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Issue 141 Winter 2019 £2.50

ceufadKAYAK CYLCHGRAWN CANŴ CYMRU JOURNAL OF CANOE WALES

A CANOE JOURNEY IN SWEDEN

AROUND WALES IN 15 DAYS

A TALE OF TWO RIVERS - THE KWAI Q&A AILEEN SAUNDERS

BRITISH OPEN FREESTYLE CHAMPS


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editorial

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t’s the Winter print issue! It seems strange to be back in paper after producing our first digital issue in the autumn, it’s like putting a winter coat on! We weren’t certain what the response would be to this new strategy, however, overall the feedback has been really positive and the digital-only issue has had over 1000 reads, which is pretty impressive. So keep sending the feedback and suggestions! The next issue will be digital-only, so scope for extra pages, video content and links to websites, social media etc. If there’s anything you’d like to see included send it through. This issue highlights the diversity of paddlesport, from a solo multi-day circumnavigation to the British Freestyle Championships. Maybe the common thread that runs through these is the challenge that paddling can offer and maybe that’s what makes it so addictive. There’s a combination of mental and physical challenges, whether it’s competitive or recreational, sea or river. Testing the boundaries of what you can achieve and pushing yourself that little bit further. It’s an amazing sport! Merry Christmas Vicky Barlow Editor ceufad@canoewales.com

Ceufad Ed Ceufad

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CEUFAD

@Ceufad

ceufad

Ceufad is the official magazine of Canoe Wales. It is produced by members & the views expressed are not necessarily those of Canoe Wales or the magazine’s editor. Ceufad is free to members of Canoe Wales. SUBSCRIPTIONS are available to non-members for £10 for 4 issues from Canoe Wales. ADVERTISING For advertising rates contact Vicky on: ceufad@canoewales.com SUBMISSIONS Articles are always welcomed & should be submitted as Word files, however, typed articles are also accepted. Images can be prints or tiff/jpeg/RAW files (preferably 300ppi). These will be returned. CONTACT ceufad@canoewales.com – 01678 521199 Ceufad, Canoe Wales, Bala, Gwynedd LL23 7NU Ceufad is produced quarterly in Spring (March), Summer (June), Autumn (Sept) and Winter (Dec). NEXT ISSUE: SPRING DEADLINE: 1ST FEBRUARY Ceufad welcomes all contributions but reserves the right to edit & condense to fill the space available. Design & layout: Vicky Barlow www.victoriabarlow.co.uk


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Canoe Wales News

Info and updates from Canoe Wales

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Meet the Team

Phil Stone - Places to Paddle Manager

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Waterways and Environment Update

PaddlePoints, Access Reforms & Clear Waters Campaign

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Canoe Wales Awards

The winners are announced!

9 Events

Festivals, races and roadshows - they’re all here

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In the Flow

The latest paddlesport products and news

11 Review

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Testing the Sea Compendium

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Euro & British Open Freestyle Champs

Welsh success at Holme Pierrepont

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Q&A Aileen Saunders

Chatting with the Canoe Wales’ Volunteer of the Year

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‘Interesting’ Conditions in the Outer Hebrides

St David’s College enjoy a sea kayak adventure

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Canoe Wales Year Planner

Pull it out, stick it to your wall & get planning!

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A Tale of Two Rivers

Exploring the Kwai Noi and the Kwai Yai in Thailand

CONTENTS

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30 TFest 2019

Another weekend of whitewater frivolity

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A Canoe Journey in Sweden

St David’s College Year 10 expedition

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Around Wales in 15 Days

Circumnavigating Wales - believe it!

COVER

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OWEN MADDOX

BRITISH & EUROPEAN OPEN FREESTYLE CHAMPS @ HPP

LISETTE NIXON

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CANOE WALES – OUR TEAM Jen Browning

CEO

MEMBER SERVICES TEAM Paul Marshall Coaching Manager (Consultant) Gayle Penn Development Officer Rhys Green Development Officer Val Ephraim Administrative Officer Jen Rigby Membership Assistant Ellen Roberts Finance Officer Phil Stone Places to Paddle Manager PERFORMANCE TEAM Dan Golder Performance Manager and Talent Pathway Officer (South) Jonathan Davies Talent Pathway Officer (North) Serena Williams Talent Pathway Officer (South) Gareth Bryant Talent Pathway Officer (West) Tom Power Head Coach (Slalom) Dan Goddard Performance Coach (Slalom) DIRECTORS David Wakeling Andy Booth Kerry Chown Elsa Davies Lowri Davies Ian Hughes Jet Moore Eryl Richards Mary Taylor Ieuan Watkins

CANOE WALES ROAD SHOWS 2020

MEET THE CW TEAM AND HEAR THE PLANS FOR 2020 Canoe Wales would like to invite our clubs and members to one of a series of consultation events being held across Wales in February and March. The Canoe Wales Road Shows will provide members with an opportunity to: 1. Find out about some of the latest developments at Canoe Wales and what we have planned for 2020 2. Gain information regarding coaching and leadership development 3. Hear the latest news on our Clear Access Clear Waters Campaign 4. Receive an update on the Performance Team 5. An update from our Development Team with an eye to the future 6. Meet with and raise questions with the CEO, senior staff and Board Members who will be present. All of the events will be held from 7pm to 9pm, with refreshments served from 6.30pm. The dates and locations for the events are: Feb 25 Cwmcarn Visitor Centre (Caerphilly Adventure Group) Cwmcarn Forest VC, Cwmcarn, Crosskeys, NP11 7FA Feb 27

Plas Y Brenin PYB, Capel Curig, Betws-y-Coed, LL24 0ET

March 3 UWTSD Carmarthen Cynefin, 115 Llansteffan Road, Carmarthen SA31 3QU We look forward to meeting as many members and club representatives as possible during the roadshows and hearing your views.

Interim Chairperson Finance Director

PERSONAL PERFORMANCE AWARDS CHALLENGE YOURSELF IN 2020!

If you’re after a new challenge in 2020 how about gaining a paddle award? PADDLE AWARDS

CONTACT CANOE WALES www.canoewales.com info@canoewales.com 01678 521 199 National White Water Centre, Frongoch, Bala, Gwynedd, LL23 7NU #canoewales

The three Paddle Awards are for those getting into a boat for the first time, enabling them to feel confident in their chosen craft in a sheltered water environment. The awards help empower the paddler, enabling them to start their lifelong journey into paddlesport. Paddle Start - encouragement award aimed at someone new to paddlesport. Paddle Discover - enables the paddler to develop decision-making and fundamental skills. Paddle Explore - an award that empowers and supports the individual paddler. PERSONAL PERFORMANCE AWARDS These are designed for paddlers wanting to gain recognition of their learning and development, in the craft and environment they choose. The awards allow paddlers to improve their skills, working towards the award of their choice, developing their decision-making and fundamental skills. There are no dual discipline awards and all of the awards are direct entry, giving the paddler choice. They are available in 12 disciplines including everything from SUP, Touring to Freestyle, so the choice is yours! Find out more on the British Canoeing website: www.britishcanoeing.org.uk

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YOUNG VOLUNTEERS PROGRAMME

OUR YOUNG VOLUNTEERS GO FROM STRENGTH TO STRENGTH Since the launch of our young volunteer’s programme on 1st July 2019 we’re now at 45 young people registered onto the programme and have logged close to 500 volunteering hours in paddlesport. One young volunteer has already surpassed the 50 logged hours milestone; keep up the great work Oliver Maynard, a credit to Clwb Padlo Dysynni. We know there are many more young people giving their time to paddlesport that can still sign up to our programme now https://www.canoewales.com/young-volunteers We’re asking our current young volunteers to invite a friend to the young volunteers programme; encourage friends to sign up and log hours and you will be entered into a prize draw to win free full 12 months On the Water membership to Canoe Wales. In September at our 2019 Members Meet the young volunteers relished in the opportunity to be at the stunning Broneirion; absorbing workshops on leadership, access, qualifications and improving the gender gap. They celebrated with us at our annual awards dinner with one of them winning Young Volunteer of the Year Award. Congratulations Danny Muller from Bridgend Canoe Club. If that wasn’t enough, the next day they were all out on the water either achieving their FSRT or having a guided trip down the river. Without hesitation the group took it upon themselves to clean up the river. With a bag full of rubbish collected, our waters are a safer and better place now; thank you young volunteers. The young volunteers travelled from the length and breadth of Wales to be there, the whole group camaraderie was infectious and lifted the event. It’s wonderful to know they continue to be in touch with each other through the WhatsApp group they created whilst at our Members Meet. We’re very excited to be offering exclusively for our young volunteers the exceptional opportunity to gain their Paddlesport Instructor Award at a hugely discounted price. # Weekend 7-8 March 2020 at Snowdonia Watersports (Llanberis) # Weekend 28-29 March 2020 at Cardiff International White Water Prerequisites – to have achieved your FSRT by the date of the course and logged volunteer hours on VolHours. Spaces are LIMITED so don’t miss out and book your place now by emailing our Development Officer Gayle Penn gayle.penn@canoewales.com. Canoe Wales will soon be recruiting 10 Young Volunteers to serve on the first ever Youth Advisory Board. The role of this group will be at the heart of Canoe Wales’ decisionmaking, to be the voices of young people, to positively influence future opportunities for young people in paddlesport in Wales and to be the voice on the future direction of Canoe Wales and young people. Watch this space!!! To be eligible to apply for the Youth Advisory Group you have to first be a part of our Young Volunteers programme by signing up now https://www.canoewales.com/young-volunteers

COMPETITION WINNER! PLUGGEDAUDIO EAR PLUGS

Last issue we gave you the chance to win an set of ear plugs from PluggedAudio. Well, we’ve done the prize draw and can announce that the lucky winner is ... Judith Thornton!

