Sunday, November 06, 2011

Autumn Colours on the River Dee

My first river paddling trip since March brought me to Llangollen on the banks of the River Dee in north Wales. The full spread of Autumn colours were laid out from one side of the valley to the other, brought to life by the golden sunshine and a crystal blue sky.

Dave, me and the two Andys arrived in the car park below Llangollen Bridge where we would eventually finish the trip. We started our adventure by carrying our kayaks a short way up the street to the Llangollen Wharf from where the canal provides a scenic paddle up to the Horseshoe Weir, two miles upstream.

Once on the river the fun began. I have really missed the feeling of paddling on rivers and it felt so good to be bouncing along, breaking out into small eddies and surfing friendly waves. The sound of water rushing amongst the jagged rocks and the increase in gradient told us that we were approaching 'Serpents Tail'; the first of the Dee's 'rapids with a reputation'.

This cold deep gorge is where many students and canoe club rookies get their first taste of powerful white water. Soon afterwards the river mellows into a broader part of the valley with beautiful scenery all around. The peace of the river was broken with the approach to Mile End Mill. This popular kayaking and rafting centre is often crowded. This day was no exception. With bank to bank rubber and plastic and no room in the eddies, perhaps it could be possible to walk from one side to the other. We moved on... Another broad stretch lead us towards 'Town Falls' with a string of expectant spectators on Llangollen Bridge (no pressure then). With low water levels the main falls looked tricky. Two of us chose the chicken chute. Of the two that ran the falls, one rolled; both survived.

The final 200 yards led to the car park and the end of our paddling that day. The final decision to be made would be which pub for 'apres paddle' snacks, drinks and embellished tall stories.