What a good turn out! 8 boats afloat. The forecast was for Easterly winds up to force 4 with rain for most of the day. We mustered at Balmaha for a 0900 start and went through introductions. It was really nice to meet new members and for existing members to finally meet each other. A general introduction, safety and route brief completed we set off from the slip and headed out and around the bay to find our way into the hidden Endrick water entrance at around 1.6km. (slightly off track but a painless correction got us into the correct section.
The river mouth was shallow and a few of us decided to wade the 30mtrs into deeper river.
The initial straight section was about 2km before the left hand bend but we were out of the wind fairly quickly and, until a lot further up the river, we would remain out of the wind. Rem and his family met up with us in his lovely kevlar We-No-Nah and joined us for a large section of the trip.
The river meanders right up to the A809 bridge with 12 bends within a 10km stretch. A flash of a kingfisher was the lucky sighting of the front paddlers. 2 swans and their 2 signets couldn’t work out what to do and, so, kept ahead of us for a few miles before eventually hiding in a tree strainer until we paddled past.
After the second bend a sheep was seen half in the water appearing to be stuck and unable to get back up the bank. Pat, Colin and I went to investigate with Pat jumping ashore to reach down and grab the horns and together we helped the heavy water logged provider of fine fleece back up the muddy bank and to safety. Woodend Lodge was the first and last bridge across this river until the A809 and it looked quite rusty. Im sure it will stay.
The rest of the river was very pleasant with willows and Himalayan Balsam lining the banks and there was even signs of beaver and otter activity on the sections before the golf course. Himalayan Balsam is an invasive weed species rapidly spreading river banks but the flowers are pretty and the seed pods are mighty fun to play with. They explode on touch. Apparently the weeds are easily removed if done out side the flowering season due to their shallow root system.
Colin ventured ahead and witnessed (photos as proof) cows walking on water! but, around 1300 and approx 4.5 miles up the river, we stopped at a convenient sloping bank in the woods for some lunch. This was where we said goodbye to Rem and family and wished them a safe return paddle.
At around 8 km up the river the flow started to become a challenge along with the random shallows. After struggling against the flow and making no gains enough was enough and the bridge eluded us today. The late turn around was welcomed and now we had the flow with us. In theory we would have the wind behind us too but it disappeared. A tail wind would have been useful as folk were getting tired. For those more used to kayaking the new set of muscle groups required for canoeing were being tested. The rain started stronger now as well and the boats started filling but it was still a very enjoyable return. Not as many sightings of wildlife on the return though. By the time we had returned to the river mouth the wind and rain had left leaving the last 1.6km very relaxing and, silently, we cruised back into the slip. For me this was the second attempt to get to the bridge thwarted but that did not take the majesty out of this river.
Stuart and Sally
and guest staring Rem and family