked to the get on point of the River Barle, our adventure for the day. After the invention of a new word (Faffet, noun, someone who causes faff, a combination of faffer and muppet) we set off. The River Barle, I’m reliably told is a lovely paddle when there is some water. However the aforementioned lack of rain made it much more of a rocky affair. Undeterred we carried on with groups of paddlers frequently doing very good impressions of beached whales, desperately trying to dislodge themselves from rocks and find some water. There was however some entertaining weirs to run and a fun little play wave near the end which along with the beautiful surroundings and good company made the day worthwhile.

All in all it was a fantastic weekend and I loved every minute. My thanks must go to Ian for efficiently organising the weekend and also to all the group leaders who were fantastic as always. Cheers to everyone for a great weekend and I’ll see you all on a river soon!

Image credit: Craig’s dodgy Go-Pro