The first paddle of the year took place on the Kennet and Avon canal on 14th January 2018. It was a genteel affaire from the café and toilets at Dundas Aqueduct to a second café with toilets at Bradford on Avon, before returning to Dundas. In an emergency, there is even a pub’ with toilets half way between the two cafes.
This trip is always a safe bet in mid-winter because there is no fear of high water levels affecting things on a river, it is still water, and well wooded and so sheltered from the wind and it is easy on the physical side after all that Christmas over indulgence. At 9 miles, it’s also possible to do in a short boat if you want to.
This particular trip ended up as a joint paddle with North Avon Canoe Club (NACC) and so at 09.30 on a grey but dry day, 10 people met at Dundas Aqueduct. There was a variety of boats including a canoe, a sea kayak, various touring and general-purpose boats and a white-water boat. There was no rush and so boat length and speed did not matter on this ‘slop along placidly’ style trip.
We were ready to get on the water at 10.00 and as the café had not opened up in time for us to linger over cake, we set off towards Bradford. This is the first time in 3 or 4 years that we haven’t had hot drinks and cake before setting off. Must set a later start time in future so people are tempted more!
So, with c. 4.5 miles to go to the next café we paddled over the aqueduct and along the canal which is surprisingly sheltered by the well wooded landscape. As we paddled along gently there was plenty of ‘musical chairs’ going on and I think that everyone paddled with everyone else for a chat at some time during the day.
As we approached the second aqueduct over the R. Avon at Avoncliff, Phil raced off in front to get some photographs of everyone as they paddled over the aqueduct. Unfortunately, he didn’t tell anyone that was what he was doing and so there was a race behind him to catch up. He was still struggling to get out of his boat and back along the towpath to the photographic opportunity when everyone else arrived. The best laid plans of mice and ‘nutters’…
4.5 miles in still water isn’t very far when you are chatting fifty to the dozen and 1.5 hour later saw us at the Angelfish café, inside a heated chalet and having our picnics. We had a ‘proper job’ hour or so stop with a few people visiting the fantastic (13th century)? tithe barn for a look at the wonderful interior structure before setting off back to the Brassknocker Basin at Dundas.
The return journey was a mirror of the outward leg, with chat and easy paddling through the wooded countryside where we saw a few early snowdrops and a couple of kingfishers darting along in front of us.
We were back by mid-afternoon and a few of us went to the café for hot drinks and cake before wending our ways home. A good first paddle of the year to stop everything seizing up during the winter months.