The Canoe-Camper Autumn 2016
issue no 307
The Call of the wild MICHAEL RITTIG
T H E C A N O E C A M P I N G CLU B PRESIDENT: Jo Ledger
VICE PRESIDENTS: Dek Davie, Fred Hutt
EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE MEMBERS CHAIRMAN, NATIONAL COUNCIL ADVISORY OFFICER Dave Henderson, Clover Cottage, Sheldon, Bakewell, DE45 1QS Email: Chairman@canoecampingclub.co.uk VICE CHAIRMAN, NATIONAL COUNCIL REPRESENTATIVE Tim Wheeler, 3 Birch Close, Sprotborough, Doncaster, DN5 7RE Tel:01302 645427 Tel: 01246 827202 Email: email@example.com GENERAL SECRETARY/MEMBERSHIP SECRETARY (SITES OFFICER/WEBMASTER)/CHERTSEY CANOE SHEDS Fran Faulkner, 23 Somerville Road, Eton, Windsor, SL4 6PB Tel: 01753 850122 Email: Secretary@canoecampingclub.co.uk HONORARY TREASURER Brian Hamer, 16 Teal Avenue, Poynton, Stockport, Cheshire,SK12 1JT Tel: 01625 879504 Email: Treasurer@canoecampingclub.co.uk 5TH EXEC MEMBER & ACCESS OFFICER / REPRESENTATIVE TO THE SPORT & RECREATION ALLIANCE Kevin East, 7 Silesian Gardens, Chertsey, Surrey, KT16 8SG Tel: 01932 562111 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org/Access@canoecampingclub.co.uk MAGAZINE EDITOR Josie Faulkner, Flat J Venita Manor, 317 Leigham Court Road, SW16 2RX Tel: 07939244318 Email: email@example.com
COMMITTEE MEMBERS DEE & NORTH WEST COORDINATOR Brian Hamer, 16 Teal Avenue, Poynton, Stockport, Cheshire,SK12 1JT Tel: 01625 879504 Email: DeeNW@canoecampingclub.co.uk HERTS & EAST ANGLIA COORDINATOR Pete Bradshaw, 53 Hillingdon Avenue, Sevenoaks, TN13 3RB Email: HertsEA@canoecampingclub.co.uk MIDLANDS COORDINATOR Simon Beeston 11 Elston Hall Lane, Bushbury, Wolverhampton, WV10 9HE Tel: 01902 653430 Email: Midlands@canoecampingclub.co.uk THAMES & SOUTH EAST COORDINATOR Robin Hickman, 32 Shepherds Way, Roffey, Horsham, W Sussex, RH12 4LS Tel: 01403 267244 Email: Thames@canoecampingclub.co.uk WEST COUNTRY COORDINATOR Paul Whitehead 17 Whitley Crescent, Bicester, OX26 4XR Tel: 07739 840828 Email: Westcountry@canoecampingclub.co.uk CAMPING & CARAVANNING CLUB NATIONAL ADVISER Phil Henson ARCHIVIST Janet Hales, 9 Strode Street, Egham, Surrey, TW20 9PT Tel: 01784 432 517 CANOE-CAMPING CLUB LIBRARY CURRENTLY WITH THAMES & SOUTH EAST
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RUNS TILL THE END OF THE YEAR 6 Nov JUBILEE RIVER Thames & SE 12 Nov RIVER IVEL Herts & EA 13 Nov RIVER DOUGLAS Dee & NW 27 Nov BASINGSTOKE CANAL Thames & SE 11 Dec RIVER WEY Thames & SE 11 Dec RIVER CHERWELL West Country 11 Dec BRIDGWATER CANAL Dee & NW 26 Dec RIVER DERWENT – Matlock Raft Race Midlands
THE CANOE-CAMPING CLUB - The club for canoeists who camp and campers who canoe We are an active Section of The Camping and Caravanning Club, Greenfields House, Westwood Way, Coventry, CV4 8JH FOR MEMBERSHIP ENQUIRIES PLEASE CONTACT THE SECRETARY Fran Faulkner firstname.lastname@example.org The Canoe-Camping Club organises local day trips and weekend meets throughout the year, as well as longer holiday meets. You’ll find outline details of the events for the year here. Some events such as the Easter Meet and the annual Families’ Holiday Meet are attended by members from all over the country. Members are welcomed on all meets. (Some of the more advanced trips may be restricted to experienced paddlers). This programme is an outline of proposed events for the calendar year 2016. Further details will be made available when events have been finalised in the quarterly magazine, the Canoe-Camper, distributed to members, via the website www. canoecampingclub.co.uk and via the ‘Pitch and Paddle’ Facebook group. Camping and Caravanning Club membership cards must be shown at all meets. Canoe-camping Club members should keep the Secretary informed whether they are current members of British Canoeing, Canoe Wales, The Scottish Canoe Association or the Canoe Association of Northern Ireland.
