Sunday, November 20, 2016

Autumn Colours

The beginning of Autumn was a seemingly endless string of dazzling sunny days and warm evenings and many of us made the most of an extended summer. Soon enough we see the sun setting earlier, rising later and the leaves beginning to change colour.

This years wet spring and summer followed by dry, warm and sunny autumn days but cool nights provide the right conditions for the kind of vivid colours that we have this year. It helps that we haven't really had much in the way of strong winds to prematurely tear the leaves from their branches.

There are so many signs along the river bank that nature's beasts are making a final effort to stock up and prepare for leaner times ahead.

I've been making the most of good paddling conditions as ever. This included attending the Tyne Tour hosted by the Hexham Canoe Club. This event has a little bit for everyone. Scenic river paddling, excellent social scene and a wonderful firework display.

Now that many of the leaves have fallen from the trees, the silver birches are taking centre stage in the late afternoon sunshine. This evenings plummeting temperatures tell me that winter is just around the corner. Time to look for my hat and gloves!

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

Wild Camping on the Anglesey Coast

The ultimate attraction of sea kayaking is ending a perfect day of paddling with a camp on a deserted beach. This timeless form of adventure brings an overwhelming sense of freedom.

On the first of the trips with Manchester Canoe Club I was joined by Diane, Andrew, Holly and Dez. We launched onto the Menai Strait heading for the isolated beaches and dunes on the south west corner of Anglesey. Blue skies and warm sun could not distract us from the freshening southwesterly breeze. The increasing wind made our progress tough. We rested in the shelter of some trees near to Port Dinorwic and later again in the shadow of Caernarfon Castle. The final leg took us through rough water and strong currents. Having been battered by waves over 4 feet high we finally found a suitable place to camp with good shelter from the wind among the dunes.

There was plenty of driftwood for a fire and we picked mussels fresh from the shore. Beer and wine flowed with stories and jokes until the embers faded.

By morning, the wind had dropped and our journey back to Menai Bridge was uneventful; possibly overshadowed by last nights revelry around the fire.

The second trip started at the northern east tip of Anglesey. This time I was joined by Amanda, Andy, Frances and another Andy. We took a trip around Puffin Island and marveled at the inquisitive inhabitants of the seal colony at its northeastern tip. Soon afterwards the tide race in Puffin Strait gave a few emotional moments. When we landed on the pebbly beach beside the Trwyn Du Lighthouse, tea and cake was soon on order at the nearby café.

After our refreshments it was time to head out west and look for somewhere to camp. After a few kilometres of surfing down wind we found a steep pebbly beach with an abandoned quarry. The flat areas on the beach and the grassy quarry floor made for good camping with excellent views from out tents. We even gathered enough driftwood for a fire that lasted well into the night. As the evening rain came in we sheltered under a tarpaulin. It wasn't long before the sound of distant thunder rolled across the sea. This was just the beginning of a terrific storm with continuous thunder and lightning with hours of torrential rain. An amazing experience.

The storm abated in the early hours and the rain stopped in time for breakfast. However, there were streams running through the quarry and it was lucky that some tents didn’t get washed away.

The paddle out was atmospheric along a damp, misty coastline with waterfalls cascading over the rocks. The final blessing was a spell of warm sunshine, which arrived neatly in time for us to get changed and pack up.