Posts Tagged ‘paddling’

Afloat on the Broads

Monday, May 27th, 2019

Earlier this month saw me taking my first paddle on the Broads in a long time. It was something of a trial run to see how I would cope with reflected glare after my third bout of eye surgery the previous week. The staithe at Barton Turf is an easy launching point, and a short paddle along a channel brings you out into the northern end of Barton Broad, one of my favourite paddling locations. Nelson’s sister lived in nearby Barton Hall, and he used to sail on the broad whenever he came to visit. Legend has it he lost a chain and locket in the water here.

The plan was to paddle south down the broad, and then continue along the River Ant until I felt it was time to turn round and start back. I was amazingly lucky to see not just one but two grand old ladies of the Broads. Under sail on Barton Broad was the historic trading wherry Albion (built in 1898), which I’ve been fortunate enough to sail on twice. Down the river at How Hill I found the pleasure wherry Hathor (built in 1905 for the Colman mustard family). I didn’t tie up here, but I’ve been on board before, and the Egyptian-themed interiors are quite remarkable.

How Hill was as far as I got, and by the time I emerged onto the southern end of Barton Broad for the final leg of the return journey, the breeze had got up. While inflatable kayaks are great for their portability, and stability afloat, the fact that they’re on average half the weight and twice the surface area of a comparable hard-shell does make them more susceptible to wind. I was being blown off-course so much, it was actually easier to retrace the track on my GPS watch rather than navigate by line of sight. Even so, a most enjoyable round trip of just under six miles.

Click here for my Kindle guide to the Broads: “The Broads – A unique National Park

Paddling into the New Year

Friday, January 8th, 2016

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!

Let your Yare be yeah…

Sunday, January 12th, 2014

My first paddle of 2014 turned out to be the kayak trip down the River Yare I’d been planning for over a month. Planning, because I wanted to be able to leave Norwich at or soon after high tide, which had to be at a point in the morning to enable me to do the 14.5 miles from Norwich to Cantley in daylight hours. Places to launch a kayak or canoe in Norwich are fairly limited, and some involve quite a long drop at anything other than high tide – besides, I wanted the water moving in my direction. And I wanted the wind coming more or less from the west, as I knew that too would be a factor on the lower stretch of the river. When those factors all came together, I was even given the added bonus of sunshine!

Paddling down the Wensum through Norwich city centre is always interesting. I enjoy seeing the familiar places from unfamiliar angles, and kayaks on the water here are scarce enough for you to catch people doing double-takes as they spot you floating by. And I think the Wensum’s various bridges, which date from the 14th to the 21st centuries, look so much better from the water.

I found quite a few sporty rowing types out on the Yare near Whitlingham. Everything from single-seater jobs all the way up to eights with a chap shouting words of encouragement from a following motor boat. I never could see the attraction of rowing, only ever getting to see where you’ve been. I like to see where I’m going!

My final bridge – the last road crossing of the Yare between Norwich and Great Yarmouth – was impressive. The Postwick (pronounced locally as “Pozick”) Viaduct carries the A47 southern bypass around Norwich. When you’re driving along it, you’re merely aware that you’re above the surrounding countryside. From the water, it’s quite an imposing sight, with the bridge spanning not just the river but the entire valley.

A little further on I encountered a chap paddling a sit-on-top kayak, so we stopped and chatted for a few minutes. He mentioned he’d launched from Postwick Wharf a little downstream, where boss of local canoe holiday operator TheCanoeMan Mark Wilkinson was fishing. Having recently interviewed Mark over the phone for my paddling feature in the January 2014 issue of Anglia Afloat magazine, this seemed rather a strange coincidence. So we too had a chat when I arrived there.

Brundall was more or less halfway. With two possible take-out points close to railway stops, this would be my escape route if I found it too hard going. But so far I was doing well.

The river widens out further downstream, and with less tree cover on the banks, the wind was a bit more difficult when it wasn’t directly behind me, and in any event it was putting a bit more of a chop on the water. My first sight of steam rising from the sugar refinery at Cantley came when I still had five miles to go. Talk about tantalising – there was even a moment as I got closer where it seemed I’d overshot, down to the twists and turns of the river, of course.

I was getting pretty tired by the time I pulled in to tie up at the Reedcutter Inn, next door to the sugar refinery at Cantley. Four and a half hours paddling time, and 15 minutes of stops, so I’d managed to average well over 3 mph down a very nearly deserted river. Appropriately enough, the beer I had here was called Endeavour!

The kit
Kayak: Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame
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

Amazon Kindle book: “The Broads – A unique National Park”. Everything you want to know about the history, wildlife and landscape of the Broads, along with a guide to places you can visit.