Monday, January 30, 2012

St Tudwal's in mid winter

So many outdoor plans have been curtailed or even cancelled due to the weather this winter. Its always a real treat when a break in the winter storms comes just at the right time.

A dusting of snow on the mountains of Snowdonia made the perfect backdrop for a paddle round the St Tudwal's Islands and Trywyn Cilan. The sea was eerily calm but there was enough swell to make us think twice about venturing too deep into the prized caves of the eastern island.

Having spent lunch at Porth Ceiriad we set off to explore Trywyn Cilan. This blocky headland forms the eastern end of Porth Neigwl (Hell's Mouth). The swell was much bigger amongst the gullies and arches and a couple of daring raids in amongst the rock architecture almost got punished.

With sugar coated hills up ahead and darkening skies behind, high spirited paddlers reluctantly turned for home, leaving the sea to be shrouded by the quiet onset of nightfall.

Back at the Tanrallt Mountain centre, a spirit (and haggis) fueled party went on late into the night. As if the paddling were not enough, bar football, pool and 'ping-pong' built the perfect appetite for a belated Burn's supper.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Bad Company - The Zoo (reunited)

Many years ago I was part of a group of under performing outdoor cretins known only by rumour as 'The Zoo'. Paddling, climbing, mountain biking, drinking and general mayhem was our trade but eventually responsibilities got the better of our tomfoolery. Gradually, the animals escaped from 'The Zoo'. Just recently, the prospect of mid life crisis brought us back together for one of those 'one night only' performances. Like Status Quo, these performances may well happen again and again.

River paddling trips traditionally began with a heavy night out to ensure that a heavy hangover could be cultivated. Friday night developed into a long session with hot curry and plenty of beer. The required hangover had been established and was accompanied by a the unmistakable stale odour of unwashed fools.

Eager to rediscover our paddling inadequacies, we headed off to Llangollen to paddle the river Dee. The levels on Saturday were quite sporty and 'Serpent's Tail' was in fine voice.

Ian's line was a little too close to the right for comfort...

Craig took a line close to the left bank depositing some of his boat on the riverbed.

Chris with some 'old school' tricks...

Many will be hoping that this was indeed a 'one night only' get together but plans are already being made for a comeback tour scheduled to begin on a river (and a pub) near you very soon.

Friday, January 13, 2012

The River Goyt at Marple

The river Goyt at Marple give a sporty grade 2-3 run at medium levels following a couple of rainy days. Manchester Canoe Club are based beside the river where they also have their slalom training facility. It is possible to paddle from New Mills or even higher but the most regular run down to the club site is from Brabyn's Park less 2 miles upstream.

Most people use their cars to shuttle boats from the club site to Brabyn's Park but there is a different way which involves some boat carrying and extra paddling.

The Peak Forest Canal runs parallel to the river here. The canal runs across a brick arch aqueduct 100 feet above the river. Where the canal reaches Brabyn's Park there is a steep wooded bank leading down to football pitches and the river Goyt beyond.

The two weirs in Brabyn's Park command respect because they have stoppers with closed ends that can hold a swimmer.

This elegant iron bridge was built in 1813 and was recently restored following a campaign by local residents. The restoration work was funded by a Heritage Lottery grant and completed in June 2008.

After the bridge the river flows beneath a railway viaduct and the aqueduct that carries the Peak Forest Canal. Soon afterwards a series of sporty grade 2-3 rapids lead down to the Manchester Canoe Club site and slalom course.

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Festive Paddling

Boxing Day is the traditional day of sport and exercise that follows the fluid and food fueled festival of Christmas.

Kirstine and I joined in the annual Boxing Day paddle organised by Manchester Canoe Club on the River Goyt at Marple.

For competetive types, this event for part of the white water racing calender. For the rest it is simply a leisurely cruise down a couple of miles of scenic and sporty grade 2 river. After all the fun and games on the river we all assembled at the clubhouse for mince pies, tea and tall stories.

Back at home, the playing fields have become very waterlogged following the recent wet and stormy weather. This has brought in flocks of black headed gulls that feed on worms that come to the surface to escape the depths of the sodden turf. This time the black headed gulls have been joined by a number of the less common 'common gulls'.

The recent wet and stormy weather has kept me away from the sea in recent weeks but I couldn't resist the temptation of a paddle on the Menai Straits on the last day of the year. An informal gathering was organised by local paddler John Willacy.

Some of the paddlers donned fancy dress in keeping with the festive spirit...

Menai Chicken...

Anglesey Penguin... (John Willacy collection)

Coastal Gorilla...

Marauding Vikings... (John Willacy collection)

And... erm other worrying sea creatures?

Before heading home we all assembled in the Anglesey Arms at Menai Bridge for a farewell pint and to bid each other a' Happy New Year!' Thanks to John Willacy for organizing this festive get together and thanks to everyone else for their lovely company.