For information please contact: Dee & North West Brian Hamer, 7 Glastonbury Drive, Poynton, Stockport SK12 1EN DeeNW@canoecampingclub.co.uk Herts & East Anglia Pete Bradshaw, 4 Thirlmere Court, Felixstowe, IP11 9SN Herstea@canoecampingclub.co.uk Midlands Simon Beeston, 11 Elston Hall Lane, Wolverhampton, WV10 9HE Midlands@canoecampingclub.co.uk Thames & South East Robin Hickman, 32 Shepherds Way, Roffey, Horsham, West Sussex RH12 4LS Thames@canoecampingclub.co.uk West Country Paul Whitehead, 17 Whitley Crescent, Bicester, OX26 4XR Westcountry@canoecampingclub.co.uk
As the weather starts to change there is still plenty of paddling to be done (maybe wishful thinking). A group of us conquered the Shiel circuit in Scotland – one of the best canoe camping trips I have done. On one section however, we experienced a strong head wind, tide against us and the onset of total exhaustion. It was a reminder that what we all do comes with risk. We were successful largely because of the training and experience we had done in previous years. Training does not need to be a formal class - far from it. Just remember the time when the wind changed direction and it was a slog to get to the end that is training. You experienced what it felt like and more importantly that you made it.
S ‘ R O T I D E
C H A I R M A N ‘ S
Wow, what a summer! Personally I didn’t get a chance to get out on the water, but I was certainly jealous when I arrived at Green Man Festival in the Brecon Beacons to see a load of canoeists paddle straight through the campsite! However, I been vicariously paddling through my Grandad, who is new to the club and has deﬁnitely caught the bug at the age of 81 — so much so I’ve just heard he’s bought himself a kayak! He ﬁrst had a go at this year’s National Families meet at Hereford, and I am so grateful for the kindness and enthusiasm members have shown him. It was also a delight to show him exactly what we get up to after hearing all the stories over the years at Christmas dinner. In this Autumn issue, you’ll ﬁnd Tim Watson’s adventures on Loch Shiel and Michael Rittig’s jaunt in Scotland on Loch Tay. There’s also more wild water racing shenanigans from Susan Templeton. A huge thanks go to those who have contributed to The Canoe-Camper, and as always I look forward to more submissions for Winter! Wrap-up warm, and take those hot water bottles with you if you’re brave enough to still go camping towards year’s end. I wish you all a Merry Christmas and see you in 2017! Thanks Josie Faulkner (Editor)
As the winter approaches there is still opportunities to canoe and camp but we just need to think of what kit we need and draw on all those wonderful experiences we have gained. Enjoy!
Dave Henderson (AKA Welsh Dave)
IN THIS ISSUE... 1. IN PHTOTOS THE CALL OF THE WILD MICHAEL RITTIG 2. CONTACTS 3. LAST RUNS OF THE YEAR 4. EDITORâ€™S & CHAIRMANS LETTER JOSIE FAULKNER & DAVE HENDERSON
8.THEY CAME, THEY PADDLED, THEY CONQUERED SUSAN TEMPLETON
6. ACCESS NOTES KEVIN EAST
10. DEAR EDITOR GORDON ELLIS 11. THE CALL OF THE WILD MICHAEL RITTIG 19. LOCH SHIEL PT.1 TIM WATSON 26. CLASSIFIEDS
Please send all contributions for the Winter 2016 issue no. 308 to the editor by 5th January 2017. Email or hard copy acceptable. Please do not edit or convert photos other than by cropping and keep them separate from the text. Front Cover - Loch Shiel Campfire - Tim Watson Visit the Canoe Camping Club Website at : www.canoecampingclub.co.uk The Canoe Camping Club is a section of the Camping and Caravanning Club (company limited by guarantee) Greenfields House, Westwood Way, Coventry, CV4 8JH T: 0845 130 7631 or 024 7647 5448 *** Printed by: The Printhouse, Hove, BN3 2FB
BY KEVIN EAST ACCESS OFFICER
Sport & Recreation Alliance, Re- opening of Bow Backwaters in the Olympic Park and Port of London Consultation - Paddlesport Guidance
SPORT & RECREATION ALLIANCE The AGM was attended in July and I will have attended the joint Water Recreation and Outdoor Pursuits Divisions meeting 12 October where the agenda includes a presentation by the RYA, and the Alliances Strategic Plan 2017-2021.
RE- OPENING OF BOW BACKWATERS IN THE OLYMPIC PARK Arrangements were made for a party of CCC members to participate in an inaugural paddle around the Bow Backwaters and up the River Lee towards the Hackney Marshes. The paddle was facilitated by the Canal & River Trust, IWA and Olympic Park waterways. You may have seen a full account of the paddle in Canoe Focus.
PORT OF LONDON CONSULTATION PADDLESPORT GUIDANCE During October the PLA will publish the above for consultation that will replace the guidance currently posted on www.boatingonthethames. co.uk. The draft document details the navigation patterns for paddling on the Tideway and is largely based on the Rowing Code. 6
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ACCESS NOTES CONTINUED
CHERTSEY CAMPSITE As previously reported the creek in the vicinity of the landing stage was dredged in the planned winter works at the site. It was not possible to dredge all the creek and it is a struggle for any small craft to navigate at summer river levels. The likely cause is attributed to the channel connecting the upper end of the creek to the weir stream. This provides a “sweetener” flow through the creek where the flow slows and any material in suspension drops out reducing the depth of water. The matter was discussed with the Sites Department last month. It was suggested the parent club raise this issue with the Environment Agency for their attention who consented the connecting channel and as a consequence resulted in creating a reduced depth of water to obstruct navigation.
