Monday, 18 August 2014

Canoeing the Stour

Canoeing the Stour

 its been quite a long time since I wrote my last blog so I thought it was about time to do another, this time about something I haven`t done for a little namely canoeing, this is mainly because I don`t actually own my own canoe sadly, however I saw a leaflet in a local supermarket advertising canoe hire I jumped at the chance to get back onto the water.
as I would be on my own for the trip I agreed with the hire company not to do the full distance normally suggested, from Sudbury to Cattawade, but to go from Nayland to Cattawade, even this shorter distance would take me most of the day to complete, having put in at the Anchor Inn, I headed downstream, it took me a little while to remember what I was doing but eventually it came back to me which was just as well as the first part of the Stour was narrow and very overgrown requiring alot of manoeuvring between reed banks and overhanging branches and it would be this way for quite a while down river.


 eventually the river widened and became easier to navigate and the journey became alot more pleasant, after five kilometres of paddling I came to the first obstacle, Boxted mill, now a private residence, because the mill would at one time have had a waterwheel to power the machinery, it would also have had a pond to hold the water and a weir to control the flow, obviously I couldn`t have paddled down the weir and so had to portage around this, thankfully the owners of the land had thoughtfully provided a path to do just this but how was I to move a 16ft/40kg canoe by myself? by putting wheels on the bottom of course, I`m not kidding

 see wheels

having successfully portaged around the first problem I carried on my journey, a few kilometres later I came across my second problem, Langham flumes, again these were originally built to control the flow of water downstream, if I actually owned the canoe I was paddling I might have actually attempted to go down them in the canoe but as I didn`t I decided not to and portaged around it.

after this there followed a couple of kilometres of easy paddling, and fairly soon the bells from Higham church could be heard,

 this was soon passed and I was heading quickly towards Dedham. after another portage around Stratford St Mary lock

and paddling along the border between Essex and Suffolk I reached Dedham mill, where I once again had to portage around the weir,

 this is where the journey got a little difficult and I had to change my position in the boat from towards the back to the middle to give me more manoeuvrability around all the other boaters, usually called unfavourably (or Not) "rent a crash" or "rent a wreck" this was the hardest section of the journey and would last until I reached Flatford, if your of an artistic nature you may have heard of Flatford as its where Constable painted the Hey wain and involved yet another portage.

thankfully that would be the last of the portages and I was now only about an hour from the end of my journey, not far after Flatford came the potentially frightening Judas weir where the stour split and signs along the river warn you to "keep left at Judas weir", as it turned out, you couldn`t do anything but keep left as the weir had actually been blocked off by floating buoys and the water was barely flowing through it, but that wouldn`t prevent Health and Safety having their way, 45 minutes after passing the (not) very scary Judas weir I was reaching the end of my journey but before I did I had chance to try my hand at wildlife photography and judging by the result National Geographic should be on the phone any day now, 

  and so my day ended, I would recommend this to anyone wanting an adventurous but pleasant day on the river.
my thanks go to the Outdoor Hire Centre for the hire the of the canoe and for ferrying me to and from the centre