Friday, 8 May 2009

A Trip with a Difference Bank Holiday Monday

We left home about 9 am and travelled south on the A12  to just south of Ipswich where we turned off to Nayland.  Once over the river Stour we parked in the layby and waited for Sue to come and pick us up. From here she took us to the Granary at Sudbury   where we met up with her husband Roger and picked up a two man canoe. We then made our way in two cars with two canoes to a small village called Bures.  By now it had started to rain so we decided it would be a good time to eat our packed lunches while still in the car.
The weather was kind to us and as we finished eating it stopped raining and we were able to unloaded the canoes and carried them down to the River Stour in the dry.  At the small wooden jetty where we were going to launch, sat mother duck with her clutch of very young chicks, they were all amazingly tame and just stayed there as we launched the first canoe, the one that Diana and I were going to use , they only moved a few feet as Sue and Roger launched theirs. Now you must remember that it must be at least 40 years since I have been in a canoe and I am not sure that Diana ever has. The first problem was was getting in, feet in the centre of the floor, hands on edge of combing and drop down on the seat, well pad in our case. The deck flexed under my weight and I dropped smartly down, my hips squeezed through the combing and I was down. Getting out would be another problem.
Diana and I drifted about in the river while Sue and Roger stepped leisurely into their open Canadian canoe and we all set off down stream. The first stop was only a short way down stream at Bures Mill and thanks to Sue and Roger's efforts I was extracted from the canoe, sitting down to within an inch of the floor is one thing, getting up was another. This was the first of four weirs that we had to carry the canoes round, Each has a small wooden landing platform above and below the weir,  Some of these are on private property and have very polite notices telling you its private land and asking you to respect their property as you cross.   We carried the canoes round the weir, this was not without its problems.  The EA are raising a bridge beside the river that you have to pass under carrying your canoe as its very low. While the work is ongoing they have put a temporary bridge in and also temporary steps to the lower level to get under both bridges. They are full H&S steps down a bank with scaffolding handrails. The end result is you can't use them with a canoe in your hands so have to slither down the bank beside them. We were soon back on the river and on our way. Here I heard the Cuckoo for the first and only time this year and also watched a pair of Mandarin Ducks flying round, I have only ever seen them on the water before.  It wasn't long before we got the line wrong and were aground on the gravel, but a bit of abuse with the paddle had us on our way again.  The canoe we had, a 30 year old two person Kayak was not the most manoeuvrable craft in the world so we did take a couple of excursions through the overhanging branches and a patch of reeds.We were a bit apprehensive about passing swans that may be nesting, in the end we only passed one swans nest and the cob was more interested in the two white plastic drums supporting an irrigation pump hose than he was us.  At Wiston Mill we met three canoes coming upstream, this is most unusual as most people travel with the flow like we were. A short way before Nayland weir the river passes under the A134 in a tunnel, this is of a corrugated iron construction and is completely circular in cross section and 30 meters long.  Like all waterways the EA is quick to put up signs, the most useless one was about 35 yards before the landing stage at Nayland Weir saying "No Boat beyond this point" how do they expect you to land and take them out? Once past Nayland weir we only had about another 100 meters to the end of our journey.  We landed outside The Anchor pub in Nayland, here we pulled the canoes out and went for a welcome half of Adnams before Diana took Sue and Roger back to Bures to fetch their cars so they could come back and retrieve the canoes.

The six miles had taken us just on three hours to complete and the weather stayed fine for us.

You can see photos of our trip at http://www.flickr.com/photos/brian-and-di

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