ABBEY RIVER, CHERTSEY The obstruction to navigation by small craft by the riffles has not been resolved by the EA Fisheries function. The responsibility of the Waterways Manager is the regulation of water levels for navigation rather than Fisheries and raised with the newly in post for action to rectify the problem. RIVER THAMES SCHEME Comprising three flood relief channels between Datchet and Shepperton there are concerns from attending the Environment Agency workshops these new waters will not have a public right of navigation. The Thames Conservancy Act 1932 applies to all works where the River Thames flows and provides a public right of navigation on those waters. The implication is for this public right to be extinguished on waters when many in the local community have commented to the Agency the scheme is also a recreational amenity. The current costing of the scheme is £475 million funded from the public purse and it would be a bad day if public funding contributed to a loss of rights. There are further stakeholder events to press the Agency to have the resolve to ensure there is a public right of navigation. 7
THEY CAME, THEY PADDLED, THEY CONQUERED Fairthorne Manor Wild Water Race 18 September 2016 WORDS BY SUSAN TEMPLETON They came out of the sun at midday as any good fighter pilot Captains should, their motorised craft silently gliding up the River Hamble taking advantage of the incoming tide, with each craft over spilling their gunwales with canoe missiles of every shape. The Hamble Sea Scouts had arrived in force to the Theatre of Operations. Other combatants were drafted in from local stations and some from nearby camps in Winchester, Salisbury and Poole. After a 12:30 briefing on the rules of engagement, the first and main battle commenced at 13:00 Zulu, after a mile paddle up to the start at Botley Mill. In the Wild Water Racing (WWR) menâ€™s foray, Hamble
River Racers paddler Richard Kent age 53, in a composite construction WWR, left last seasonâ€™s runaway winner from Poole Harbour, Dr. Selwyn Richards (48) on the blocks with a 44 second lead pushing Itchen Valley member Richard Davis (78) into third. In the slower plastic wavehopper kayaks, Jon Whitlock (43) from Itchen North Scouts, son of an Olympic canoe sprint paddler, came in a credible fourth with Hamble Sea Scout leader John Dyke (30) in fifth. It was good to see two open Canadian canoes paddled by Dads supporting their offspring. In the Ladies Danielle Brook (18) Hamble Sea Scouts beat 59 year old Susan Templeton from Itchen Valley by 50 seconds with Rachel Jones (12), from Winchester District in third and 11 year old Elizabeth Akhurst from Hamble Sea Scouts in fourth. In the Open class, raced in Kayaks with rudders to steer it was a clean sweep by the Hamble Sea Scouts, with Henry Taunton (19) first, Aaron Lennard (14) second and William Whitlock (15) third. The second battle was a 200 metre sprint, in homage to Liam Heaths Rio Olympic Gold medal run. The K1 class and slalom and open Canadian canoe classes being fought under Queensbury rules with little drama except for an early bath for one of the 8
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“The seco nd a 200 met battle was r homage to e sprint, in Rio Olymp Liam Heaths ic Gold me dal run. “
Hamble Sea Scouts. However in the WWR and Wavehopper class 12 boats lined up across the narrow river jostling for position. From the start it was every man and woman for themselves, there were no prisoners being taken in this dogfight, with kayaks being barged onto shallows, into trees and collisions left right and centre. Out of the melee Richard Kent steamed through followed by Dr. Selwyn Richards and then Jon Whitlock. Overall best time was Henry Taunton in a K1 with 47 seconds and Richard Kent was second in a WWR with a time of 51 seconds; Liam Heath’s time was 35 seconds and a bit so only 12 seconds to improve to get Gold!!!! After the prize giving the combatant’s dispersed and the battlefield fell silent, left to the resident wildlife to regain their ownership. Many thanks to YMCA Fairthorne Manor for allowing such great racing to be held from their lovely grounds. For details of all the activities and services available from the go to http:// www.ymca-fg.org/ The next race run by Itchen Valley and The Sharks Canoe Clubs http://www. thesharks.org.uk/ is the 2.5 mile River Hamble race on 19 November 2016 which is not for the faint hearted as Gale force 5/6 winds have made the last two years races challenging. Details on the GB WWR website http://www. wildwater.org.uk .
I was unexpectedly introduced to the delights of canoeing/kayaking for the first time in May this year, at the Hereford meet of the club. Since then I have been completely hooked, and must have done approaching 100 miles of paddling now: the Wye, the Thames at Windsor and Henley, The Trent, Derwent and Trent/Mersey canal at Derby, Newtown Creek (IOW) and Chichester Harbour. I owe all this to the support, friendliness and helpfulness of club members, and most especially, my â€?coachâ€? and daughter Fran Faulkner. I feel I have a new lease of life! I am now the proud owner of a Dagger boat - Axis 10.5, that I can just fit into my motorhome, and thought a photo of my mascot on board might amuse. His name is Mick Ayaker. With all good wishes for the future of the club.