WIN A SET OF PLUGGEDAUDIO CUSTOM-MADE EAR PLUGS PluggedAudio are giving you the chance to win a pair of custom-made ear plugs worth £75. All you have to do is answer a couple of simple questions. Plugged Audio is run by Sonja Jones, a keen paddler and clinical audiologist who is on a mission to help protect paddlers’ ears! She offers custom-made plugs which are handmade in Cardiff and protect against surfer’s ear and water borne infection. A percentage of the profits go to Karma Seas CIC and Waters of Wales, so every purchase helps two great paddling causes. Sonja will be launching in Wales at the Canoe Wales AGM, and will also be at the Wet West Paddlefest and the SWWK End of Summer Festival (Langollen), so if you’re around drop in for a chat. For more information visit www.pluggedaudio.com

COMPETITION TO ENTER

What is the name of PluggedAudio’s plugs that protect you against surfer’s ear and how are they manufactured? (there may be a clue on PluggedAudio’s website ...). To enter either: a) fill in this form & then post/return it to: PluggedAudio Competition, Canoe Wales, National White Water Centre, Frongoch, Bala, LL23 7NU or b) email the answers (the plugs’ name and the manufacturing process) and your name to ceufad@canoe.wales with ‘PluggedAudio competition’ as the subject title.

NEW CW TEAM MEMBER!

LYDIA WILFORD JOINS THE TEAM We’re pleased to announce that Lydia Wilford will join the team in January as Talent Pathway Officer for South Wales. She’s providing maternity cover for Serena Williams and will be responsible for growing our talent programme and getting more young paddlers into sprint and slalom paddling in South Wales.

The name of PluggedAudio’s plugs that protect you against surfer’s ear is: ............................................................................................. and they are manufactured by: ............................................................................................................................................................... Name:................................................................................................................... Tel no: ...................................................................... Address:.................................................................................................................................................................................................. ................................................................................................................................................................................................................

E-mail:..................................................................................................................................................................................................... Terms & conditions Closing date is 1st November 2019. Only one entry per person. Prize is one pair of custom-made plugs. The exact specification of the plugs will be agreed between the winner and PluggedAudio/CanoeWales. Prize is non-transferable. Prize is as offered – no cash alternatives. To enter; complete and return entry form to Canoe Wales (Bala), or email your name and the answers to ceufad@canoe.wales Entries received after the closing date will not be considered. No responsibility is taken for lost or delayed entries. The winner will be drawn at random from all correct entries. The editor’s decision will be final. The winner will be contacted after the closing date and will also be announced in the winter issue of Ceufad. Entrants’ details will only be kept by Canoe Wales and will not be shared with any other organisation or third party.

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MEET THE TEAM

PHIL STONE - PLACES TO PADDLE MANAGER Phil Stone is Canoe Wales new Places to Paddle Manager; working on environmental and access issues and promoting paddlesport. He brings with him a wealth of experience, having spent two decades working on conservation, access and recreation projects with CCW / NRW. He cut his paddling teeth with Aberkayakers; enjoying the whitewater of Mid Wales, and is now developing an appreciation of open boating and multi-day trips ... Ceufad caught up with him to find out a bit more … What’s your paddling/sport background? I first got into a kayak in the 70’s, having made a fiberglass one in design and tech lessons at school. Because of the usual distractions I lost interest in paddling in my late teens and didn’t get back into it until my son started paddling over 15 years ago. I was bored sitting on the bankside watching so I got into a boat myself. The majority of my paddling has been in the club environment where I gained the old level 3 coaching award and level 2 competition-coaching award for WWR. My usual paddling has been on the grade 3 rivers around Mid Wales with the very occasional trip to Scotland or the Lake District. I have learned to appreciate open boating more in recent years and especially enjoy a multi-day trip. I enjoy spending as much time a possible outdoors and get away on walking weekends whenever time allows. Why is paddlesport important to you? Being outside is important to me; paddling is a way for me to be outside and see our natural environment from a different perspective. When you are on the water I love the fact that you can be out and almost alone or be part of a bigger social group, whichever pleases you. Whitewater or sedate touring – I enjoy it all. Why did you take the role of Places to Paddle Manager? In a way I saw the role as unfinished business. I’d spent 20 years working on conservation, access and recreation projects with CCW and latterly NRW, working extensively on the mapping and implementation of the Countryside Rights of Way Act 2000 (CRoW) and the creation of the Wales Coast Path. I also worked on access to inland water but unfortunately, unlike CRoW and the Wales Coast Path, there is still a lack of clarity as to people’s rights. I’ve played a part in securing access to the uplands and the coast of Wales; it would be the icing on the cake to do the same for inland water.

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What does it involve? Primarily: Working with the members and staff of Canoe wales to give advice on access and environmental issues. Working to raise the awareness of the Clear Waters Clear Access campaign in Wales. Promoting Paddlepoints. Building on relationships with other stakeholders and partners who have a vested interested in the waters of Wales. Promoting river clean-ups. Supporting British Canoeing wherever possible. What do you hope to achieve? That water users have more recreational opportunities to access clean unpolluted waters for more of the time. I hope that my role will help influence the Welsh Government to make our lakes, rivers, reservoirs and coastline open to everyone. What are the challenges? Finding enough time to do all that I want. Working with a wide number of stakeholders with greatly differing views. How do you see CW members / clubs working with you? I would like to hear from CW members and clubs to understand what access or environmental problems they have when they go paddling. And I hope to work with clubs to promote clean-ups. Are there any access or environmental projects you’re working, or would like to work on, that we could help with? Please contact me if you have any suggestions to make or if I can be of help to you - phil.stone@canoewales.com


WATERWAYS & ENVIRONMENT UPDATE PADDLEPOINTS IS NOW LIVE

ACCESS REFORMS

A new, exciting digital map is now available through the Go Paddling website, changing the game for paddlers across the UK. Do you want to: »» Find new places to paddle? »» Contribute towards new places to paddle? »» Look up river levels, hazards, weirs and rapids information? »» Look up rivers and canals near you? Then PaddlePoints is a tool you will find invaluable for your paddling needs. PaddlePoints may not be brand new to some of you. It’s the free mapping resource that quite simply helps paddlers find and contribute towards places to go paddling. Founded by developer Ben Sansom, it has been used by paddlers across the UK to plot everything from car parks to weirs, tree hazards to river rapids and everything in between. British Canoeing acquired PaddlePoints in 2018. Now, the system has had a full makeover and is relaunched through the Go Paddling website. The new look PaddlePoints is even more user friendly and will become a resource for all paddlers to use and enjoy.

At the recent National Access Forum for Wales (NAFW) meeting, Welsh government revealed its plans for dealing with the proposed access reforms following their Sustainable Management of Natural Resources consultation in 2017. Following the consultation, the Deputy Minister, Hannah Blythyn AM, announced that access to water would be considered separately to the main access reform process because of the lack of consensus. She strongly encourages stakeholders to find a practical joint solution. But she has not ruled out future legislation on access if she is not satisfied of reasonable progress within 18 months. The Deputy Minister wishes to see concerted, collaborative action taken by stakeholders to increase recreational access to inland waters including the following outcomes: »» Increased and more frequent participation across a range of recreation types »» More inland water accessible, more of the time. A subgroup of NAFW has been set up consisting of the relevant stakeholders representing, water sports, angling, land managers and public bodies, and is tasked with assessing different options to increase access. Although Canoe Wales expressed their disappointment that there would be no legislation for the time being they will fully engage in dialog to seek the best options for greatly improving access opportunities in and around water. For the proposed access reforms where there is general consensus Welsh Government has created the Access Reform Advisory Group (ARAG). ARAG is setting up three expert groups that will each consider one of the following: »» Changes to Open Access/CRoW land; (amend the restrictions on vessels, sailboards & bathing on non-tidal waters; cycling, horse riding, hang-gliding and para-gliding. To extend CRoW access land to coast and coastal cliffs). »» Flexibility on public paths; (allow cycling and horse riding on footpaths, allow temporary diversions and restrictions, stock control measures on public rights of way). »» Communicating access rights; (consider mapping, rights of way, national trails, integrated access plans). For more information on this please visit www.canoewales.com.

So what exactly is PaddlePoints, and how can I use it? Quite simply, PaddlePoints is the website to use if you want to go paddling. We already have the paddle trails and challenge routes for people wanting pre-planned routes but the new website goes a little deeper. For those wanting to do more than just paddle a trail, you will find PaddlePoints an invaluable tool. Through the website, you can view all the plotted points already there, but you can also share and input information on places to launch, park, hazards, weirs, clubs and more. Spot a tree hazard? Pop it on PaddlePoints. Stop for lunch at a nice riverside cafe? Pop it on PaddlePoints. Notice a car park really close to your launch point? Pop it on PaddlePoints. The tool is all about making it easier for people to get out paddling. The more people use and interact with PaddlePoints, the richer the information will become, meaning you can get out on the water easily and more safely too. “The Go Padding website already offers a range of services. These include: tips and advice, look-ups for clubs, centres, Paddleability providers, hirers, and retailers. You can also download paddle trails, and choose one of a range of paddling challenges. PaddlePoints, has the ability to create and save your own routes around launch points. Make them public for others to share, or keep them all you yourself. The choice is yours.”

WHAT A LOAD OF RUBBISH! Have you or has your club been involved in the fight to clear up our waterways? Some people pick up bits and pieces when they’re out paddling others are part of an organised event. I’d love to hear what you and your club have been doing in the past year. Photos and a few words about where when and how much was collected would be great.

*information is limited on Welsh waters at present, but we look to increase this dramatically over the coming months.

PLACES TO PADDLE MANAGER phil.stone@canoewales.com

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CANOE WALES

AWARDS

The Canoe Wales Awards recognise the tremendous dedication and commitment of our members and those who support them. This year there were five categories, with members being asked to nominate candidates. We would like to say thank you for all your nominations and well done to all who received an award, many of whom also attended the Awards Dinner in September. It’s incredible to have so many dedicated volunteers, athletes, paddlers, coaches and clubs contributing to paddlesport in Wales. AILEEN SAUNDERS

ALAN BAKER VOLUNTEER OF THE YEAR

COACH OF THE YEAR

CLUB OF THE YEAR

Aileen Saunders

Gavin Cooper

Aber Kayakers

“Aileen volunteers every week throughout the year, either on club trips or winter pool sessions ... She is always encouraging, wanting people to succeed and become active members of the club themselves.”

“Gavin treats everyone the same regardless of ability, age or sex. He just wants us all to improve and to enjoy paddling [...] Gavin is always cheerful and his patience and enthusiasm makes training so much fun!”

“Aber Kayakers was awarded the insport Club Ribbon by Disability Sport Wales in July this year.”

YOUNG VOLUNTEER OF THE YEAR

PADDLER OF THE YEAR

Danny Muller

Etienne Chappell

“Danny’s impact has been very positive, significant, and is very much appreciated [...] he is an excellent role model.”

