Medway canoe trip: 15-16 May 2010

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A weekend open boat trip on the Medway.


The plan

We can hire boats locally from a company who will also transport them for us, and there are canoeist-friendly campsites along the way (a couple of them even have toilets). Rail links to possible start and end points look pretty good, so no need to sort out car shares.

We have a bunch of shiny splash-proof canoe trail leaflets, which have a basic map and information about portage, pubs etc. so some of the planning is already done. They even detail known local Morris dancing hotspots, which should help minimise one of the chief risks inherent in a foray into rural England

We can't promise Paul and Debbie will be out again, but it should be a lovely Day

Medway Canoe Trail

The tale

We set off from Tonbridge at 9:45am on the Saturday and arrival at Town Lock was only a short time later.

It turns out that the portage at Town Lock is a real pain because it involves lifting the canoes over the boom for the upper gates, then walking across the top of the lower gates then down a steep set of stairs. Cycling the lock is probably quicker, and certainly easier. The new canoe passes around Eldridges Lock, Porters Lock and East Lock more than make up for the earlier pain, and it's possible to take the canoes out at the bottom of East Lock to go up and do it again (lots of fun!)

Oak Weir Lock has a picnic table on the island and it’s a nice place to stop for lunch (so we did). This area is probably the most remote and picturesque part of the entire trail. There were lots of scouts out on the river in canoes and kayaks. Continuing on to Yalding, where at 4pm we stopped off for tea and biscuits at “Teapot Island”, although the claims about the quantity of teapots on show are quite exaggerated (if that’s your thing).

Just across the river beyond the weir is the Marlin Canoe Club campsite, where we pitched the tents. It’s safe to leave canoes unattended here because the only way to get them in or out is via the river, and the camp ground is well out of sight of roads. If you can get a key from the Environment Agency, there are toilets and hot showers nearby. The nearest public toilets are across the bridge, on the far side of the “leisure park” which is about a 5-minute walk. We can recommend this as a good place for an overnight stay.

After some good beer, excellent food and bad double-entendres at the Walnut Tree pub in Yalding, we crashed out. The following morning it was all about the bacon butties and coffee, and once those were polished off and the camp packed up, we were on the water at 10:30. Day 2 was by far the longer and more difficult paddle due to increased river traffic, wind, and tiredness from Day 1.

Not a whole lot to report from day 2, except that we tried to use locks where possible (and when they weren’t being operated by stoned yobs). Last of all, a cheer squad of geese and goslings was waiting to greet us as we arrived at Allington Lock’s slipway at 15:45.