Gordon Ellis. 10
The Call Of The Wild WORDS & PHOTOS BY MICHAEL RITTIG
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Loch Tay is a typical Scottish loch: long, narrow and without any fLow, and those of you who paddle cross-over kayaks know how sluggish they are on black water.
nce in a while I feel the urge of going off on a longer trip doing an activity I love, may it be climbing in the Alps, long distance mountain biking, or multi-day kayaking. I count myself lucky that I know a couple of paddlers who share my passion for going kayaking over several days: meet David, a long-term C-CC member, and Tom and Simon from Derby. We try to do a multi-day trip together once a year, and this year we decided on paddling the River Tay over the August bank holiday; source to sea. As a purist I would have liked to start as close to the official source as possible and seal launch from the southern slopes of Ben Lui, however, a look at the SEPA gauge showed that the upper courses, Rivers Connonish, Fillan and Dochart, were bone dry. Also, it would mean to portage the Falls of Dochart with fully loaded boats. Thus, we rather opted for launching at Killin at the head of Loch Tay and finished at Broughty Ferry, the lowest sensible egress point before the North Sea. It looked straightforward: a loch of 15 miles, 46 miles of river, and a tidal stretch of 24 miles; making 85 miles in total, with only the two stretches of G3 rapids to worry about…or so we thought. We estimated a 4 night trip, with ½ day each as the first and last day.
This schedule requires a car shuttle of around 70 miles / 2 hrs. However, if you have Simon driving and Tom navigating it will take considerably longer, as we found out. So we drove up to Dundee in two cars, stayed overnight in a cheap hotel, left one car at the slipway of the very welcoming Royal Tay Yacht Club, drove up to Loch Tay via various unintentional loops and parked the other car at the equally welcoming Killin Hotel at the River Lochay, one mile upstream of Loch Tay.
Loch Tay, 17 miles
It was noon as we set off in bright sunshine, I in my Ethos 9, Tom and Simon in their medium Fusions, and David in his oldschool Prijon GP kayak. Funny enough, David had bought an Ethos 9 for this trip but changed his mind in the very last minute and took his familiar old Prijon, an ill-fated choice — which he would come to regret very soon. Loch Tay is a typical Scottish loch: long, narrow and without any flow, and those of you who paddle cross-over kayaks know how sluggish they are on black water. Thus, we didn’t expect to cover many miles on that first afternoon and just kept going at a steady pace, settling in the feeling of a full boat and admiring the surroundings. Especially the views to the left at the bulk of the Ben Lawers range were absolutely stunning; a 12 mile long ridge peaking in seven Munros. David had climbed them all, and the time went by nicely while listening to his stories. About a third-way down the Loch the sun disappeared and wind picked up. Turning around we saw a menacing bank of thick black clouds towering in the west. Soon we found ourselves paddling in a strong quarterly wind and following waves with whitecaps. It didn’t take long till the differences in background and boats became apparent. Simon, Tom and I put our skegs down which helped us keeping course, whereas David in his long skeg-less GP kayak had to do more correction strokes. On the other hand David, Tom and I have done a lot of sea kayaking, so the following wind and waves didn’t bother us, whereas Simon as a pure WW paddler was not used to such conditions. At the second bend of the slightly S-shaped loch we stopped for a short break and re-assessed the situation. We had made much better progress than expected, so we decided to continue past Kenmore and pitch camp along the first stretch of the river. Being long and narrow, Loch Tay funnels any westerly wind, so the waves became bigger and more confused towards the end of the loch. Tom and I were still enjoying the sudden surfing on the waves, whereas Simon became even tenser and David
struggled to keep his weather-cocking boat under control. I was amazed how forgiving and good-natured the Ethos behaved and found the crossover actually much easier to handle than a sea kayak in such conditions. After 5 hours we finally reached the end of the loch with the reconstructed crannog. I would love to have seen all of the 18 or so crannogs that stood there in the Iron Age, it must have looked impressive. We then passed under Kenmore Bridge and started to look for a campsite. Unfortunately, the riverbanks were either densely overgrown or beautifully maintained fishing areas. In the end we decided to risk it and landed at the end of a mowed stretch, round a little bend and somewhat out of the way, and hoped that the general rule “arrive late and leave soon” would save us from trouble. As on our last trip down the River Tweed we used a big tarp as a communal shelter to sit and cook. I also used it as night shelter for my bivvy bag, whereas the others slept in little backpacking tents. Since we expected to spend four nights each of us four was responsible for one shared dinner. The first night was David’s turn, and 14
“The fun started with Cat’s Paw, half a mile of standing waves and submerged rocks.”
instead of using readily prepared outdoor meals like the rest of us he cooked from scratch and even pulled a fresh cauliflower out of his boat for steaming.