“Etienne has won two gold medals this year in Extreme Slalom events [...] and then won gold to become Extreme Slalom Junior World Champion in Krakow in July [...] we all admire him for his infectious enthusiasm for paddling, his sense of fun, the way he inspires the younger paddlers”

ETIENNE CHAPPELL

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ABER KAYAKERS

DANNY MULLER

GAVIN COOPER


EVENTS F E B 25

F E B 27

M A R 3

MILE END MILL, LLANGOLLEN DEEFEST

CANOE WALES ROADSHOW Cwmcarn Canoe Wales goes on tour! This is your chance to meet the CW team, find out about the plans for 2020 and raise questions with the CEO, Board and senior staff. Runing from 7pm to 9pm with refereshments at 6.30pm. Based at Cwmcarn Visitor Centre. www.canoewales.com

A P R 4-5

CANOE WALES ROADSHOW Capel Curig Canoe Wales goes on tour! This is your chance to meet the CW team, find out about the plans for 2020 and raise questions with the CEO, Board and senior staff. Runing from 7pm to 9pm with refereshments at 6.30pm. Based at Plas Y Brenin. www.canoewales.com

CANOE WALES ROADSHOW Carmarthen Canoe Wales goes on tour! This is your chance to meet the CW team, find out about the plans for 2020 and raise questions with the CEO, Board and senior staff. Runing from 7pm to 9pm with refereshments at 6.30pm. Based at University of Wales Trinity Saint David. www.canoewales.com

M A Y 2

DEEFEST Llangollen There’s a big new event coming to the Dee Valley in Spring 2020 … the DeeFest! A weekend of fun, races, freestyle, shenanigans, silliness and of course - THE PARTY! There will be events for everyone, from seasoned racers and freestyle pros to those just getting started. The itinerary will depend on water levels, but plans include - races at Serpents Tail and Town Falls - inflatable race and surfing - freestyle #FlippyFloppies - kid’s event - king of the wave - party in TNR’s newly renovated upstairs of Mile End Mill More details and ticket sales will be announced over the next few months. Facebook DeeFest

FISHGUARD BAY OCEAN RACE Fishguard The Fishguard Bay Ocean race is a major downwind Ocean Ski, SUP and OC race along Pembrokeshire’s wild, north coast – starting at Goodwick beach and crossing 17km of open sea to finish on the beach at Newport. This race is a test of fitness, boat-handling and seamanship skills. You’ll need it all to win this “black-belt,” no-holdsbarred ocean race! www.fishguardoceanrace.uk

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IN THE FLOW AMAZON WOMAN – DARCY GAECHTER This book is subtitled ‘Facing Fears, Chasing Dreams, and My Quest to Kayak the Largest River from Source to Sea’, which definitely caught our attention! This is the extraordinary and inspiring chronicle of one woman’s harrowing journey to become the first female to kayak the entire Amazon River. Amazon Woman shows what incredible feats we are capable of and will encourage people, especially women, across all backgrounds and ages to find the courage and strength to live the life they’ve imagined. This 148-day journey began on Darcy Gaechter’s 35th birthday. She sold her successful outdoor adventure business, upsetting her partner and boyfriend of twelve years and getting them both fired in the process. Darcy tackled raging whitewater for twenty-five days straight, barely survived a dynamite-filled canyon being prepared for a new hydroelectric plan. She and her two companions would encounter illegal loggers, narco-traffickers, murderous Shining Path rebels, and ruthless poachers in the black market trade in endangered species. At once a heart-pounding adventure and a celebration of pushing personal limits, this a story of finding the courage and strength to challenge nature, cultures, social norms, and oneself. Published as a Kindle edition and as a hardcover with 16 pages of colour photographs Publication date: March 3, 2020 Pre-order: www.amazon.com

PATAGONIA TYPE 2 PODCAST – FEATURING DAN YATES & SAVE OUR RIVERS The latest Patagonia Type 2 podcast is well worth listening to as it features Dan Yates, one of the key figures behind Save Our Rivers, which was instrumental in stopping the construction of a hydro scheme on the River Conwy. The Type 2 podcasts explore the intersection between the outdoors, action sports and activism, and this interview with Dan is a great insight into the work he and Save Our Rivers has done (and continues to do), and gives credit to the unsung heroes behind the campaign. “For Dan, activism is intrinsically linked to his own love for wild places, sure. But what comes across from his story, and why I think it is so valuable, is the reality of everyday activism. Dan and his peers are fitting in their activism around their everyday lives, finding hugely effective ways to achieve their goals that don’t necessarily rely on direct action, and instead means a lot of hard, dedicated and often unglamorous work.” https://soundcloud.com/wearelookingsideways/type-2-dan-yates

PEMBROKESHIRE MARINE CODE APP This is a brilliant app that helps you plan your trip before you get on the water, and identify wildlife and seasonal access restrictions once you’re afloat. The app has four main elements: »» Plant and animals – great resource for identifying wildlife, from birds and seals to seaweeds and jellyfish. »» Marine code – interactive maps of all access restrictions, which show when and where you can paddle, plus codes of conduct for sharing the water with seals, seabirds and cetaceans. »» Geology and rocky shores – geology of north and south Pembrokeshire, including fossils, zonation and lichens. »» Invasive species – how to recognise both marine and land based invasive species such as Wakame seaweed and killer shrimp, and report a sighting. The app is free to download and use, however, you do need to register and then download the assets before you can use it. It’s worth doing this in advance, not while you’re sitting in your boat with limited 4G! The app uses your GPS in the background to track your location, however, it’s easy to change the setting so it doesn’t eat your battery. Find out more and download via http://www.pembrokeshiremarinecode.org.uk/marine-code-app/

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REVIEW THE SEA COMPENDIUM SEA PADDLER’S GUIDE TO MARINE NAVIGATION AND SAFETY Some years ago Andy Stamp produced the ‘Sea Kayaker’s Companion’ a collection of animated presentations on marine navigation. It was a great resource but unfortunately has been out of a stock for a while. The good news is that Andy has produced a new version, which will be available to download through Howard Jeffs Expedition Essentials. The Compendium covers a wide range of topics including Sea Navigation, Weather, and VHF, and is a brilliant learning resource for anyone venturing onto the sea. The presentations also align with and support the new British Canoeing Sea Kayak Awards. They are available in three volumes (with each one adding new presentations to the previous volume). The Basics covers the theory required for the Sea Kayak Award Coastal Paddling adds the additional theory for the Coastal Sea Kayak Award and Sea Kayak Leader Award Open Water Paddling adds yet more theory to cover the Advanced Sea Kayak Award and Advanced Sea Kayak Leader Award One of the presentations I viewed was ‘Tidal Steams and Diamonds’, which I needed some input on … This was a 10 minute presentation and was the last in the series of five ‘tidal topics’. It provided a building block approach and the animations made the content really easy to follow, with lots of animated tidal planning examples that made the theory much easier to understand. Pretty impressive!

OVERALL the presentations were clear and concise, and the animation brought potentially complex topics to life. These resources may align with the British Canoeing Sea Awards, however, they are an invaluable resource to any sea paddler and with the full set costing only £25 are well worth the investment.

RRP

The Basics - £12

Coastal Paddling - £18

Open Water Paddling - £25

Available from www.howardjeffs.com/expedition-essentials/

For events, activities and adventure ideas visit gopaddlingweek.info


Ellis competeing in Junior K1 - Intermediate

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EUROPEAN OPEN, BRITISH OPEN & BRITISH FREESTYLE CLUB CHAMPS

ARTICLE: LISETTE NIXON

T

his freestyle event was held at Holme Pierrepont White Water Centre. Although predominantly a freestyle event a number of other competitions such as Boater X, big tricks and the inflatable race, have been included to make it a full weekend of fun. This year saw a record entry of 150 competitors and with one entry fee covering all events it meant for a busy time for the keen kayakers (or those that had their arm twisted to make up points for the Club Champs). Ages crossed over 4 decades and there was a good mix of ladies and men. Freestyle is split into novice, intermediate and elite categories. The same moves score (with some extra easy moves in novice, such as paddle spin and air guitar), those in intermediate have “coached scoring” so can score part moves (initiation, and completion gets you marks) as well as the full execution to ICF rules. It is a great way of getting points when you are still learning the tricks and is designed to be encouraging. Elite have to do the complete move to ICF scoring (as would be the case in World Champs etc.) so landing a loop not quite straight will not get any points. Each move can only score once during the heat; if a loop is scored (60 points) and that person only does lots of loops but nothing else, the final score will still be 60. Saturday saw the heats in a jam format. Jam heats are where a group of paddlers are on the water at the same time, taking it in turn to have a ride on the feature. As soon as they flush the next paddler goes and they will keep going in turns for the full duration of the heat. They go in bib order, and the heats are of mixed ability distributed evenly across all heats. With 8 in each heat this meant about 25 mins each (3 mins per paddler), with the top 5 in each discipline (of elite) going through to the finals at the end of the day. There were 13 heats for intermediate and elite with 103 competitors (58 elite, 45 intermediate). Wales had a good entry across the heats with 1 senior woman (Lowri Davies), 1 senior man (Craig Ayres), 5 junior men (Ben Higson, Ellis Pimborough-Jones, Iestyn Davied, Owen Maddox and Sam Michael) and 2 junior woman (Mayo Cross and

Megan Dunne). Ben and Craig both competed in C1 as well as K1, and Ben also competed in squirt. Running in parallel were 7 novice heats with 53 competitors and it was really great to see these numbers at the entry level in the sport. The novice event was held on Fairy Wave, which is a forgiving feature half way down that is perfect for this level. Megan Dunne gave a great performance getting a great 155, putting her 5th in the junior ladies (actually 7th if you include the seniors as well; the junior girls were on fire). Ben did his C1 kneeling in a K1 (without the C1 outfitting) and despite nearly getting a loop and a McNasty only scored 10 points for a flat spin (the harshness of being elite). On intermediate scoring this would have been higher as the initiation and completion would have been given. This makes it hard to compare final results. Iestyn and Ellis both put in some good loops with plenty of air, which always looks good to spectators, and added in space godzillas. Craig did his C1 run in a borrowed boat and put in a good performance as well with similar moves. Ben, Owen, Lowri and Craig all added cartwheels, McNastys and lunars to push their scores up. Lowri showing us all who was king of the backloop. Saturday afternoon saw the squirt boat event. Squirt boats are designed so that they sit on or just below the water level. Moves are similar to freestyle, but slower and it includes downtime (using the flow to get the whole boat and body fully underwater so a multiplier is added to the score). This consisted of two 1-minute rides. This was Ben Higson’s first entry in this discipline. The boat was a bit big for him so he wasn’t able to fully submerge the boat, but he scored some nice cartwheels and came away with 130. Then it was finals time for freestyle. Each competitor has 3 rides of 45 seconds. Best ride score counts. This puts a lot of pressure on the paddlers and a flush off the feature means losing valuable time when they can’t score points. Paddlers go in reverse order of points from the previous round. First to go were the junior ladies of Mayo Cross, Jasmine Kinsman, Abigail Goddard, Jennifer

Boater X, big tricks and the inflatable race, have been included to make it a full weekend of fun. This year saw a record entry of 150 competitors and with one entry fee covering all events it meant for a busy time for the keen kayakers

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Inflatables assemble!

