Arun Canoe Club
ARDECHE TRIP, FRANCE 2014
Five go mad in France!
It was a 'do or die' trip for me. I was either going to love it or absolutely hate it and never paddle again.
We met outside Jacho's just before 4am on a Tuesday morning - Jacho, Mike, Dave W, Paul & me - and headed off in two cars to the Eurotunnel. We were off to the Ardeche for a week's paddling.
After a gruelling long day of travel & driving, we reached our campsite to be met by Chris Tingley & Lynn Willard, ex ACC members who now live in France, and their mad dog - Pannau.
As Chris had organised the itinerary for our trip, he promised the first day on Tingley Tours would apparently be a nice & slow introduction to moving water. Five minutes into the paddle, I beached myself on top of a huge boulder in the middle of the river - he had to pull me off backwards.
Five minutes after that I hurtled towards an island in the middle of the river and, instead of going left and down the rapids, I crashed into the island and held on to a tree! Paul then smashed into me and capsized as I was blocking the route down the river. The force of that then made me capsize! So within the first ten minutes I had created total carnage in France with rescues going on all over the place. Fantastic! Not quite the slow introduction I had imagined.
The second day out was going to be the main event and the longest paddle of the week along the Ardeche river, full of boulders and rapids - some much bigger than others. It was a great day, the scenery was stunning, we had a picnic riverside and all went extraordinarily well. I was very impressed with myself - no capsizing and only one turbulent moment from going down a rapid and getting whipped into an eddy a bit swift, which made me wobble a bit.
Paul and I opted out of the third day's paddle which was a leisurely afternoon one for the others. We decided instead to check out the nearby 'caves' and see what the local wine was like. We managed to come away from two caves with a dozen bottles, having got caught up at the second venue in a random classic car rally of some description.
On the fourth day, we started at the tourist spot, Pont d'Arc, which is an amazing sight on the Ardeche and had another short paddle with some rapids and boulders. At one point, I found myself hurtling down a rapid and straight into a 'V' crevice in the rock formation - it fitted the nose of my boat beautifully and made a fantastic crashing noise when I hit it! Feeling I had no choice other than to paddle out backwards, the inevitable happened and I capsized.
Our last paddling day through the Ardeche had come. We went out for best part of the day again and did lunch riverside. The first part of the paddle included concrete water chutes - 6 in total - a new experience for me! The first one went well as I managed to grab hold of Dave's boat as I whizzed off at the bottom. The second did not go according to plan and I launched off the bottom and went over. All the others were fine. We then had a fantastic scenery ridden flat paddle to the Pont d'Arc. The rock formations at the sides of the river were messing with us, as at one point it seemed we were paddling uphill and at another point it seemed we were going downhill but no faster. Weird!
So the final stretch of our last trip was through boulders, over rapids through some eddys and over some rapids again. Job Done, 3 capsizes, no injuries, lots of laughter and 56km paddled!
As a bonus, the next day we moved up country to St Pierre de Beouf for some brave souls to traverse the manmade whitewater slalom course. Not for me I'm afraid - coffee & cake that day and a spot of people watching, dog sitting and photo taking. Paul and I kept riverside whilst the others all gave it go. Looked great fun but I had thoroughly enjoyed my holiday, exceeding my personal expectations, and didn't want to spoil it by something silly happening and getting hurt.
After a group evening dinner and a stop over in a Formula 1 Hotel, the long 13 hour door to door drive home, with the depressing thought of work the next day.
To sum up: stunning scenery, fantastic group of people to paddle with, too much french bread & cheese, but would definitely do it all again.
SYMONDS YAT - MAY 2014
It was time to brace myself and sign up to get on some moving water.
Early Saturday morning start to miss the traffic got us to the meeting point in Wales in good time. All I was told was to aim for the 'V' point in the middle of the river and whatever happened I had to keep paddling down to where Jacho was now sitting in an eddy waiting.
So my turn came, I paddled towards the rocks & rapids, went down a bit, turned & went backwards for a bit, turned again and finished my first experience of moving water in good shape in the eddy with Jacho. Fabulous start!
Ferry gliding was the next move to learn. The first couple of stretches across the river and back went well but then it all descended into a swim & rescue event. I capsized and struggled to swim to shore with the river pulling me downstream. I thought I was safe and stood up only to have the force of the river takes my legs from under me and off I went again down stream! Mick was my saviour. He grabbed my boat down river and came back to haul it, and his, up what can only be described as a vertical ascent uphill.
Through the trees we went, eventually meeting the pathway. We walked and clambered back down to join the others back on the river. Pretty much scared myself to death with that one! After a few tears and much encouragement from the others, I got back on the water to ferry glide across the river again to the beach area where I decided to call it a day. The rest of the group had a good afternoon surfing waves and showing off their paddling skills.