Upper River Tay, 22 miles
The following morning, as I ventured into the bushes with our shared trowel, I found myself at the back of a huge building and realised that we had camped within calling distance of Taymouth Castle. Good that the lairds had behaved themselves and didn’t throw a loud party, it would have been difficult for us to stumble up to their door in the middle of the night and ask them to turn down the bag pipes. I tiptoed back and warned the others, and we were soon back on the river. That day would be the day of Grandtully, the biggest rapid of the trip. Funny enough, we found out only a few days before our departure that the SCA was holding a division 1 slalom competition there which could make paddling the rapid a bit difficult. Simon had the brilliant idea that we should just enter the competition and pretend to run the slalom course, but because the registration was already closed that wasn’t an option. It didn’t take long to reach Aberfeldy with its beautiful bridge, legacy of General 15
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Wade. I just love the fact that he built all these roads and bridges so that the English troops could swiftly march into Scotland, but Prince Bonnie Charlie used them to swiftly march out of Scotland. After roughly the same distance again we spotted the telltale house on the right just before a left bend, signalling our arrival at Grandtully. We got out and slowly made our way through the hubbub of the slalom event, watching the competitors paddle the course. The river was quite low and showed many rocks, which would force us to do a kind of slalom as well, in front of about 200 people watching us critically. That certainly put some pressure on us, but on the other side we had the best safety cover you could wish for. After a cuppa at the Inn we finally presented ourselves to the event organisers, who didn’t look particularly pleased but said that they would let us through at the next interval. Despite all worries it turned out to be quite a good run. We had the slalom poles to guide us through the upper set of rapids, which worked well: an awkward side entry into the first drop, straight through the centre shoot, and then over to the right for the rocky chute. For the final drop below the bridge we just needed to nail the narrow line between a rock and a lethal stopper. From then on it was relaxed and happy drifting down the much calmer river. At Logierait a couple on the lawn of a stunning former clergy house waved to us. We immediately took advantage of it and asked them for water. They were ever so friendly and not only let us fill up all our containers, but also wanted to hear about every move we had done so far. It certainly made their day, and I bet they would have invited us for tea if we hadn’t pressed on. Water supply is really quite easy on a river trip as compared to sea kayaking, because you usually find somebody for refills and don’t need to take all the water with you. Just as we noticed it was getting late we reached Dunkeld. The SCA guide mentioned a natural beach at Birnam a short distance below, and indeed we found a beautiful sandy spot shaded by old trees. They cover a tiny part of the once vast medieval Birnam Wood, famous from the prophecy of the three witches in Macbeth. There still is an oak left from Shakespeare’s time. Sadly, the traffic noise from the A984 on the opposite bank spoils the otherwise magical atmosphere. At the camp Simon complained about pain above his wrist and showed me his lower arm which was badly swollen at the radial site, classical symptoms of Intersection Syndrome. As it is typically induced when you
grip something very firmly while repetitively moving your wrist, it was the likely result from his tensing up on Loch Tay the day before. Nothing much we could do about it apart from applying a bandage, having him swallow ibuprofen, and telling him to relax whilst paddling — advice we would repeat ever so often, adding insult to injury.
Lower River Tay, 17 miles The next section was the course used for the annual Tay Descent, which includes the 2 mile long series of rapids starting at Campsie Linn. The SCA published very detailed instructions of where to run the rapids depending on the water level, which looked reassuring enough to us. In order to go easy on Simon’s arm we continued at a lazy pace down the river. The SCA guide makes mention of a famous beech hedge near Meikleour, and we decided to visit the hedge. So we turned left into the River Isla, paddled up to Isla Bridge, got out, squeezed through nettles and a thorny hedge onto the A93, and plodded along the busy road in search of the famous hedge, much to the amazement of the passing motorists who stared at us as if we were Martians. After quite a while, without spotting anything that looked like a beech hedge, we gave up and headed back. It was only when we looked back for a last time that we realised we had actually been walking past big beech trunks for most of the time, without recognizing it as a tall hedge. D’oh! After some more relaxed paddling we finally reached a spot where the river seemed
to taper off in a small channel, with the main flow of water going left through various rocky outcrops. It had to be Campsie Linn, the start of the WW section, which startled us after all the lazy drifting. We hastily set straight, donned our helmets, checked all attachments, and lined up. Following the SCA instructions for lowmedium levels we shot the easy first channel on the left into a wide basin full of weird currents, circulating large whirlpools, and erupting boils. That was definitely not the best place to be, but soon we had calm water again until, after about half a mile, the river made a left bend that seemed to be cut off by a diagonal array of manmade structures - Stanley Weir. We didn’t need the hardly recognizable old landslide on the right to identify the main channel, which sadly provided nothing more but a standard slope slide. Below the disappointing Stanley Weir, however, waited Fishermen’s Bend. The fun started with Cat’s Paw, half a mile of standing waves and submerged rocks. It continued with the turbulences of Hell Hole and some more standing waves below, until the river calmed down to where the beautifully restored Stanley Mill stands on the right bank. The break was not for long, however, as after the next left-hand bend the wide river was funnelled through a narrow gap – Thistlebrig, the most difficult rapid of the entire stretch. The SCA advised to keep left and avoid the big standing wave by following an S-line, which was easier said than done. The flow had picked up considerably and hurled us towards the left side of the bottleneck, forcing us into double-quick slalom moves.
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As we regrouped below the rapid we spotted a beautiful beach to the left and decided to have our lunch break. Checking the time and the map we then realised that it would be best to call it a day anyway, as Perth with the start of the tidal section was only a few miles below. Thus, we spent a lazy afternoon at the sandy bank, put up the tents, went for a swim and dozed in the sun; it almost felt like a holiday in the Caribbean. I also explored the old mill lade that runs from the old weir opposite Stanley Mill all the way down to Waulkmill. There was tremendous work going on restoring it, with new sleuth gates being installed and a small digger clearing the channel, and the path that runs along it provided a very nice walk. At the campfire we discussed the plans for the next day. I had scribbled down the tide tables but wasn’t clever enough to check whether the website did use GMT or BST, so it could be either 1.30pm or 2.30pm. Yet whatever the exact time, we had a 5 hour window between high tide at Perth and low tide at Dundee to paddle the 24 miles, so there would be no more dawdling.