Sam in the Boater X.

Spanish and Welsh and Juniors.

Ben and Tim doing synchro.

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CEUFAD

Leal and Ottilie Robinson-Shaw. All but Jasmine had represented GB at the recent World Championships. Jasmine at 13 was the youngest, but already showing a great deal of talent. Final placings were Mayo 5th with 10, Jasmine 4th with 100, Jennifer 3rd with 100, Abigail 2nd with 140 and Ottilie 1st with 315. Next were the junior men – this was a truly European final with Roger Garrido Vilallave (Spain), Tim Rees (Germany), Owen, Ben and Toby Marlow. It was great to see them sitting in the eddy above in a circle wishing each other well. From a combination of the Burners programme and the Worlds they had all made great friends and it was just great to see this friendship and support continue. This event had given them the chance to all meet up again. Roger had 170 on his first ride, which he couldn’t improve on, giving him 5th place. Owen’s last ride of 270 put him in 4th, Ben couldn’t improve on his first run of 275 giving him a 3rd. Tim pulled a 430 out the bag on his second run getting him 2nd place and Toby took the win with is final ride of 440. All these paddlers show great promise so all ones to watch for the future on the International scene. Next was C1 and Craig had managed to get enough in his jam session to make the final in a borrowed boat. This in itself was an impressive achievement, so he did very well to come away with a 4th place. Lowri was Wales’ hope for the ladies, and had a 2nd place behind Denise Rebnegger (Austria) with her score of 190 points, making her the British Champion. Last, but not least, was the turn of the senior men. Craig was paddling again. Rob Crowe and Gav Barker seem to take it in turns to take the top spot in the British team, and this year Rob pulled it out the bag with a 1st with a very impressive 1330 points. Dave McClure (Ireland) got very close with 1310 points and came away with the European 2nd place. Craig came in 4th behind Gav Barker, but still an impressive placing. Even with a flushy feature this was a great spectacle of linked sequences of moves and something for all those watching to be impressed by (and for many paddlers to aspire to – or at least dream of doing). All the scores were low and all competitors were struggling to stay retained in a tricky, unpredictable and flushy feature. Saturday night saw freestyle prize giving and the party in the rugby club. There was a great atmosphere where young and old all socialised together. Friendships made on the water (or the river bank) were continued and a good turnout by parents as well as paddlers. It is great to be part of such a friendly group of kayakers. Sunday morning was Boater X, with 21 heats of 4 paddlers, with the top 2 going through to the


RESULTS K1 JUNIOR LADIES Euro* Ottilie Robinson Shaw Abigail Goddard Jenifer Leal Jasmine Kinsman Mayo Cross

Lowri - taking the British Champs title

next round. There was a gap after the semis, with the finals being run as the last event of the day. Ben Higson and Iestyn Davies both got through to the finals, with Ben taking 3rd junior man. Lowri Davies also made it through the rounds to the final, but unfortunately couldn’t quite cash in on her earlier success and came away with a 4th (too much time riding Pegasus during the day). Between the Boater X heats and finals, the rest of Sunday was filled with synchro freestyle, big tricks, downriver freestyle and of course the inflatable race (and inflatable freestyle). The course was full of people in all types of boats just having a good time. The various extra competitions took on a very fun approach, as anyone with a bib dipped in and out of the various competitions. On the lake there was a variety of craft to be tried, particularly popular with the kids who didn’t quite feel up to white water and wanted to have a go. Anyone that fancied drying off could just watch or join in dancing to the music being played, take pictures, or join one of the many ad hoc BBQs. The inflatable race was of course a great highlight. So many unicorns! I think for the majority a lot more laughing than racing was done. This was followed by inflatable surfing on Fairy, judged for most impressive move. However, most paddlers were enjoying just surfing and having fun! In the background was a discreet group looking out for everyone’s safety.

At the end of the day there were lots of tired people, all with a smile on their face as every last drop of energy had been used. I think plenty of the juniors (and some of the seniors too) slept for the journey home! Full credit needs to be given to James Ibbotson and his team for such a well-run event that is sure to bring everyone together again next year.

WELSH ENTRIES - FREESTYLE

Ben Higson: Junior Elite K1, C1, Squirt Owen Maddox: Junior Elite K1 Ellis Pinborough-Jones: Junior Intermediate K1 Sam Michael: Junior Intermediate K1 Iestyn Davies: Junior Intermediate K1 Craig Ayres: Senior Elite K1, C1 Lowri Davies: Senior Elite K1 Megan Dunne: Junior Novice K1

FIND OUT MORE For an awesome

vid on all the freestyle moves check out https://youtu.be/6GXRBpdr69I If you want to take up freestyle then there are GB paddlers who paddle at Mile End Mill and Cardiff International White Water Centre as well as other locations throughout Wales so get in touch - GBfreestylekayaking.

K1 JUNIOR MEN Toby Marlow Tim Rees Ben Higson Owen Maddox Roger Garrido Vil

C1 Matt Stephenson Ben Pamplin James Ibbotson Craig Ayres Adam Ramadan

K1 SENIOR LADIES Denise Rebnegger Lowri Davies Kimberlee Aldred Jen McGaley Heidi Walsh

K1 SENIOR MEN Robert Crowe David McClure Gav Barker Craig Ayres Alex Walters

1 2 3 4 5

Brit* 1 2 3 4 5

Euro* Brit* 1 1 2 3 2 4 3 5 Euro* Brit* 1 1 2 2 3 3 4 4 5 5 Euro* Brit* 1 2 1 3 2 4 3 5 4 Euro* Brit* 1 1 2 3 2 4 3 5 4

*European Champs British Champs

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Enjoying white water paddling.

Aileen paddling a canoe, another skill!

Q&A

Aileen Saunders

Canoe Wales’ Volunteer of the Year Aileen Saunders joined Haverfordwest Kayak Club (HWKC) thirteen years ago, when she first started paddling. Since then she’s become an integral part of the club; gaining coaching and leadership awards, organising trips and running regular coaching sessions. During this time she discovered Greenland style paddling, and was a founding member of ‘Greenland Style’ – a Canoe Wales affiliated club specifically for Greenland paddlers, which offers coaching at all levels and runs an annual Greenland weekend at St Brides. Her fellow paddlers describe her as ‘ … always encouraging, wanting people to succeed and become active members of the club themselves.’ It’s no surprise that she was named Canoe Wales Volunteer of the Year! Ceufad caught up with her to find out more …

“I REALLY ENJOY SEEING BEGINNERS DEVELOP INTO COMPETENT PADDLERS WHO CAN ENJOY THE CLUB ACTIVITIES JUST AS MUCH AS I HAVE”

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How did you get into paddling? I started paddling because I was looking for an activity that was outdoors and where I would be meeting people. I chose kayaking and decided to join a club where I’d get the best chance to improve in a safe environment with other experienced paddlers. I joined Haverfordwest Kayak Club 13 years ago as a beginner and took the opportunity to go on any trips organised, had coaching and made good friends. And now you’re one of the club coaches who run those sessions and lead those trips! Yes - having received such a lot of input from HWKC I decided to give something back by getting my Certificate of Competence for Sheltered Water Leadership and then went on to become a Level 1 Coach. I coach at weekly winter pool sessions and with mainly beginners on Thursday nights in the summer months. I also organise social events and do whatever is needed within the club.

What motivates you to help people get started and progress in paddlesport? I really enjoy seeing beginners develop into competent paddlers who can enjoy the club activities just as much as I have. How did it feel being named the Canoe Wales Volunteer of the Year?! I was really surprised to be nominated for Volunteer of the Year but I was absolutely delighted. I don’t expect thanks for all the time spent helping but it is certainly nice to have it acknowledged. Introducing so many people to paddling must be very rewarding. Any stand out moments? One of the best moments for me has been working with a club member in her 70s on the Standard Greenland Roll. She had no success at learning to roll for a number of years and I was able to coach her in the Greenland technique and saw her achieve her goal. It was pretty special.


Coaching the Standard Greenland Roll.

Aileen demonstrates the Standard Greenland Roll using a traditional wooden Greenland stick and wearing a traditional tuiliq.

The Greenland roll – are you a Greenland paddler? I am hooked on Greenland paddling! A small group of HWKC members have practiced Greenland techniques for a number of years. I joined them to find out more and learned Greenland rolling, going on to first get a Greenland paddle as my paddle of choice and then buying a Greenland style kayak. This year we formalised the group and became a club affiliated to Canoe Wales. So you’re also part of a Greenland paddling club? Yes - ‘Greenland Style’ is a club specifically for Greenland Paddlers and we are open to any one who wants to learn Greenland techniques. I have been involved in introducing beginners to Greenland rolling and also more experienced kayakers new to Greenland techniques. We have run annual Greenland weekends at St Brides and have had kayakers of all abilities attend from all over Britain. I have led the paddle skills sessions. This is my particular passion and something I’m happy to promote and give my time to, even though I remain a keen member and volunteer for HWKC.

Enjoying more white water paddling!

Which makes you a very busy volunteer! How do you manage to balance this with work and family commitments, and what advice would you give other volunteers? It isn’t always easy running my own business, making time for the family and other activities, as well as volunteering for the club, but despite a busy schedule I manage to fit it all in. I’d say to anyone else volunteering to keep doing it, the rewards in the end a so worthwhile. What does the future hold for you within your clubs? As my main interest is Greenland paddling I want to give more of my time to coaching these techniques within HWKC, offering the opportunity to more members. And I would like to work towards the new Coach Award and continue to give my time to both clubs!

