Paddling the Suffolk / Essex border

Last week saw me on another paddling assignment for Anglia Afloat magazine, this time on the River Stour, which for much of its length forms the Suffolk / Essex border. I’d been wanting to go for a while, but was prevented by lack of available co-paddlers. The Stour has a number of portage points to provide paddlers with safe passage around locks and weirs, and while my inflatable kayak is very portable in its packed state, lifting it in and out of the water is about all I can manage when it’s operational. Now I have an ingenious canoe trolley called a C-Tug to enable me to walk my kayak around obstacles. With wheels, axle, support pads and straps all clipping together in under a minute, portages are now no longer a problem.

I set off from Rushbanks Farm camp site near Nayland, heading upstream towards Bures. Just over 300 years ago, the river was one of the first in the country to be “improved” in order to make it open to navigation as far upstream as Sudbury. At times I had barely enough clearance for my kayak, both in width and depth, making it hard to imagine that barges once frequented these waters.

But it was incredibly beautiful. Where the river opened out more, sometimes the plantlife in the water was so abundant it was like paddling across a meadow. The air was alive with translucent blue damselflies and larger dragonflies darting about from one plant to another. I negotiated the portage at Wormingford Mill, carrying on upstream as far as Bures Mill. At times, the water was so shallow I had to have several goes at finding the right point to continue, particularly as the water was running quicker over the gravelly bottom. Coming back was a lot easier – not exactly shooting the rapids, but the kayak does tend to cope with a really shallow draught more easily when it’s going with the current.

It was just a short 7.5 miles round trip taster, but it was enough to inspire me to make a few return visits to explore the river further.

The kit
Kayak: Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame
Personal Flotation Device: Palm Taupo
Accessories: Riber throw line (used with karabiner for mooring), dry bag, PFD

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