Tay Estuary, 29 miles The next morning we had the luxury of a lay-in and could let the tents dry. We then slowly made our way down to Perth and through to the other side past the ugly M90 bridge, until paddling against the incoming tide became too tedious. So we pulled out at the slipway of the Perth Sailing Club and waited for the tide to turn. After a seemingly endless time, around 2pm, we saw a big freighter making her way from Perth Harbour downstream and took this as the starting signal. We hopped into our boats and started the race to the finish. The tidal River Tay appeared already fairly wide below Perth, but that was nothing compared to further down. At the point where the River Earn enters from the right the Tay makes a slight bend to the left and opens out into the vast cone-shaped space of the Firth of Tay, and I mean vast indeed: it widens to 3 miles before narrowing down again to two miles where the Tay Railway Bridge crosses. The last remaining hills also disappeared and gave way to low-lying land and endless reed beds. We immediately felt the strong westerly again, first from the right and then from the back. The wind brought the same problems as on our first day on Loch Tay, generally confused waters with following steep waves, but on a much larger scale. Again, we in our crossovers with skegs down could hold a general course, but David’s boat zigzagged all over the place. We stopped for a quick 17
convenience break at Newburgh, roughly one third of the way, and decided we would reassess after the next third at Balmerino. David soon grew very tired and decided to leave the main channel, in the hope that his problems with steering the boat would improve closer to the bank. However, this worsened the delay: his boat was making slower progress anyway, and leaving the main channel with the strongest flow slowed him down even more. Even with us just drifting in the main channel he couldn’t keep up. When we finally reached Balmerino, David was absolutely knackered and made the honourable decision to bail out. Fortunately he knew from his winter climbs in Scotland what to do in such a situation, put his outer tent up as wind shelter and crawled into his sleeping bag, where he comfortably waited for us to pick him up. Simon in turn had terrible pain in his arm and could barely hold his paddle any more, but was determined to reach the Tay Railway Bridge as a symbolic finish, which I could fully understand. So Tom and I escorted him to the Bridge. By then it was already getting 6pm, since the problems with David’s boat had cost us at least an hour, and we were still five miles from the car. All common sense and cautiousness told us to end the trip together with Simon and call a taxi, but when Tom and I exchanged a look we both knew what we were thinking. We nodded to each other affirmatively, said bye to Simon, waited till we saw him reach the slipway just below the bridge, and went full steam ahead. We knew it was a close run to the finish, so didn’t even bother to look at our watches anymore and just powered as hard as we could. First we aimed for the first of the central arches of the railway bridge. This is where the Firth of Tay narrows and runs over a bedrock shelf, which was used to put the bridge supports on. This shelf produced really nasty over-falls, as demanding as any of the white water we had encountered so far. Again, I was grateful for my Ethos that brought me safely through that difficult passage, because capsizing here in the shipping lane with a mile of choppy water to both the left and right wouldn’t have been good. From then on we angled towards the illuminated steel towers of the three giant oil rigs in Dundee Harbour, left below the Tay
“We grinned, clapped each other on the shoulders, and then did the most dangerous part on the entire trip...”
Road Bridge. Despite the tidal stream fizzling out we had to angle ever steeper to make it diagonally across the firth. If we had followed the ill advice in the SCA guide to wait until Tayport, directly opposite Broughty Ferry, to make a perpendicular crossing we would have ended up on the Dogger Bank or eating smørrebrød in Norway. After what seemed to be a very long time we finally crossed under the ugly road bridge and slowly cleared the oil rigs – not a moment too soon, because behind us a large freighter sailed out of Dundee Harbour into the central shipping lane. When we spotted a couple of small dinghies ahead we knew that the Yacht Club couldn’t be far, and soon did a surf landing on the slipway. We had made it 20 min before low tide. We grinned, clapped each other on the shoulders, and then did the most dangerous part on the entire trip, where we had to carry the boats across the main East Coast Line with its 100mph trains thundering past. We quickly changed, drove to Wormit to pick up Simon, continued to Balmerino in the last remaining light to find David, phoned the hotel in Dundee for two rooms, and spent the rest of the evening in the hotel bar. An epic trip was over.