“ I’D SAY TO ANYONE ELSE VOLUNTEERING TO KEEP DOING IT, THE REWARDS IN THE END A SO WORTHWHILE”

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‘INTERESTING’ CONDITIONS IN THE OUTER HEBRIDES

A R T I C L E : A L E D E D WA R D S

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A SEA KAYAK ADVENTURE

Good morning, this is Stornoway Coastguard.

This is a maritime safety information broadcast.

CEUFAD

Huddled under a tarp, the group listen in as the calming Scottish tones of Stornoway Coastguard delivers the next instalment of the rapidly changing weather patterns we had been experiencing. The usual ingredients are there – low pressure, strong wind warning, rain. The group cheer when the wind speed and direction are forecast as SW F4-5. They have been battling F6-7 all week, so this is good news! It is expedition season for us at St. David’s College, and the Year 10 Sea Kayak group headed north for a school first expedition to the Outer Hebrides. After marvelling at just how far north the UK actually goes, we were treated to dolphins on our crossing from Uig on Skye, to Loch

Maddy on North Uist, across an oily calm Minch. The calm before the storm perhaps!? These islands really are the edge of the map in terms of the UK, and it felt like a proper adventure as we made ready to launch, shopping in the tiny island Co-op and packing boats. We launched late, paddling out into Loch Maddy in search of a good campsite, and then being treated to a very fine evening sunset as we ate our evening meal at midnight. We used our first day searching for otters in Loch Maddy, and had a lovely sunny day for the most part, as well as several sightings of the otters we had come searching for. There were some tidal rapids to play on, and an abundance


of wildlife to look out for, and the group returned happy to their camp at the end of the day. Sadly, the weather the next day set the scene for the rest of the week – windy, wet and cold! An exciting following sea pushed us up the east coast of north Uist, where we were able to find enough shelter to explore some of the islands in the Sound of Harris before strengthening winds forced us to seek a campsite on Thermatraigh. We were happy to find an old sheep enclosure out of the wind, and with a little creative tarpology we were able to seal it up and make a cosy living room … it was a wild night in the tents though! Not that anybody was kept awake, a day of challenging paddling, committing sea cliffs and eagle spotting made for a sleepy night. The dawn broke blustery and cold, but a bowl of warm porridge and the ever-calming voice of Stornoway Coastguard saw us on our way, hugging the north Uist coast with some exciting crossings as we hopped from skerry to skerry towards Berneray. It was otter spotting day, with some playing, and some just chilling on the rocks, completed by a rather majestic looking golden eagle soaring above it all. Unfortunately, the day ended very wet, with everyone and everything at this point being pretty soggy, despite everyone’s best efforts to stay dry … there is

something not quite right about getting into a wet sleeping bag. We made a group decision the next morning that the weather had beaten us, and to stop paddling. The wind had been forecast to F7 again, and it was still cold and raining. We enjoyed another exciting following sea as we crossed over to the harbour on Berneray, and its wonderfully welcoming visitor centre, and then onwards towards the youth hostel in an old crofter’s cottage above a white sandy beach. We spent the night camped in the dunes above the shore, after a walk to look out over the wild Atlantic Ocean and trying to spot the outlying islands of St. Kilda through the squalls. During our five days on the water, we spotted an abundance of wildlife. White-tailed eagles, golden eagles, otters, seals, gannets, and a host of other marine wildlife all helped make this trip a wonderful experience. Despite the weather, the group enjoyed some top-class sea kayaking, and will hopefully treasure the memories from the 50km or so we managed to paddle while trying to stay warm, dry, and dodge the wind! It was magical location to explore by kayak, hopefully we will get the opportunity to return soon, hopefully with slightly better weather.

The group cheer when the wind speed and direction are forecast as SW F4-5. They have been battling F6-7 all week, so this is good news!

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2020 EVENTS

LOCATION: CARDIFF INTERNATIONAL WHITE WATER PHOTO: JUSTIN BUNN

AGM CANOE WALES AGM ASK ANGLESEY SEA SYMPOSIUM CF CANOEFEST (HAY ON WYE) CPF CIWW PADDLEFEST DF DEEFEST FBOR FISHGUARD BAY OCEAN RACE GPW NATIONAL GO PADDLING WEEK LRF LLANDYSUL RIVER FESTIVAL MRR MONMOUTH RAFT RACE MCT MONMOUTH CANAL TRIATHLON MW MAWDDACH PADDLESPORT FESTIVAL


20 JULY

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CANOE WALES (CWMCARN) RD2 CANOE WALES (CAPEL CURIG) RD3 CANOE WALES (CARMARTHEN) SDSK ST DAVID’S SEA FESTIVAL TT TEIFI TOUR

ROADSHOW ROADSHOW ROADSHOW & SURF KAYAK

LOCATION: DALSLAND, SWEDEN PHOTO: ALED EDWARDS

LOCATION: PAS DE CALAIS INTERNATIONAL TOURNAMENT PHOTO: MATT FREE


A Tale of Two Rivers ARTICLE: JOHN CONLIN-JONES

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CEUFAD


The River Kwai, or more correctly Khwai Noi, is a river in western Thailand that flows from the Vajiralongkorn dam near the Myanmar border to Kanchanaburi. Here it meets with the Kwai Yai and becomes the Mae Klong, which empties into the Gulf of Thailand at Samut Songkhram. Thailand resident John Conlin-Jones took two trips to explore these rivers, their history and association with the film ‘The Bridge on the River Kwai’.

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The River Kwai Yai ON THE FIRST DAY WE PASSED AN ELEPHANT RESCUE CENTRE WHERE THE RESIDENTS WERE BEING WASHED AND WERE COOLING OFF IN THE RIVER

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E

very now and then my friends from my old kayak clubs in Wales visit me in Thailand for a paddling trip. One of those visitors was Wayne from North Avon Canoe Club. He had come over to Thailand for a month after his retirement in 2018. We have paddled together many times on the Devon and Cornish coast and the Scilly Isles but not in Thailand. After spending five days together exploring the islands in the archipelago of Koh Chang, Wayne suggested paddling the River Kwai into Kanchanaburi, down to the bridge immortalised by a certain film. Although I have been to Kanchanaburi many times, cycling and paddling with a large group of paddlers from Bangkok on a large lake near the border, I had never paddled the River Kwai. It now flows from a large lake behind the Sinakharin dam (to the east of the Vajiralongkorn dam which we had paddled before with the group from Bangkok) and the second hydroelectric dam further downstream, the Thathungna dam. We arrived with two of my sea kayaks with a day in hand, so we could look for a launch site below the second dam. There is little or no infor-

mation on most of the rivers here and we were hoping not to encounter any major rapids on our journey. On our way we saw a few resorts that did sit-on-top kayaking and bamboo rafting; when we stopped off to check the river all of them did mall stretches, so we didn’t know if the section we were hoping to paddle had been paddled before. Wayne wanted to run the whole stretch, which would have taken at least five days to complete … which coincided with his flight back to the UK … an impossible schedule! So I talked him out of the idea, especially as it included two very large portages around the dams. After the trip we discovered there was an additional problem; whilst we were sitting in a restaurant looking at a tourist map of the river we spotted a large waterfall on the upper section. It was about ten metres high and boxed in with thick jungle. A portage looked impossible. We’d definitely made the right decision! The next morning we were about to launch in front of the hydro dam when we were stopped by two security guards. They were keen for a chat. Apparently we couldn’t launch from that area as


it was government land. So we traipsed downstream for about half a kilometre to a road bridge, and launched from there instead. The River Kwai is a very wide meandering river with numerous islands dotted along it, in a variety of sizes. Every so often the jungle trees and bamboos would grow four or five metres from the bank, over the river, and the only place we could stop for a break or food was were the banks had been cleared for the development of resorts or houses. There were a few small rapids in places but nothing that caused us any problems. There are also numerous floating barges and restaurants, some with rooms for tourists, and a host of small tourist bungalows on the riverbanks. A lot of the riverside resorts offered water activities, either sit-on-tops or bamboo rafting, or water slides into the river. On the first day we passed an elephant rescue centre where the residents were being washed and were cooling off in the river. At around 3.30pm we a found a Thai restaurant on the riverbank that was busy with Thai families and children playing in the water. They even served French fries! After some food and drink we continued our journey and started to look for a place to camp. On the way we passed a dozen or so teenagers floating down to the next village on tyre inner tubes. It was getting late and we couldn’t find a suitable camp spot, and darkness was approaching. As the last of the light faded we arrived at a large village with a park busy with families eating and playing. There was a large resort on the opposite bank and, with nightfall approaching, we decided to stay in a bungalow. Which meant a shower and a change of clothes, followed by a meal in the resort’s floating restaurant. The next morning we enjoyed breakfast at the resort, then pushed off at around 10.30am for the final 15km of the journey. We arrived at the bridge at Kanchanaburi at 12.30pm, and figured we must have paddled around 45 km in total. At the bridge I got a taxi to my pickup truck, whilst Wayne spent an hour or so exploring the river down through the town. It was low season so not so many long tail boats on the river and not so many foreign tourists, however, there were lots of people on the bridge looking at the Chinese temple.

HEADGEAR We opted for Thai hats with

a skirt – which cover everything but your eyes. The Thai farmers wear these out in the fields as protection from the sun. Wayne is very light skinned and fair-haired, so the heat and sun can cause him a lot of discomfort on out trips, the Thai farmers’ hats were a great way to combat this!

