We’d been wanting to get onto the river, as opposed to always being beside or above it, for quite some time, but today we eventually managed to attend the Sudbury Canoe Club weekly meet up on the Stour. Neither of us had been in a kayak or canoe since we were kids, Ruth at the Welland Yacht Club in Spalding, Lincs when she was 13, and Stuart in the Lee Valley when he was in the cub scouts. We were going to be rusty to say the least, but the members of the club were very patient and helpful in sorting us out a boat each, and offering some kit and guidance on safety and good practice on the river.
We started from Katherine Quay in Sudbury and headed down the short stretch leading to the main body of the river. In that short distance I managed to crash into the side of a stationary boat moored alongside The Granary building, which prompted a few shouts of ‘Careful please’ from the guys on board, and a ‘Sorry!’ from me. There were quite a few other users of the river, and we had to stop twice to let through a couple of sculls going to the Sudbury Rowing Club. We did however make it to the river proper and after waiting for another scull to pass, we were all heading eastward, downstream towards the sea.
I struggled a fair bit with direction, strokes tending to overcompensate for the previous ones, resulting in plenty of zigzagging and loop-the-loops. But it was good to chat with some of the club members and also see the river from a new perspective. We made it as far as the Cornard Weir and Lock, and whilst most of the competent members took the adventurous route of heading over the weir we skirted round the edge and used the portage points to exit and reenter the river at the lower level below the weir. It was here that regulars practiced their moves, rolls and other techniques. Meanwhile Fred gave me a 1-2-1 lesson on how to control the boat using different strokes and body angles. After 20 minutes or so of practicing in controlled circles, figure-of-eights and even some reasonably straight lines I was getting used to the boat and how to make it go in the direction I wanted it to go in.
My wrists were starting to ache a bit so I got out and had a chat with Ruth and a few of the others beside the lock, having a good laugh with two boats of pirates that had arrived on their yearly trip along the river. Eventually though it was time to head back and it was here that I really struggled as everyone else steamed off back up the river whilst I just performed pirouettes most of the way back, as trying to go at a faster speed was much more difficult than on the gentle practice slopes earlier.