River Stour, 17 - 18 July 2010

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Friday 16th July 2010 and twelve budding canoeists and kayakers escape from work, make it to the basin, and load the Luton van with three open boats, a pack boat, five kayaks, and plenty of kit for all in a record breaking time. The convoy makes its way to Rushbanks camping site in Nayland, with the fearless few stopping off at Little Chef along the way (they’re very eco-friendly these days and recycle their own coca-cola). All arrive safely at camp to be greeted by Robert’s on site travelling café (he doesn’t recycle the beverages - phew).

Saturday am, a glorious morning, and the team is up bright-eyed and bushy tailed and met with bacon sarnies. They dart to Sudbury and make a 90 second A-team style turn around in unloading the boats and before long are on the water, leaving the exploded substation behind them (it really did explode. A big bang and everything!) They head off gliding serenely through the water lilies with the damsel and dragon flies darting from bank to bank, the sun beating down from a perfect blue sky. And then war breaks out. The weapon of choice appears to be the water pump, nerfs and paddles following closely behind. And of course at least one person has to fall in...

Somehow, despite the war, the team make their way down the river, with a fair amount of portaging but also running a couple of weirs as well. All boats glided down the weirs with no problem at all. That’s exactly how it happened, no getting stuck, no needing to get out the boat and push, just simply gliding along. And this was all under the vicious gaze of the Stour’s most dangerous swan.

By early evening the fleet made it to Rushbanks campsite, which is conveniently located just off the river. A standpipe to wash under (if you can crouch that low), a handy pub a short walk away with delicious food and homemade cider, what more could anyone desire?! Oh, PIE! Sorry, Dan.

Sunday morning and another glorious day. Our kind drivers place vehicles in strategic positions and then we jump in to our crafts and set off paddling for the day. It had been decided that getting to the coast was probably a little ambitious in light of the ensuing war, and so Flatford Mill was decided to be the final destination.

Following the dry weather, in a few places there wasn’t much water to paddle through, but thankfully there was enough water flowing at Langham flumes for a spot of playing over lunch. Powering on, the fleet made it to Dedham Mill Lock, where sadly something was amiss and the lock wasn’t able to be used that day. So another portage and then the final stretch to Flatford Mill.

Picturesque Flatford Mill. Until we got there of course and some final capsize “drills” to keep the on-looking tourists entertained before hauling the boats out the water, in to the van, and heading back to London town after a fantastic weekend.

With thanks to: Julie and Stuart for their wonderful organisation and van driving skills

Sarah and Dan for their wise and experienced minds

Robert for the café and oodles of bacon

Charlie and Alastair for superb driving skill

Ian for photographic expertise

Rob for helmet wearing experience

Sarah B for general water fight mayhem

Daniel and Alastair for supporting Sarah in her misguided pursuits

Vicky for being victim of said pursuits and managing to be out her tent even later in the morning than Ian