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The River Kwai Noi THE RIVER KWAI NOI IS VERY MUCH LIKE THE RIVER WYE IN WALES, VERY CLEAN WITH LOTS OF PEBBLE BEACHES, THE OCCASIONAL BIG SAND BAR AND AREAS OF HIGHSIDED ROCK CLIFFS 26 |

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fter my River Kwai trip with Wayne earlier in the year, and a trip back to Wales and Scotland to see family and friends, I was invited to take a three-day trip on the River Kwai Noi, which is also in the Kanchanaburi area of Thailand near the border with Myanmar (Burma). I left my home in Isaan in the province of Nakhon Ratchasima and drove some 500km to Kanchanaburi to meet the rest of the group at a PTT garage near Sai Yok Noi. I arrived at around 7.30am to find some of the group already there, having spent the night in hammocks they had rigged in the trees. Imagine that in the UK! ‘You can’t sleep there mate and if you want to park overnight you’ll have to pay.’ Eventually the rest of the group arrived, about twenty-three paddlers in all, with four sea kayaks, one inflatable, one sit-on-top and eight Mad River Canadians. All the boats were loaded onto a lorry along with any group member not driving, and were transported to the start point at the village of Thong Pha Phum, some 100km away. The rest of us took our vehicles the 40km to the finish point, where we parked them with the Rafting Frog com-

pany. Then the fifteen drivers were loaded into a pickup truck and driven for an hour or so to the starting point close to the border with Myanmar. On the way there, just like any other boating shuttle, there was lots of banter and laughing with everyone looking forward to our adventure. On our arrival at the village we all had lunch and stocked up for the trip at the local ‘Seven Eleven’. The first section was going to be short so we launched at noon from a pebble beach near a park. There were two young boys in the river who could not swim properly and they both had coconuts still in their husks tied together as floatation aids. The River Kwai Noi is very much like the River Wye in Wales, very clean with lots of pebble beaches, the occasional big sand bar and areas of high-sided rock cliffs. However, unlike the Wye most of the riverbank as covered in a impenetrable jungle. The only places to get out in an emergency would have been the places that have been cleared for resorts and private properties, and they were few and far between. We arrived at our first intended campsite at about 4pm but, being a holiday weekend, it was


very busy, so we paddled on to a resort which was closed for the season but which was open to us camping there. We pitched our tents and set up hammocks on the elevated platforms above the river, which were usually used as dining spaces for the resort guests. At about 5.30pm there was a dam release and the river rose by about two metres. This happens every evening to produce electricity for towns and villages overnight. We ate our meal had a few drinks and turned in for the night. We woke at around 6am as the river level was starting to drop, ate our breakfasts, and packed our boats, which was made slightly more difficult by the higher water levels. Then we started the next stage of our journey, again cutting through thick jungle. We stopped at a picnic and camping area that had a pebble beach with ramped access down to the water. A group of six mud-splattered men in a pickup truck were also there, setting up their tents for the evening. We had lunch of spaghetti Bolognese, prepared the night before by Somjate Wattanaveakin, before cooling off with a swim in the river. After lunch we set off again, the bamboos were huge and hung out well over the water. They can grow up to forty metres high, then because their shallow roots can no longer support them, they fall across the river. Bamboo is actually

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WE PASSED BY A GOLF CLUB RESORT WHICH HAD GREENS ON BOTH SIDES OF THE RIVER. THE GOLFERS KINDLY WAITED FOR US TO PASS BEFORE DRIVING THEIR SHOTS ACROSS

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classified as a grass, and there are over sixty species of bamboo in Thailand, and apparently over one thousand throughout the world. We also saw kingfishers, which are slightly larger than the British ones but the same colour, flocks of geese and lots of birds that were similar to our lapwings – the same colour and call but a little smaller and feeding on the invertebrates in the mud banks. As we were getting further downstream towards Kanchanaburi we were seeing a lot more floating resorts, and we pitched our camp on a large area with grass and trees in front of one them. The owners had given OK to camp there for the night, so we secured our boats, pitched our tents and hammocks, and started to prepare our evening meals. The Thais are amazing; they can rustle up food in no time, with each group preparing something different, which we then all shared. After some more banter and a lot of drinking we turned in at round midnight. During the early hours I awoke to the roar of a major dam release, I could hear it pouring over the rock ledges we had passed about twenty metres upstream. I was happy that we had secured the boats on the grass bank well above the waterline! I thought the size of the release might be because the following day was a

public holiday for the new King’s birthday, so more electricity would be required than usual. In fact the river didn’t drop the next morning, and pretty much stayed that level for the rest of our journey. On day three everyone was up at 6am, it was going to be a relaxing morning as we only had about 15km to the finish, So we all set about preparing a group breakfast. Somjate made American pancakes with maple syrup and pecans, good for me that he likes Italian and American food! We then set off on the final stretch of our journey, passing by a golf club resort which had greens on both sides of the river! The golfers kindly waited for us to pass before driving their shots across. Further along there was a resort with hot springs, which some of the group investigated, and a section with numerous floating restaurants which were being towed up and down the river by long tail boats. A few hundred metres before our journey’s end there was a huge undercut limestone cliff, eroded by millions of years of water, with a few higher caves further downstream. Then we were at the road bridge and the small beach that signalled the end of our trip. We unpacked our boats and were taken up to the rafting centre to retrieve our vehicles. Then it was load boats, stow kit and make our way back home.


HISTORY OF THE AREA During the

Second World War the Japanese occupied Burma (Myanmar), which meant they needed to get supplies to their troops based there. However, their ships were being destroyed on the sea route so it was decided to build a rail line from Thailand into Burma. Some of that route followed the River Kwai Noi and they used prisoners of war (POWs) and forced labour from Burma, Thailand and Malaysia to build it. During the construction 12’000 of the 60’000 Allied POWs died, mainly of malnutrition, tropical disease or exhaustion. Many were buried in marked graves alongside the rail line. However the Asian labourers, predominantly Tamils, Malays and Burmese suffered far higher death rates, nearly half of the 200’000 forced labourers died. The Japanese kept records of the POWs and they were reburied in war cemeteries in Thailand and Burma; there is a large cemetery in Kanchanaburi. The construction of this rail line was immortalised in the film The Bridge over the River Kwai, however, the film wasn’t completely accurate. The bridge that was actually built during the war crossed the River Mae Klong, not the Kwai, 5km from Kanchanaburi, and it was destroyed by Allied bombing. It was repaired and it still in use today. Most tourists visit Kanchanaburi to see the ‘bridge over the River Kwai’ and it remains a big tourist attraction, along with the museum at Hellfire Pass which is about 60km from Kanchanaburi. The rail line was open up till 1956 when the Thai government agreed to close part of it as it had been built by prisoners of war, which is against the Geneva Convention. However part of the line is still open and runs mainly for tourists and some isolated villages. We should never forget the people who died here during the war and there is a memorial near Kohima in Myanmar which says it all: “When you go home, Tell them of us and say, We gave our tomorrow, For your today.”

THANKS TO Sarinya (Amey), Somjate Wattananveakin and lots of other other group members for the photos.

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TFEST 2019

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t was another awesome year of paddling and partying at this year’s Tryweryn Festival. With an ever-growing number of people attending the event it has been amazing to see the festival grow over the past few years. There is always a great buzz around the National White Water Centre leading up to the Tryweryn Festival as river guides, paddlers and spectators look forward to an amazing weekend. As usual the weather gods played their part in making sure it rained at several times over the weekend, but as paddlers this is generally one thing we don’t worry too much about! The NRS Extreme Race has become a great draw to the festival, with an even fiercer competition this year. Paddlers had their game faces ready for the head-to-head heats. A 15ft slide and drop straight into your race run gets the heart pumping, with another section of rapids and technical moves to make whilst battling against your opponents. Once throw bag skills had been tested by the team at Palm Equipment it was time for the Pyranha King of the Wave. The King of the Wave competition has been a long tradition at the Tryweryn Festival. It seems this year people enjoyed the party wave so much it carried on for a good

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while after the comp had ended; good commitment everyone! This year the raft race again saw teams of six battle it out on the main commercial section of white water. From the top of graveyard all the way to the raft take out there was no holding back if you wanted to claim that top space prize. It was a tough battle with close times but Barra the raft guide race champion held his title for the second year running but was made to share it with an equal time from fellow raft guide Alec. As always River Legacy did an awesome job of providing a wicked party set up, and again without their team of volunteers the festival wouldn’t be the same. We managed to get Dan from Save Our Rivers back again this year; a super passionate guy who has helped evolve the Save Our Rivers campaign into a majorly recognised source of information for river users on how to help save wild free flowing rivers. Our resident DJ Oli was also back again this year to fill the dance floor into the early hours, but not before people’s bellies were filled with a hearty meal and awesome choc brownie dessert. Big thanks to all of our trade stallholders and prize sponsors, and to Plas Y Brenin for providing top-notch coaching again. We can’t wait to start planning next year’s event. Keep an eye out on the NWWC Facebook page and on our website t-fest.wales for any updates, and to take a look at all of our sponsors from this year’s event and see who will be there in 2020. Massive shout out to everyone that attended the festival, whether your were on the water or just having an awesome weekend away, you make it what it is and provide such a great atmosphere from start to finish. See you all next year!!

WORDS: SAM BEESLEY P H OTO S : TO M C L A R E @ TC L A R E 9 5


A CANOE JOURNEY IN SWEDEN

A R T I C L E : A L E D E D WA R D S

We fancied a change of country for our Year 10 Canoe Expedition this year, and left the Lakelands of Finland, which we have visited the past 3 years, in favour of the Lakelands of Sweden, in the Dalsland region just north of Gothenburg. Looking at a map of southern Sweden, Lave Vanern stands out as an enormous body of water situated between Karlstad to the north, and the Gothenburg region to the south. What a largescale map of the country may not show however is the plethora of lakes feeding off its western edge, providing a huge paddling area and a wide variety of routes. After eight training days in North Wales, and a mini-expedition down a section of the River Severn, this year’s group found themselves on a train north out of Gothenburg to discover this area for themselves. The area is made up of flooded rift valleys, mainly orientated north–south, and it was up one of these, Lake Lelång, that we first started as

we departed from the canoe base in Bengtsfors. The weather was being kind with sun and very little wind, and the group soon found themselves settled in on an island for our first camp of the trip. The whole area has a vast network of ‘DANO’ campsites for use by travellers, which made for great lunch stops as well as for campsites. We headed further north, playing with the idea of paddling into Norway for the day, but a bad weather forecast forced us east past the locks at Gustavfӧrs, and into Vӓstra Silen. We followed this impossibly long lake south for two days, spotting osprey along the way, before finding a lovely final camp in a nature reserve bordering Laxsjӧhn. Our trip covered some 82km in total, and with so much more to discover I think we will be back to explore more of the region!

We followed this impossibly long lake south for two days, spotting osprey along the way before finding a lovely final camp in a nature reserve bordering Laxsjӧhn

MORE INFO Train / bus transport from Gothenburg to Bengtsfors booked through the Swedish train (SJ) website. Canoes booked through Nature Travels and provided by Silverlake Canoe in Bengtsfors. They also have a hostel for accommodation before / after the trip.

