White Water Open Canoe trip - 3-4 March 2012
Planned as a venture out into new rivers with the assistance of WyeDean, it turned out that there was no interesting water around in South Wales, not to be put off the group fell back on the standard paddle down the Wye and a play in Symonds Yat.
On Friday night the Sarah's demonstrated most expert navigation skills (once out of Kennington) and by 9pm had the tent pitched, their kit in the tent and were in the Saracens Head. By 11pm they were cleaning their teeth when the rest of the group rocked up and after putting their tents up proceeded to sit outside the tents talking loudly about the glowing pink tit on the outside of the big tent whilst drinking whisky.
<flickr>6972929639|medium|thumb|right|Lesser spotted big birds!</flickr> On Saturday we (except Aileen) awoke to rain. Once rain stopped Aileen got up and started to make breakfast by liberally coating the muddy floor in pancake mix (we knew the Northern Europeans were weird).
After collecting our boats from Wye-dean we got onto the water and gentle paddled down the Mighty Symonds Yat Rapid where if your name is Julia Bradbury you are duty bound to yell: "I'm doing it, I'm doing it". After a drab start the sun came out and the group played on the riffles taking some bouncy sections standing up. as we paddled for the first half of the day the river seemed to be infested with Kingfishers and kept seeing their glistening blue as they flittered from one side of the river to the next. Above us I'm sure I saw a peregrine and there were the usual hoards of buzzards as we bobbled along.
We stopped for lunch at Monmouth Rowing Club where the group split and a coffee run was arranged. The heavens then opened and it hailed and a display of Big Birds appeared (Owen has the photos to prove it). These bright yellow puffed up birds are rarely seen and to see two at once is a real treat.
After lunch we paddled down to Redbrook and if we hadn't felt it before, the wind blowing in the opposite direction to us, became a lot more obvious. After a hefty blast of wind I managed to travel the width of the river and found myself wrapped up in two fishing lines. Luckily the fishermen here are used to incompetent canoeists and after an apology and a friendly chat I was back on my way again.
At this point Owen and me were getting slightly puzzled as a rapid expected on a left hand bend seemed to have disappeared.
At Redbrook the sun had come out and we considered mooring to head to a pub since we had been told it was only an hour and a half’s paddle from here to our end point - Brockweir - luckily we couldn't find a spot as it took more than 2 hours due to the wind.
This section of the Wye has a few more riffles than the higher sections which are fun but not challenging and after what seemed like quite a bit further we finally reached the lost rapid which is about 1.5 miles from the end (so not before lunch as we had recalled from last time).
We were pleased to see the get out as we had battled against the wind all day and had used different tactics to overcome it such as doubling up and towing and nosing 2 boats together - those of us a little more obstinate just took the I'm bloody stronger than the wind approach.
After pulling the boats up and getting them loaded we had a nice minibus journey back to the campsite where in less than an hour we got to double back on what had taken the entire day to paddle - oh well - sit back and enjoy the coffee!!
On return to the campsite my Kelly Kettle got used for the first time to brew up hot water for tea in super quick time - I was very impressed and we were civilised with tea and cake.
These Symonds Yat trips are becoming synonymous with BBQs, which Owen rustled up with what seemed to be great ease in the quagmire of mud that surrounded his tarp which made our living room for the night.
On Sunday we got to get up late and once again it was raining - breakfast in dry suits etc. and then for a morning of poling stubbing and ferry gliding coached by one of the chaps from Wyedean - good fun was had by all with very little time spent in the wet stuff.
A most enjoyable trip with great company and a glowing pink tit that can be seen on google earth - if you don't understand it you weren't there and don't you wish that you were!!