The Verdict As for the Firth, it was clear that we totally underestimated the dimensions of it. I wouldn’t hesitate at all to do it again in a cross-over kayak, but only with all the basic sea kayaking paraphernalia: possibly a deck line fitted, pump, tow line, flares, lights, and especially a
VHF radio to inquire about ship movements at the harbour master and to inform them about your presence. Also, more accurate information about possible egress points than the woefully inadequate SCA guide provides. If you want to enjoy multi-day kayaking in general and WW in special you need to travel light. It is easily achievable; my Ethos was by far the smallest boat of our group but I still had space left after packing all my stuff, without me feeling deprived. Like losing excess body weight travelling light is not a one-off action but a frame of mind, you need to change your entire attitude. When packing you should always ask the question “What else can I leave at home?” rather than “What else should I take with me?” However, keep things in perspective: shaving off weight should stay a means and not become a goal in itself. In order to feel good at the end of the day you need to pack a treat. For me, this is my MP3 player and a small bag of KP peanuts. So would I recommend the Tay? Depends on who is asking, I guess. This was the most heterogeneous trip I’ve done so far, with about half the total length being actually a river trip, the other half split between a stagnant loch and the estuary which should be treated as a sea trip, really. Even the river itself is quite inhomogeneous, generally G1-2 with just two stretches of rapids that are disproportionally more difficult. You need to like variety and have the necessary broad experience and suitable boat to paddle such diverse waters: otherwise you won’t enjoy it. Having said this, I loved the trip and loved my boat that brought me safely back. 18
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LOCH SHIEL PART 1 WORDS & PHOTOS BY TIM WATSON
After pulling the plug (for one reason or another) half way through a winter Sheil circuit, Welsh Dave and I still had a box to tick. So a return to Loch Shiel was on the cards for the September ’16 Scottish Canoe Camp. Sit tight the story now begins…. 17
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ollowing a long overnight drive up North to Fort William and fortified by a breakfast at Morrisons, Clive and I made our way to the Glenfinnan House Hotel. Here we paid for the car parking and checked in, giving our route details (including a Justin-Case route) emergency contact numbers and estimated finishing time/date. Can’t fault the hotel as we weren’t stopping there, a great service and with piece of mind knowing that they had our backs for if it goes all pear shaped. We portaged our boats and kit from the hotel car park to the small beach in the hotel’s grounds and relaxed, here we waited for the second half of our team Tim (Darth Wheeler) and (Welsh) Dave. During the days building up to the trip the rest of the country was enjoying an Indian summer whilst we were hoping / praying for a cold snap that never came, the reason why? To kill off the ravenous Scottish Midge. With this in mind I was expecting to be eaten alive by a ferocious black cloud of blood thirsty midges. To my surprise (and delight) very few were present. A result! To pass the time we had a short paddle with empty boats around the head of the Loch before loading up the canoes with our notquite-so-light-but-rough-it-in-comfort kit and supplies. We bumped into a couple of canoeists from the Song of the Paddle canoeing forum who were out for a day paddle and after a brief exchange of pleasantries, they were off, paddling away into the distance. With the other half of the fab four turning up the team were once more together, boats quickly loaded and launched off into the head wind. Loch Shiel was in all of its moody glory, layer upon layer of hills and mountains descending down to the Loch shore. The mountains closest were dark hulks with each mount behind in turn a lighter shade of brown and grey in the distance blending into the sky. The sky; dark clouds on a white background interspersed with the odd patch of blue. It was an awesome sight indeed and it was good to be back out on the water. Our first nights camp was in a small bay only 4km in a straight line from the start Grid Ref NM 882 786, a cracking little bay facing westwards with just a small strip of grass to park the tents. The two guys from SOTP were there and we had yet another brief chat with them whilst they cooked their lunch next to an old fire pit on the beach. They had a surplus pack of bacon and kindly offered it to us, a gift we graciously accepted (more of this later). Not long after they left a float plane buzzed us, then landed in the middle of the Loch and took off again. How cool was that?
The plane then circled over head before landing again near to the mouth of the small bay, two guys then climbed out onto the floats and proceeded to paddle the small plane to our beach…the cool just turned cooler. “Who ordered the Whisky?” one shouted across to us. A friendly chat and some photo’s later they took off and left us in peace and quiet to prepare and cook our evening meal. It was my turn and a fresh chilli-conTimbo was in order, followed by a new campfire treat; fire toasted smoky bacon on crumpets with just a small drizzle of Canadian Maple Syrup. You can’t imagine how good that tastes. As the light slowly began to fade and after a dram or few of malt whiskies it was time to retire to our oh so comfy camp beds for a good nights sleep. It had been a long long day. DAY TWO Sunday saw us up a short time before dawn, we had hit the sack rather early so each and every one of us had a good nights sleep. Head torches were illuminating the immediate camp ground in the predawn as the smell of freshly ground coffee wafted across the beach, the morning camping ritual simply and efficiently fell into place. A slow start later (we were on our holidays after all) and by 09:00 we were back on the water. We were now heading westwards along Loch Shiel, slowly leaving the fragments of civilisation behind. The wind was stronger that day, channelled and exaggerated by the surrounding hills and mountains that forges
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Loch Shiels own micro climate. The weather pattern for the day was; wind blows in dark clouds and rain, then wind blows away dark clouds and rain, wind blows in dark clouds and rain and so on, the only constants of the day was us paddling looking up whilst eating and the porridge the loch was an wind eerie sight, enveloped in blowing in the early morning haze. our faces. Determined we ploughed on. To say the wind was strong; at one point in the late morning we were simply paddling away making very little head way along the loch resulting in the decision to have an early lunch. The four of us were soon sheltered on the edge of a bay eating our lunches — the trees of the bay sheltered us from the worst of the wind and rain. I spied a piece of dry(ish) dead wood that lay within reach that found its way into my boat, the wood was destined for the evenings cook fire. With lunch time over and during a brief lull in the wind we swiftly packed away our gear and launched back onto the loch. As I said, the lull was a brief one and the wind, along with rain, returned to try to beat us into a retreat. Undeterred we paddled on. 23