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AROUND WALES IN 15 DAYS The circumnavigation of Wales is an interesting paddling adventure. It brings more to the expedition table: coastline, canals and rivers. There’s even a tidal bore – if you get your timing right. ARTICLE: JOHN WILL ACY

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t’s at times like these that my mind wanders. Just now I’m pondering the significance of my 25m swimming badge. Ahead lie 10 miles of water, and behind another 10 miles. I wonder if those childhood swimming lessons with Miss Flood (yes, really) were adequate preparation. I’m half way across Camarthen Bay and it’s day one.

DAY ONE OF WHAT? Well, day one of an attempt to paddle around Wales by kayak. And before we go any further, let’s get that one out of the way. How do you paddle ‘around’ Wales? Briefly: Follow the coast until you reach the River Dee estuary. Turn right here. This is important - otherwise you are going via Scotland, and that is the long way around. Head upriver to Chester and join the canal. Paddle, via Wolverhampton, until you reach Stourport. Head downstream on the River Severn until you go under two rather large bridges. Turn right at the second one and keep paddling until you find your car once again. The circumnavigation of Wales is an interesting paddling adventure. It brings more to the expedition table: coastline, canals and rivers. There’s even a tidal bore – if you get your timing right. It can all be completed in a few weeks. This one doesn’t take a large chunk out of your life. Sign me up! In 2003 I had set out to paddle this one with my good friends, Geoff and Mike. Unfortunately the weather spoilt the party. After all these years I have finally found the time to have another go.

Launching from Rhossili Beach on day one.

DAY 1: RHOSSILI TO FRESHWATER WEST - 37 MILES - 7HRS It was a late arrival last night, after a day of last minute packing and kit checking. 16 years to get ready for this one Fatboy, and still you’re late! We are standing in a car park - it looks like an explosion in a Gore-Tex factory. But eventually all is sorted and I trolley the boat down a steep track to Rhossili Beach. It’s a nice day; the sun is out and the wind is 10mph, though a 2-3ft swell is forecast. Good enough for the day ahead - a crossing of Camarthen Bay. Beyond the shelter of the iconic Worm’s Head the boat starts a slightly grumpy wallow; it’s day one for both of us it seems. The crossing is uneventful, though at 26 miles, it’s a little long for day one. I see a pair of storm petrels and wonder if these visitors are an omen ... The hours tick by: paddle – drink – eat – paddle. At Broad Haven I decide to continue to Freshwater West. There is little choice really; Castlemartin Range has to be cleared over the inactive weekend. I turn left and move along the cliffs, aiming for Linney Head. I never like this stretch, it is a place of confused chop, clapotis and unhelpful eddies. However Freshwater West finally arrives with a pleasant surf in, and I meet The Boss once again. We chat for a while, taking in the view, until she has to head home. Kit dries in the sunshine and I pitch my tent in the dunes. Day one is done.

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IN THE EARLY HOURS THE SOUND OF WATER ENCROACHING ON MY ROMANTICALLY PLACED TENT CAUSES SOME CONSTERNATION. LIKE A MIDNIGHTMEERKAT I SIT AND WATCH HIGH-WATER GO THROUGH BY TORCHLIGHT

DAY 2: FRESHWATER WEST TO PORTH GAIN - 30 MILES 4HRS 40 After the long day yesterday I am thankful for a relaxed start today. Though the leg from Freshwater to Porth Gain is a familiar trip, it still has plenty to motivate. First a large-scale game of Frogger across the mouth of Milford Haven, next comes the infamous Jack Sound, followed by a 9 mile crossing of St Bride’s Bay. This leads to the swift waters of Ramsey Sound, and then the wonder-what’s-aroundthe-corner of St David’s Head. It’s all rounded off trying to find the hidden entrance to Porth Gain. Reputations can mislead at times. I contemplate these mythical spots, but today they are all straightforward. It’s boring old St Bride’s Bay that makes me work. The stiff east-wind and the swell sneaking around Skomer make life increasingly physical, as I venture across the bay. Eventually the wind and splash is left behind while I play hide-and-seek with the entrance to Porth Gain. A welcome return to the Pembrokeshire suntrap. I ponder how I managed to cut my chin on my lunch-time pie – unusual … DAY 3: PORTH GAIN TO LLANGRANOG – 36 MILES - 6HRS 30 In the early hours the sound of water encroaching on my romantically placed tent causes some consternation. Like a midnight-meerkat I sit and

Heading down to Rhossili Beach.

Windy night at Aberdyfi.

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watch high-water go through by torchlight. Later both the tide and I feel like an easy start. The wind is a stiff south-south-east. I sneak along the cliffs until the angles are right and then the wind encourages me towards Strumble Head. I am wary as I approach, but the far side is nice and smooth. Now it’s a typical early-exped day. The headlands take forever to fall behind. My arms are going around but the boat is sluggish and sullen. I paddle the oily calm towards Cemaes Head, where good conditions mean I must toil some more – finally finishing at Llangrannog. Didn’t know it was a surf beach …

DAY 4: LLANGRANOG TO ABERDYFI – 32 MILES – 6HRS 45 Yesterday was a struggle and though Geoff and Joy hosted me well I’m still feeling a little old this morning. I paddle out into calm from Llangrannog and start once again. It’s slow going. Spirits are lifted as my old friends the Manx shearwater join the show. You can’t help but smile when they arrive. I marvel at the precision as they skilfully circle the boat. Their wingtips leave gentle caresses on the smooth surface, gliding by. The paddle is nothing to get excited about. It’s basically a straight off-shore line to Aberdyfi – there’s not much else to see, not much to do and not much to say … DAY 5: ABERDYFI TO ABERSOCH – 30 MILES – 6HRS 45 The strong wind in the night filled the tent with sand. Tonight I’m bringing a bucket and spade to bed … I’m knackered. I need sleep and ‘exped-fitness’ is yet to kick in. I’m feeling sluggish both mentally and physically. Motivation is lacking and decisionmaking is syrupy. A perfect combination for another crossing. Additionally we have a minor disaster. As I load up, I can’t find my pee-bottle. I frantically scour the beach and the dunes, but it is gone! This is not just any old pee-bottle; this one is a UK Circumnavigator, an elite amongst pee-bottles! The day starts under a dark cloud. I plan to reach Tofanau and jump-off there for the crossing to Abersoch. The misleading offshore wind makes me wary of what I’ll find further out though. A choppy 20-mile crossing does not appeal. I give it a damn good ignoring, hoping that it will go away. Late afternoon, during a break, the wind drops. Abersoch here we come! 4 hours later I arrive, feeling much happier. I look back to see Cader Idris in the distance – it looks quite a long way. The Boss joins me once again and we finish the long day with an excellent pizza from ‘Crust’.


DAY 6: ABERSOCH TO PORTH DINLLAEN - 31 MILES – 5HRS 40 An early morning follows the late finish. An aching body slides into the boat for 06:30. The day starts surprisingly cheerfully though. Rather than the baking-sunshine-slog of previous days, today there is a challenge, and a plan to work to. The wind is to back to the north at 11:00. So I need to round the end of the Llyn Peninsula before that. Timings, tides and weather have all to be bettered today! Past the Tudwals and turn right, the east wind and the flow balance nicely. The following sea is big enough to provide rides, but there’s no leaning back required – nice. The Taran comes alive, today she’s in her element. We fly along. Black squalls funnel through Hell’s Mouth and next Bardsey Sound looms, but wind and tide work together for a smooth, fast passage. The flow continues north-west but I don’t want to be out there when the wind changes, so I turn right and trudge against the eddy up the coast. At Porth Colman I sit out tide and weather. The wind eases late afternoon, so I get back on for a few more miles. But things become choppy, and then move into challenging – I call it a day in Porth Dinllaen. A good plan and good miles from an awkward day. DAY 7: PORTH DINLLAEN TO BEAUMARIS – 35 MILES – 6HRS 50 Home-turf today! A straight line from Porth Dinllaen to Dinas Dinlle initially, the north-east breeze sitting right on the nose. Paddle – splash – paddle. The 3 peaks of Yr Eifl loom menacingly over the coast, their tops peaking through the scattered clouds. Little else occurs. It’s tiring work. I arrive north of Dinas Dinlle where the high-tide swell makes a steep shingle landing unappealing – in a make-a-bit-of-yourself sort of way. I sneak against the flow into the Menai Straits and land on the Caernarfon shore instead. There’s little point going further against the ebb, so International Rescue whisks me off home. But this is not necessarily a good thing. Soon kit is all over - a washing, drying, swapping chaos. It’s time to go again and I’ve lost track of everything – not good for a boy who likes his routine! Heading up the Menai Straits I chat briefly to a couple of Land’s End to John O’Groats paddlers. The Swellies, my daily training spot, is seen through strangely different eyes tonight. Next it’s over the ‘bubble’ at Beaumaris to end the day a few miles further on at Penrhyn. A smooth silent dusk draws the day to a close. My own bed tonight.

DAY 8: PENRHYN TO POINT OF AYR – 32 MILES – 6HRS 30 Things are starting to ‘click’ now. Exped- fitness is coming online, and the planning and tactics are working.

Duke of Lancaster.

Arriving in Abersoch.

The appeal of good sleep in my own bed was too strong, now there’s only 3 hours of tide to run as I start. I’m unlikely to cover the whole North Wales coast in that time. At Penrhyn, the widescreen view of Snowdonia is hidden by mist. Heading off towards Llandudno, it’s a ‘Bearings ‘R’ Us’ day. I hope today is the day that planetary physics take a break – but it isn’t. The tide goes against right on cue – 5.7 – 5.4 – 5.0kts ... The ebbing flow stacks up against the opposing wind though, and soon I’m getting enough rides to make reasonable progress. That’ll do. Beyond Prestatyn the neglected lighthouse at Point of Ayr appears, signalling the end of the day on a busy beach. Good progress, now the River Dee beckons…

AT PENRHYN, THE WIDESCREEN VIEW OF SNOWDONIA IS HIDDEN BY MIST. HEADING OFF TOWARDS LLANDUDNO, IT’S A ‘BEARINGS ‘R’ US’ DAY

DAY 9: POINT OF AYR TO HACK GREEN – 45 MILES – 8HRS 25 I’m excited about today. On the 2003 trip I surfed my first ‘Dee Bore’. So today is a sort of anniversary. With time in hand I decide to take the Mostyn Channel, to look at the scenery. The small port is now a buzz of wind farm activity. The narrow channel fills rapidly and I’m zooming along. I pass the Duke of Lancaster ‘fun-ship’ – its

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Entering Worcester.

