Paddling into the New Year

The end of 2015 and beginning of 2016 saw me out in my two-seater inflatable kayak twice within four days, both trips with my co-paddler Amy Woodyatt. The first was in some spectacularly un-December-like weather, starting on the outskirts of Norwich at the Rushcutters Arms on Thorpe Green, and paddling up the rivers Yare and Wensum into the city centre. I’ve done this trip a few times now, and I really like the fact that it’s totally different from my more common sorties out in the Broads. Once you get within the confines of the city, you have the proximity of buildings, and indeed the occasional interaction with people on the river bank. I also like the floating history lesson – you get to pass beneath several hundred years-worth of bridges crossing the River Wensum, from the medieval Bishops Bridge to Peter Jarrold’s Bridge, an ultra-modern pedestrian /¬†cycleway which sweeps across the river in a curve with very little apparent in the way of support.

At the head of navigation is New Mills, where water comes gushing through sluices, providing the only white water in Norwich. It provided some amusement for a few moments as we had several goes at nosing into the turbulent waters, then allowing the kayak to be spat out of the mini-maelstrom. Our average paddling speed is usually around 2.5 mph, but for the first couple of hundred yards downstream from here, the current can whizz you along so quickly you get to break the 4 mph speed limit!

Our second excursion of the week was on New Year’s Day, launching from Catfield Dyke, paddling across Hickling Broad, along Deep Go Dyke and halfway through Heigham Sound before turning back. Not surprisingly, Europe’s largest wetland nature reserve was deserted. During the winter, the southern end of the broad is home to wintering wildfowl, so we stuck to the main navigation channel rather than meandering around the reedbeds and disturbing them. Paddling back across Hickling Broad, the wind decided to pick up, fortunately behind us. Just as we had with our journey back down the Wensum, it’s always nice when you get that extra helping hand!

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