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Thread: Going a bit loopy - the best Wey to relax

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    Default Going a bit loopy - the best Wey to relax

    Over 9 years ago, I set off on an adventure into the unknown, in my trusty inflatable craft. I'd worked out how to link a couple of loops of navigation and backwaters on the Wey, with a little bit of on foot exploration but a fair bit of unknown. The long day was a revelation to me, punctures and all, and was one of the trips that sealed my fate as a lifelong paddler.

    A few times a year, I repeat the trip, or variations on it. Often with friends, but the times that I do it alone are just as special, and always take me back to how I felt on that first figure of eight. I don't always blog them now, but have done many times!


    So the weekend before last, I was at the familiar launch spot of the Tannery on a lovely day. The reeds by the put in were about as tall as they get, at this time of year.









    As I say so often, I was in no hurry. I never am, on these trips, my only attempt at timing being to hope to finish just after sunset, so the last mile or two across Papercourt meadows would be at the best time to see the barn owls that haunt this spot. Paddling up the navigation past the gardens of Send, and a particularly lovely old boat, the reflections were fabulous.












    The Worsfold Gates, old fashioned equivalent of the Thames Barrier that they are, and the old wharf buildings alongside, mark the leaving behind of the cut navigation.









    The Wey navigation is currently joining in on the commemorations of the centenary of the ending of the Great War, with various quotes from the heartfelt poems of the doomed, as well as wreaths on some bridges. Their words can never fail to move you, and cause you to pause for a moment's thought on a carefree sunny day. We are each lucky to be born in different times to those that suffered on our behalf.









    As I paddled onto the river itself, heading upstream against an imperceptible flow, my mind was already relaxed and at ease. My body wasn't much more stressed, thanks to the rather slow pace I was setting myself.









    Triggs Lock has recently had a portage platform added. Its a nice thought, though to be honest it doesn't really make it easier for an open canoe paddler - its further away by 20 yards, and has a fairly rough edge - than getting out on the lock mooring. It is though, low down and far easier for a kayaker to use though, I'd have thought.






    Above the lock, the navigation is once again canalised, but with a real rural feel to it. Here, when there is no wind, the pace possibly slows even more, for there is a view to look at over the meadows on the left, thanks to the slightly raised nature of the navigation.












    After about an hour and three-quarters of uphill, though hardly arduous, paddling, I reached the weir at Broadoak Bridge at the end of a short section shaded by lovely tall pines.






    This portage is short, a simple drag across the grass, avoiding the cowpats. The put in needs a little common sense. The obvious one has a tree fallen into it, and as the weir stream flows into this tree, should be avoided by all but the confident. I did a little light trimming to make this easier, but still made sure I was careful, exiting from under the willow's fallen branches with a positive speed and angle. I would suggest anybody who is unsure drags their canoe an extra 30m downstream and puts in below the trees. Its funny how the flow here is different every time too, sometimes lower water brings the flow more over to the trees than higher flow, perversely making it harder when the flow is less...









    From here, its down hill for the next 2-3 hours, depending on just how lazy you're feeling. The backwaters of the Wey still bewitch me, their banks a haven for life, the clear waters gently flowing and bubbling beneath the soft crumbling banks. Such a gem, in such a busy part of the world.


















    Some of the trees have impeded quite a lot on the river this year, and again I did a little light trimming with the Laplander folding saw. Only a little, mind, I like this to be a little bit of an adventure. All the way down to the old Dead Tree, the river flows with a sense of times past, for the view on the natural river here has changed little since before the canal parts, amongst the oldest of all British navigations, was cut in the 1650s. Before then, this was the main way to travel from the Thames to Guildford, and would no doubt have been kept clear.





















    The jumble of trees across the river by the Old Dead Tree have been there since my first trip. There's a sneaky hole through them, but its been getting a bit overgrown recently. I cleared it a little, but as the leaves drop, I shall return and clear it a bit more before the winter flows lift the river up into the boughs of the trees.






