Ruth spews her thoughts on another fine weekend
After a tricky trip to the lakes involving rush hour at Euston, luckily not with a kayak, and checking that Boaty II was securely attached on a grade 6 motorway (or perhaps the M6 Motorway, or both) I arrived at the wonderful Hyning Estate with no energy and a strong desire to bimble.
The last time I got on the river was the Dart loop when Mark used his wooly hat as an impromptu cod piece, I was leading (even though I’d swam on the lower) and my newbie went right in off the slaps.
Better luck this time? Yes.
The Crake is beautiful in Swallows and Amazons country form idyllic Coniston, source to sea. It begins at grade 1 gently sliding through overhanging trees like a mangrove swamp but chillier. It glides past chocolate box hillsides and deceased canoes. Did you see that Hugh?
Andrew read his notes from the last time: Rekha had flowed down the grade III rapid blind after approximately 7 weirs! To begin with all the action is in front of us, Hugh is stuck on the first rapid and Caroline crashes into Jane who is pinned on a tree.
Then the action arrives with us, I lead Andrew down a braid with only a limited way out but signal to the others to try the other way. It’s quite disconcerting because Andrew has a cold that makes the river seem a bit like a TB ward. Then we are at the Rekah rapid. Andrew goes down the “entry” rapid and under the bridge, I follow but take the other side of the bridge which is low. My paddle gets stuck in the bridge and I go over. I try to roll but the sweep gets rocked. But I remember the swim on the lower Dart, I think – I’m probably in the bridge eddy I’ll ask for a T-rescue. I take the T-rescue. Thanks Andrew. Andrew thinks I’ve lost my paddle but I’ve hung on and that is lucky because I’m not in the eddy I’m in the flow. I’m over again but this time I roll. Now I’m going backwards down the feature but at last I’m at the bottom. Stella leading Ruth – that’s the way to do it. Stylish.
It is flat from thereon in and Claw and I paddle out of the mouth of the river. The sun is shining and I feel lucky to be alive, especially as I know there are chips to be scavenged at the get off.
In other news Ben “Mr Safety” has decided it is worth taking his splits with him after needing them on the Upper Upper Barle – that’s a good decision as when he is on the river his paddle literally comes apart in his hands.
I get set into drinking back at the accommodation, decide it’s a good idea to insist on trying out my rusty language skills on French Johann. This went quite well but I’m sure he said to me that he was quite a dominant person… perhaps that got lost in translation? Something else that seems to have got lost in translation is the sandwiches order. Marmite peanut butter. Not Marmite and peanut butter. Marmite peanut butter. Did someone put McPhee in charge of the Asda order? Was that wise?
What next? Chasing the water – that’s what, up to the Tees to do a new section. Ben is giving me Elise and Claw a “crash” course in leadership. Is that wise? Boaty II doesn’t want to crash and neither do I.
It is cold but the dark rock formations are beautiful, there are ducks, herons, what is probably a cormorant but might be a shag (I find it difficult to tell the difference – don’t laugh it’s not funny) and some ponies that no one really notices I go totally crazy over. It’s normal to shout “horse horse horse” as you go down the rapid? It’s not?
Ben is like a cross between a little kayak angel on my shoulder and my Land Law tutor from Cambridge. Can you see the line? Do you know that there aren’t any trees in the rapid? Do you know there aren’t any nasty rocks? I’d be surprised. Do you know? Er? Do you know? No. Let’s get out. Can you make the see the eddy? Er maybe. Can you make the eddy? Can I make the eddy? Can I? Probably, but now you are asking maybe I can’t. That looks like quite a substantial ferry glide. Let’s send Kryzstoff down as a probe. What’s your authority? Tulk v Moxhay (1848) 41 ER 1143 – restrictive covenants run with the land.
When I explain this to Ben it turns out that he has a PhD in some kind of chemistry I don’t really understand – clever. So I can call him Dr Safety without causing offence. Doesn’t he understand that I put the offence into charm offensive?
Using your historical brain what’s that? It’s an Abbey. So we are probably at Abbey rapids. It’s not rocket science. At least I hope it isn’t. I’m allergic to physics – but something I have never understood is why the rocket scientist did not impress Shania Twain much. Why not? But I digress. Do you feel confident leading me down the rapid? Yes. Actually, no but we will gloss over that. Swoosh, splash, nailed it.
Then there is something I’ve never seen before. The river is reefed. Half of it drops like a natural weir off a shallow cliff, but half of it keeps going and there are play wave on the part that hasn’t dropped. Have a go on that Kryzstoff, but he doesn’t fancy being dumped off the reef/weir feature into the tow back.
It’s back to the accommodation for some excellent apple pie, I can’t remember feeling so happy (spoiler actually in the Alps). Articulate gets real. Caroline is recorded at 89 decibels calling time. Theo is on the right wave length. My clue – not Norway. Sweden obviously. Well done Theo. Good game.
So it’s day three and the logistics are more complex than Brexit. There are two rivers. The Leven and the Kent. There are circa 30 paddlers. All paddlers cannot go to the same river. Parking space is limited. There are some numbers of cars. Each car holds 3 passengers. Some cars hold up to 4 boats. 3 cars are not going to London. There is a van. The van hold an infinite amount of boats. The van keys are lost. Who should do which river? You will do the Kent.
Gnar isn’t helping tho. Andrew’s bought a new boat. Obviously. That isn’t really helping either. Andrew’s gone the whole 9R this time. Gnar is day dreaming out of the window [at a blue boat on a red car]. That’s a beautiful colour boat you’ve got Andrew. So blue. So pretty. That’s your 9R Gnar. That boat is yours. The one you’ve been paddling yesterday and the day before. What a lovely boat. Love. Don’t tell April.
Gnar’s dreaming does not last long as Andrew and Claw pie him like a clown in an orange Typhoon on the river side. Andrew asks me to please protect his paddle from retribution as he does the shuttle.
Oh no. Hugh the Canoe’s boat is damaged. He was on the Leven yesterday and went down a weir. The kayakers said it was fine so Hugh didn’t look at it and ran it. But we are kayakers – what is a canoe even for?
It’s a crack team down then Kent which we do in about 45 minutes. There are beautiful wag tails, and the level is good. I roll every feature. There are salmon trying to hop up Force Falls. Good luck. There are those weir inflatable canoes going down it. Some have two people in. Watch out salmon.
The group above are having fun. Andrew’s doing his Maradona impression with Jane and then he’s getting out to video the big drop. And probably committing an offence under the Fisheries Act. Don’t enter those salmon steps. Don’t slip over. Don’t fall over again. That looks painful. Simon, why didn’t you film that?
It’s also worth mentioning in dispatches that Jane and Octave did their first white water rolls this trip – well done. And the van keys were found.
Can’t wait for my next lakes trip. Thanks to all those who organised, drove and were willing to put up with my unreasonably aggressive manner of playing articulate.