After dinner at the local inn, a sleep over in a bunkhouse and full English breakfast at the farmhouse next door, it was time to get on the river again. I bailed out of day two due to a migraine, so spent a leisurely morning with coffee, girlie magazines & chat with Sam Lane and wandering riverside taking photographs. Youngsters Roy and Luc seemed to be really enjoying themselves.
Soon it was time to go home - but not before Sam Wright had been declared successful by assessor Mick in passing his 2 star. Well Done Sam.
14 July 2013 - Mike
As trip leader, Bruno had planned Sundays trip from Birling Gap to the Seven Sisters Country park. However, for one reason or another, a decision was made to avoid the shuttle run and launch and return to Birling Gap. With hot weather and flat seas expected, I decided to take my sit on top fishing kayak along with a view to catching supper. A decision I was soon to question!
After a 1 hour drive, I arrived at the clifftop car park (didn't expect that) and took a look over the edge at the 15-20m drop. The only access was the new £60,000 stairs to the beach, which were not really designed with 14ft kayaks in mind. A questioning look to Bruno brought the reply "no problem, I'll get my throw line". With great trepidation, we tied on the first kayak, eased it over the railings and lowered it successfully to the beach below. Well, now Bruno's kayak made it, I might try mine. We were so busy lowering kayaks no one even thought about taking a photo. However, with the wonders of science, I found a youtube clip of someone lowering a similar kayak to mine.
June 2013 - By Mike
6 am and I heard the voice 'You better get up, Bruno is already outside'. Not the first words I wanted to hear, but here he was and I only had a few minutes to jump in the shower and get myself downstairs, by which time Wendy already had the coffee ready and the bacon in the pan. A half hour later my gear was loaded and the boat on the roof. Just have to wait for Jacho to arrive. Well, shortly after, Jacho did arrive and we completed the loading and were on our way to Henley.
As we pulled in to the car park at Henley, we were the last to arrive, the others were already more or less unloaded and changed. After unloading and checking we had everything we needed the drivers did the car shuttle to Hurley (about a 40 minute turn round).
Once the team was reunited, Trevor gave a briefing and we all launched and were on our way with the sun shining and the wind in our faces. We paddled past the regatta course and into some very scenic countryside, plenty of luxury properties and lots of other craft to keep out of the way. It didn't seem that long when we stopped for lunch and I thought it might be a good time for a photo opportunity.
The afternoon continued with a couple of portages and plenty of scenery until we sighted our camp side. We continued for a short distance to the Hurley weir where a number of people had some fun in the moving water.
The local rescue team arrived. They might have heard that Sam was practicing in the moving water.
Following the play session, we paddled back to the camp site and made camp for the night
Sunday dawned and following a hearty breakfast including hot dogs and the customary shuttle run, we set off for Maidenhead. Sundays weather was not as bright and warm as Saturday, but for those of us that forgot to apply sun cream the day before it was probably a good thing. The scenery was just as good as the previous part of the trip and most of us had the new experience of travelling through a couple of locks instead of having to transport the kayaks around.
We also had the added excitement as one member decided he was going to seal launch down the steps adjacent to the lock. This seemed to capture the interest of some passers by and was captured on video just in case I could sell the footage to the ITV.
After a lunch stop at Marlow we had the final leg of the journey to the finish point at Maidenhead and a very noisy return trip to Worthing (due to the canoe straps on Bruno's car).
Tonbridge to Yalding
26 October 2013 - Bruno
A small number of paddlers made a visit to Kent to paddle the Tonbridge to Yalding stretch of the River Medway.
Photos courtesy of Bruno
Boats finally on the beach, the six of us (Peter, Penny, Flick, Bruno, Wendy and I) departed. We had a leisurely paddle along the coast towards the Country park enjoying the crystal clear waters of the Med along the Sussex coastline. Three miles later and still thrilled by the conditions, we beached the kayaks for a spot of lunch. This was one of the longer lunch stops I have had with ACC, but allowed plenty of time for eating, relaxing and a swim for those that fancied it.
Back in the kayaks and tide behind us, we had a leisurely paddle back to Birling Gap. Flick even had time for a swim en-route. As we approached Birling Gap there were some interesting sites at one end of the beach as some sun worshipers seem to like to wear less than some others. The beach at the steps were considerably busier than when we left and with people sitting underneath, the use of a rope was not an option. This meant the task of carrying the kayaks back up the steps avoiding a number of people who still wanted to come down.
Finally back up on top of the cliff, and cars loaded it was time for a drink at the convenient cafe.
Many thanks for organizing the trip Bruno.
Oh. Did I mention I was taking my fishing gear? Well I did, but unfortunately the fish didn't want to play. Ok, there's always next time.
Photos courtesy of Bruno.