We've enjoyed our reasonably regular jaunts out with Sudbury Canoe Club and have had some valuable lessons and support from the members there, which were are very thankful for. But, we needed to get some more miles under our belt and get in some training before the the Sudbury-to-the-Sea event which we will be entering in September. So, after trawling the internet, some frantic bidding in eBay and a long drive in monsoonal downpours to pick it up, we are the proud owners of a double kayak.
To give us time to test it out, see if we could make some progress unaided and prove to the doubters that we wouldn't drown, we spent the weekend camping at Rushbanks Farm at Wissington with these goals in mind. It's a great site right next to the river and if you're early you can pitch your tent right next to the water, which we did. They brought round fire pits and logs so you can sit next to the river into the night, cook your meals and drink your favourite tipple with or without your friendly campsite neighbours. Its a perfect place to bring a boat as they have 5 landing stages to access the water. They also hire boats should you need one and if your not so keen to get on to the water its a lovely spot to see people paddling by.
We managed three trips in our three day stay, two to the east and one to the west. It was raining a fair bit on the Friday so we left a little late and although we made it to Nayland in time to rescue a lads fishing float, we didn't have enough time for a pint and so headed back before it got too dark. We were very happy with the boat, it was relatively comfortable, stable in the water and headed in the direction we wanted it to go ( it didn't spend the whole time going round in circles). It was our first time out unaccompanied but we so felt at home on the river and enjoying being the quiet and close to nature. We saw a beautiful kingfisher who perched on a branch for a while before flying beneath the tunnel of trees above the water and plenty of dragon flies and damselflies. Most striking though was a shower of rain whilst we were using the portage at Wiston Mill: standing alone next to the impressive, symmetrical concrete structure of the weir with bright sunlight contrasting the black clouds and heavy downpour with a large flock of jackdaws darting about and calling to each other...very magical.
The next day we headed the same way but set off earlier with the intention of grabbing some dinner and a pint at the Anchor in Nayland, which we're pleased to say all went to plan. Although we were now getting familiar with this stretch it was interesting to compare the changing light and different habitats: the openness of banks with no reeds with long views into the distance, the narrow stretches where you're amongst reeds and sedges, and the grandeur of the overhead canopy of trees.
Our trip to the west was earlier in the day and we didn't meet any boats on our outward journey, which stopped at Wormingford Weir after 1.7 miles. The stretch to here is very narrow with plenty of twists and turns and was a good test of our developing skills. After a rather clumsy five point turn the trip back, with the current, was gentle and relaxing. Ruth took the opportunity to film along the way but was a bit nervous about having her equipment out in the open on the water. There were no incidents though and she captured some footage of the different habitats and lovely reflections. Even though we haven't yet decided on the form that the film will take we will be returning to places in order to capture them throughout the different seasons and at different times of day.
The weekend passed too quickly and soon we were heaving the boat back on to the roof rack. We'll be making plans to get back in to the water as soon as possible.