Basingstoke Canal, 14th November 2009

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Faffing, Fetishes, Severe Weather Warnings & Closed Rivers

We met at the basin at painful o’clock to load kayaks into the van. Maximum faffing, epically pouring rain and our knowledge of multiple severe weather warnings delayed our departure somewhat. We had wisely opted to have the safety brief at the basin rather than brave it in the pouring rain on arrival.

The plan was to head to Guildford for a relaxing 7 mile stretch between Guildford and Godalming on the River Wey. After some navigational faffing around Guildford we finally found the carpark, unloaded the boats and identified a perfect putin. Call me cynical but recent years have taught me that if something seems too good to be true, it probably is. Indeed, we shortly learnt that the local kayak club had sent their beginners home because of the state of the river and the lock managers strongly advised us not to go on the water.

Flapjacks were consumed (thanks Neil!), maps were consulted, eyebrows were raised and “hmmm”s of uncertainty were muttered. We were faced with a difficult decision with 3 options, which were to ignore the advice and paddle anyway, head home with our tails between our legs or find somewhere else to paddle. After extensive faffage, some time to mourn the loss of a lie-in for seemingly little reward and Dan and Sarah getting drenched with rain whilst examining the river, we reached an executive decision to head West to the Basingstoke canal.

Locating Aldershot was alarmingly easy but locating the slipway which was to be our put-in proved unnecessarily challenging. It has been suggested that one more senior member of the group – mentioning no names (*cough DAN cough*) may have an unusual fetish for roundabouts. Indeed, we spent a significant duration driving (in convoy) between two roundabouts, catching glimpses of the water on the way but never quite making it.

We finally made it onto the water!!

Roundabout fetishes quashed, we eventually made it to our put-in and surprisingly minimal faffage enabled us to get on the water fairly promptly. With six aspiring 2*paddlers and two coaches there were multiple opportunities for lectures on the merits and delights of upper body rotation, as well as generous glove donations to address the pesky blisters which blighted a few.

The canal itself was pretty docile but the pouring rain and honking winds added their own challenges. The canal runs through MOD training grounds but we were successful in not getting shot at so we must have done something right (even if the upper body rotation never quite surfaced!!)

We found a picturesque picnic spot, with a hundred-acre-wood ambiance. Trees were climbed, culinary delights were consumed and there were heated debates on the acceptability of instant coffee, even in such cold damp circumstances. The rain returned so we hurried back on the water, being complimented for the reduction of faffing in comparison to the morning’s escapades.

We ended up paddling just under 6 miles, which wasn’t much less than our original plan. The canal was fairly pretty and rural, although it was difficult to ignore the constant sound of cars on a nearby road!

We left the water and enjoyed our first experience of carpark nudity. Snobbery surrounding the notion of instant coffee had long subsided and there was fierce competition for what now seemed like the best coffee in the world!

We waved goodbye to our dearly acquainted roundabouts and headed back to London. A quick beverage in the beloved Prospect of Whitby and it was time to bid each other farewell.

photos at: [1]

map (including roundabout detours) at: [2]