Campsite at Codsall.

THE LONG TROLLEY IS INTERRUPTED BY A STALL WITH AN HONESTY BOX: ICE CREAM, HOME-MADE CAKE, COLD WATER AND OTHER DELIGHTS. I LINGER A WHILE, A LONG WHILE. EVENTUALLY I PADDLE OFF, FEELING RATHER GLORIOUSLY ILL 36 |

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Canal sunshine.

colourful history now hidden beneath a rather sombre layer of black paint. But then the wheels drop off. Well a set of wheels would be useful. I reach the top of the channel and run out of water. No worries, it’s filling quickly. Actually it isn’t. I’m stranded, bumping and scraping over sandy ripples. It takes an hour before I can see over the top, and to my dismay the estuary has filled in my absence. The flow is not hanging around, the leading edge is long gone. Double bugger. I set off in hot-pursuit. 10 miles later it is a very hot pursuit, in my ‘big-cag’ and helmet – sweating like a whatever. But it’s all in vain; I just catch the second wave in time to watch the bore fade. I’ve missed it – 16 years I’ve waited for this and now I’ve blown it. You muppet. Chester arrives with a transfer onto the canal. I sit in the sun and waste a little time, no hurry now. It’s the usual canal routine of smooth paddling interspersed with trolleying around locks. It’s a more relaxing environment. No worry from tides or wind. Safety is less of an issue, and it’s hard to get lost now. Today ends at Hack Green. I was hoping to stop by the Secret Bunker. I couldn’t find it.

DAY 10: HACK GREEN TO CODSALL – 34 MILES – 7HRS Exped law states that late-starts follow longdays. I’m not on the water until 10:30. But there’s no rush – we’ll get to where we get to. No pressure. The countryside glides by in a pleasant way. I chat to the cows and think of not much really, like a sort of floating Pooh Bear. The easy-life is only broken by trolley routine around locks. I have the distance between locks marked on my maps. I’m still trying to decide whether a long trolley outweighs multiple short-paddles, with the associated get-ins/get-outs. Answers on a postcard ... At Audlem the answer is not difficult; there are 15 locks over a mile or so. The long trolley is interrupted by a stall with an honesty box: ice cream, home-made cake, cold water and other delights. I linger a while, a long while. Eventually I paddle off, feeling rather gloriously ill. Greedy boy. Cheshire fades into Shropshire and then Staffordshire, I think. The sunny afternoon relaxes into an evening of summer cool. Eventually I haul out near Codsall, just outside Wolverhampton. I’d like to go a little further but it’s Hotel Canvas tonight and I’m not sure how well that works in downtown Wolves.


Trolley portage at Chester.

Chester Canal.

The towpath narrows as I pitch my still sand-filled tent. There isn’t a lot of room here. I drift off to sleep wondering if I could get the zip open before I drown.

DAY 11: CODSALL TO STOURPORT – 29 MILES – 6HRS 30 Stourport is the goal today via the Staffs and Worcs Canal. It’s not too far. But the map shows the dreaded chevron symbols of more locks. Quite a few more in fact, 60 in 25 miles! The locks add a scenic element to the canal and have intriguing names such as ‘Stewponey’ and ‘Bumblehole’, they also bring a time-consuming physicality to the day. It takes a knack to lift the loaded boat out undamaged and then onto a trolley. A rumbly tow-path haul ensues. Allow 3 or 4 minutes per lock and you can see that 3 or 4 hours of humping-and-dumping are added to the paddling. Still, I enjoy the canals. These towpaths have been used daily for 200 years. History has formed and faded here, and through it all the canal has stayed in exactly the same place. You can feel the ghosts. There are contrasts here too. Turn a corner and glide from the deepest urban blight into a sunny green glade, just like that. The odd electric-blue

flash of a kingfisher disturbs the greenery. While a few friendly boaters and miserable danglers add colour too. Life could be worse. At Stourport I head upriver for a mile to a pleasant and friendly campsite. The day ends as I doze off to the incongruous sounds of an owl and a 2-stroke dirt-bike across the river.

DAY 12: STOURPORT TO SHARPNESS – 59 MILES – 11HRS Today onto the River Severn, perhaps the last day before a return to the world of tide-times and weather dodging. Let’s see how far we can get. I have to wait for the locks to open for the day. Now they are manned, a much more relaxed affair. I just sit there and let the water (and the lock-keeper) do the work. I follow the meanders of the river, heading south in the sunshine via Worcester and a lunchtime snooze. I do still have a deadline though. If I make Gloucester Docks before the lock-keeper heads home I can gain 15 more lock-free miles on the Sharpness Canal. At Gloucester Docks the lock-keeper advises me it can get ‘a bit splashy’ beneath the lock gates. Crumbs! He’s not wrong. Inside he advises me it’s ‘a bit splashy’ up front too. Hmm, I contem-

I ENJOY THE CANALS. THESE TOWPATHS HAVE BEEN USED DAILY FOR 200 YEARS. HISTORY HAS FORMED AND FADED HERE, AND THROUGH IT ALL THE CANAL HAS STAYED IN EXACTLY THE SAME PLACE. YOU CAN FEEL THE GHOSTS

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plate my king-size aquatic stone coffin with jaded eyes. A ‘doom-crowd’ gathers above to watch my demise, but they lose interest once they realise I’m likely to survive. Finally Sharpness arrives in a slightly scruffy manner, similar to me really. I meet The Boss and we discuss how many different accents a bloke can kayak through in one day.

Testing the trolley.

Paddling past Penarth Pier.

Sharpness snooze.

Arriving at the Mumbles.

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DAY 13: SHARPNESS TO PENARTH – 39 MILES – 6HRS 30 The coffee-coloured Severn is flowing ‘upstream’ at a fair pace. We sit, watch and wait. I’m off as soon as the tide turns. It’s a breezy day. The silty water kicks up into a spikey chop. Bridge Number One slides impressively over the top and then the rather squirrely conditions under Bridge Number Two arrive. Down by Avonmouth the flow eases, I’ve cut it a bit tight and I think I’m in an eddy from the sandbanks. I chase around to find the flow. Trying to scrounge more miles, I’m caught midchannel when the tide does really goes against. It’s a big place to be when things are not in your favour. The turn of the tide lets the swell in too and things start to get lumpy. I’m slogging over towards Penarth now – hoping the tide doesn’t get any faster or there may be an unscheduled and muddy stop at Cardiff Barrage. I work hard for the next hour and a half to make it into Penarth. Relieved I flop out onto the beach. The Severn Estuary – no place for complacency. DAY 14: PENARTH TO PORT TALBOT – 39 MILES – 8 HRS 10 The weather has changed. With the finish line almost in sight, it is going to be touch and go. For once I would like to finish one of these sodding things with a gentle paddle in. The forecast is for a breezy day. Rounding Lavernock Point brings a stiff headwind, but the tide comes for the ride too. It’s splashy and the wind is a pain, but the GPS shows over 5kts - I can live with that. And that’s how the day goes, grinding steadily towards Porthcawl. The chop makes admin-stops a touch ‘cheeky’ but otherwise life is good. I’ve said before, these trips are a view into our rest-homefuture: eventually you spend your days slightly damp and smelling of wee. Clearing Porthcawl the tide dictates a break, so I take a rest appropriately at Rest Bay. I’m hoping to continue later across to The Mumbles. Early evening I set out, but after an hour I realise it’s not going to happen. The tide and wind are still too strong. I don’t want to be out after dark in these conditions. I turn back. But I’ll be beggared if I’m going back to Rest Bay. So I head north - a quick bit of maths and I reckon I can make Port Talbot by dark. It’s not ideal (no offence) but still closer to the finish.


Finish at Rhossili.

Later I pass the breakwaters of the steel works and turn for the beach. In the dusky light Port Talbot has become one long sodium-lamp silhouette. We arranged to meet at a roundabout on the prom (romantic!) I can see car-headlights changing direction at one spot and hope that is the roundabout. Welcome to Port Talbot - not necessarily where you want to be, but better than where you were.

DAY 15: PORT TALBOT TO RHOSSILI – 28 MILES – 7 HRS Today doesn’t look easy. So I break the day into chunks and plan to chip away at it, bit by bit. First comes the crossing of Swansea Bay. There are strong winds and the 200m visibility means I can’t see the conditions. I’m not happy but I set out telling myself that I only have to survive an hour and a half. Thankfully I do. At The Mumbles the wind is too strong to go around the corner. I land awaiting a change in the weather. We sit and wait. I go for a look. The only change is that I’m more nervous now. The forecasts are contradictory. Some show a window this afternoon, others don’t. Where they do agree however, is that it’s going pants after today. Getting stuck with only 20 miles to go? Come on give me a break. Then the mist lifts and the rain passes. From the

top of the cliffs I form a plan. I’m going to sneak to each headland. If I can’t get around I return to the nearest beach. Otherwise I paddle to the next one and go again. It’s windy but the plan works. I make steady progress towards the finish. But as I near Worms Head the tide starts to go against, allowing the swell to come in. It’s breaking on the reefs and I have to move further out, into the opposing flow. Progress slows. Rounding the end life becomes seriously unhappy. Eddy, flow and swell all meet in an unpleasant tidal conflict. Unfortunately it’s where I need to go. Long story short, it’s a scary time. But eventually I am pointing at the beach. I paddle in slowly, holding back as the swell runs beneath me. I’m in no mood for macho bollocks now, I pick the smallest bit of surf I can and head in. The boat hisses up the sand and I’m done. My left hand is sore; I look down and see why. Gripping the paddles tightly I had worn through the skin, blood is oozing from my fingers. I drag the boat up the steep path in the sunshine and strip off in the busy bank-holiday car-park to sort my kit for the last time. 16 years on and I’ve paddled Around Wales, and in 15 days. Well that will do.

AT THE MUMBLES THE WIND IS TOO STRONG TO GO AROUND THE CORNER. I LAND AWAITING A CHANGE IN THE WEATHER. WE SIT AND WAIT. I GO FOR A LOOK. THE ONLY CHANGE IS THAT I’M MORE NERVOUS NOW.

ABOUT to see more of

John’s circumnavigation and his GPS tracks check out his blog: https://aroundwales2019.blogspot.com/

WINTER 2019

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