Reading this many may think “why?” “Where is the fun in that?” But we were on a loch of outstanding awesomeness with 360° views. The less than balmy weather only adds to the feeling of adventures from times long past, something you simply can’t experience on an X-Box or on a telly and we all agreed it sure beats the hell out of a gym! Back out into the loch and a short time later the wind once again picked up, to a degree where it began whipping the tops of the waves creating white horses; bringing back memories of another Scottish Loch and another year. Shelter from the onslaught was again necessary; a small spit of land a little east of the river Pollock protruding into Shiel gave us this, with the boats safely tethered and sheltered we sat it out once more. Once the wind died down to a manageable level we launched again, this time heading for the mouth of the river Pollock and it’s hopefully sheltered bay. We reached the river and it beckoned us to explore, so as gentlemen we obliged. It wound its away from the loch into its small valley; I was hoping to find somewhere to pitch our tents here but the flat land either side of the river offered no obvious campsites from our canoe based perspective. We reached
a small section of which made it feel much further. We slumped shallows, too shallow down in our comfy camp chairs weary (a good to pole, too shallow weary I have to say) to eat our wonderful meal to drag heavy boats and sup some fine red wine, then as the light across. Here marked faded to dark we turned in. the end of our Pollock exploration DAY THREE expedition, maybe Started of a mixture of light grey and clear, it’s a good excuse looking up whilst eating porridge the loch was to return? Curiosity an eerie sight, enveloped in the early morning near enough sated the haze. I looked up again and the mist had team spun the canoes gone only to return again when the coffee was around and headed poured. Prior to leaving we stacked the surplus back towards Shiel wood for the next travellers. and a more promising We made our way silently through looking area to camp, the narrows of Shiel to St Finnans Isle or as its one that we had spied known to many burial island. as we ventured our Although I have been here twice way in, a sheltered before it’s still an eerie place to be. The altar, a spot seemingly tucked big granite slab complete with a bewitched bell away from the strong and now a collection plate with money lying easterly wind. Grid ref in the small puddle that the bowl creates…. NM767 683. OOooooOhh spooky! Part of our camp Camping is not allowed here, to be routine was to search honest I wouldn’t want to any way would you? for suitable wood for We pushed on; gliding along, the air now still, the cook fire. Next to we had ourselves a brief weather window. a stream a big branch The landscape had changed once more, the that looked like it mountains were now in the background with had been ruthlessly flat(ish) marsh and farm land dominating the hacked from a living tree, lay dead on the western end. Dave piped up “I fancy a cup of ground sheltered from tea!” So we moored up at Moidart is a the elements by the tree Acharcle and walked to from whence it came. the local Café. Three big fantastically This was to be the bulk of pots of tea, three venison picturesque place, burgers (deer locally shot our fuel for the evening meal, Moroccan lamb and butchered) and a Castle Tioram with vegetable couscous lasagne later, job done. prepared by chef of the silhouetted against We set off towards day Dave. The branch the River Shiel. As we the setting sun, itself was still a little approached the posts green proving reluctant that mark the beginning to hold a decent flame by itself, ably assisted of the river we could see that the current was by the seasoned wood I wombled at lunch, beginning to become noticeable. Under and past the meal was cooked upon one of two Yukon the road bridge the river was stunning, further firebox’s we carried. along it opened up and the river resembled a Lightweight campers gasp away in nice English river. horror if you want, but accept it’s how we do We came to the gillie hut that marks things on our trips. The chef and the diners the end of the short river and the beginning of tucked into the tasty dish protected from the the sea loch. Ideally we should have hit this at elements under my new green True North Big high tide, but low tide was at 14:00hrs (after a Tarp. Tarp now christened by the green wood full moon so a very low tide) we made it there smoke that billowed away under the tarp for 13:50hrs. The maelstrom that is the falls were keeping what few midges present in the area far too powerful for us to paddle down in the fully away from our blood. laden canoes, too powerful possibly to line so a That day we had travelled was 19km, bumpy and awkward portage it was. We hauled this not counting our foray into the river Pollock the canoes past a fly fishing party where we had or when our small flotilla ducked into sheltered the only two capsizes of the trip, #1 my wheel bays, so the distance was indeed more than hit a rut sending my boat in an uncontrollable 19KM. Not to mention the strong headwinds tumble and #2 Dave’s wheels sheared a pin 24
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resulting in the second tumble. Emergency repair needed all with the audience of water whippers. The falls leave a box un-ticked, an excuse to return with a dry suit and WW boat.We were now on Loch Moidart and the silence hit us. Every paddle bump, every drip of water and the twist of the wooden paddle shaft in the hand all seemed far too loud to be real. But it was and we soaked it up as we searched for a campsite. The serious lack of water resulted in large expanses of exposed mudflats. I know there are campsites out there on the islands but we simply could not get to them so back to a civilized patch of grass we paddled. Beached up and racing against the oncoming tide we hastily unloaded our boats before they drifted away. Grid ref NM665 723, about 22km that day. As the evening wore on Chef Clive produced a tasty beef stew unfortunately due to the time we spent searching the shallows for a campsite the dumplings were voted out as they would have taken too long to cook and we were rather hungry. Moidart is a fantastically picturesque place, Castle Tioram silhouetted against the setting sun, the islands covered in pine trees the cliffs and the still waters of this sheltered sea loch even the odd visit by deer to the campsite is outgunned by the sheer silence of the place, a place that gets even quieter as the sun drops below the horizon. Sleep was easy to come by. Little we would know that we needed a good sleep for the following day and night. High tide was at 09:00 the following day; we aimed to be on the water by then.... 25
The falls leave a box un-ticked, an excuse to return with a dry suit and WW boat.
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