Sunset cruise

When I started my Broads canoeing project, it was always my aim to try various ways of avoiding the crowds in the summer. I could of course get up really early and savour the waterways before the holiday cruisers have their breakfasts. But a rather nice alternative is the sunset cruise. Hire craft have to be moored up by 8pm, which means there’s enough time to get a paddle in as the sun goes down, and I always think there’s something rather magical about watching the sun set while you’re on the water. You do of course need to be prepared to paddle as the light is fading, and to be equipped with a navigation light to ensure you’re visible to any non-hire craft that may still be about.

I had a trial run last week, starting from a very nice pub called the Rushcutters Arms at Thorpe Green, on the outskirts of Norwich. The plan was to set off just after 6pm, paddle upstream along the River Yare, and then onto the Wensum into the middle of Norwich. I’d allowed two hours to get up to the sluice at New Mills, and an hour and a half back, a total of 7.5 miles. I guess my paddling companion Amy wasn’t quite prepared for the return journey, as she told me her boyfriend was on standby to pick us up at New Mills. But the idea was to get the return journey through Norwich as the sun was setting.

Having done the trip from New Mills to Thorpe Green last December, it was interesting to see how different everything looked going the other way. Nowhere was that more apparent than as we approached Carrow Bridge. Every major road into Norwich has a sign saying “Welcome to Norwich – a fine city”. Hundreds of years ago, the River Wensum was the major route in and out of the city, so it was rather nice to see a sign on the side of the bridge to welcome waterborne visitors.

There are 12 bridges over the Wensum between its confluence with the Yare and New Mills, and they vary from the ultra-modern footbridges like the Lady Julian and Peter’s bridges, to the medieval Bishop’s Bridge, and my favourite, the cast iron St. Miles Coslany Bridge, built in 1804. But apart from seeing just how many pigeons nest underneath them, you do get a completely different perspective on these historic structures when you see them from the water.

With the sun setting just after 9pm, we did the final half hour with the light failing, but it was rather lovely to see the Yare totally deserted. We made it back in to the Rushcutters within 10 minutes of my estimate for the trip, with time in hand to order a meal as well as a beer! It did highlight a minor problem with the improvised mounting for my navigation light, but that’s something I’ll hope to have cracked before the next trip!

The kit
Canoe: Sevylor Colorado Premium
Personal Flotation Device: Palm Taupo
Satnav: Satmap Active 10 plus Broads 1:25,000 scale map
Accessories: Riber throw line (used with karabiner for mooring), dry bag, PFD

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