    Just below is my favourite spot on the Triggs backwater. A gentle pool is almost always sheltered. On one side, sandy banks are overhung with a fringe of green eyebrows, whilst on the other side the Old Dead Tree reaches out, its skeleton stark against the western sky. Yet though it may be dead, still it holds life, for in the box that clings to its branches, a family of sparrowhawks has been raised. Today they were not evident, but on my last visit, three faint faces peered out at me curiously in the dusk of an evening.


















    Its about 40 minutes easy paddling, if that, back down to Triggs Lock. Normally takes me an hour, at least.









    There's a large herd of cattle that are used to manage the meadows between backwater and navigation. I have, once, wild camped on a bend in the river here, to be visited by a herd licking the canoe in the morning. Fortunately, this fellow wasn't amongst them on that day, though he actually seems a docile enough chap.






    Just before I reached the junction at the end of the backwater, I heard the putt-putt of a motor. Shock, horror, a motorboat on my favourite backwater!!! Rounding the corner, it was great to find that the crew of the Tarn, a boat I have seen moored by Old Woking many times, had come upstream to clear one of the fallen trees, so they could get up in rowing boats again. It seems they do this a few times of year, just up to the footbridge where a small beach makes for a perfect picnic spot. Can't say as I blame them, and it was nice to meet others from a different background who love this river as much as I do.






    Back on the navigation, I reflected on nothing much at all, other than the reflections reflected before me.















    Once more, I was at the Worsfold Gates. Today, I would keep left, leave the navigation, and choose the Long Portage to access the next backwater. The section between here and the portage feels different once again, each bit of this river has a different character. Here, rather than being below tall banks or reeds, the river meanders between fields that lie almost flat on each side. Curious young beasts watched my passage nervously.












    The Portage. Legendary amongst Surrey paddlers for its arduous nature. Its actually just 400m across a tussocky field, and this year is dry as a bone. The last bit is getting a bit overgrown, and if you use a trolley might cause problems there, but I prefer just to sling the canoe on my shoulders, bag on my back, and trog across as quickly as I can. Good training for the longer portages of the wild parts of the world I guess! Here was the scene of the Puncture Incident, on my first foray past the mill.






    The pool below the old paper works was shallow and full of reeds, almost no water flowing from beneath the former mill. Somehow, when putting back in, I got a load of pond skaters in the canoe, without every getting a droplet of water in. From here to Old Woking was a delightful stretch, where the waters were filled with waving green strands.















    Old Woking is the Lair of the Beast, Samson. Be warned, fellow paddlers, he is training the next generation. Though they appeared to just want food in my opinion, there was none of the usual posturing. Maybe the descendants of Samson will be more mildly mannered in their dealings with paddlers .









    I will never forget my first time here, leaving Woking behind, having just repaired a puncture, with the dusk heavy upon the evening. At the time, as a new paddler in a blow-up-boat, I wrote:

    It was incredibly beautiful. The current pushed me along in silence, round meander after meaner, with never more than a hundred yards of straight river. A swan glided in front of me for half an hour, leading me on into the twilight. A deer was drinking from the stream as I rounded one bend, before bounding smoothly off into the undergrowth. A heron rose & circled, wrens flitted across the stream & unknown creatures rustled in the reeds. This place was truly alive.

    I couldn't improve on that, and how this place makes me feel every time. No deer this time, not even a heron, but still this place is special, and so very much alive. It was the same time of day as on that memorable first trip, when I was worried about the oncoming darkness. Now, I revel in it, there is no better time to be on the water.









    This year, many of our rivers seem to have become home to bushes full of hops. Lots of them!









    What wind there was, was long gone, just the odd gentle evening breeze gave sound to the reeds. I drifted downstream in the dusk as the moon rose, listening to the noises of the country side, the warbling of the birds, the alarm calls of moorhens, and the drone of the native 747s overhead. OK, the latter intrude, if you let them, but somehow the brain zones out, and the fact that you are in such a remarkably peaceful place is amplified by the fact you know you are surrounded by motorways and airports just a few miles away.
























    The sun was slipping down towards the distant trees, so I paused after the Palace to say goodnight to its light and warmth.












    As I moved on, my eyes were peeled for the ghostly white shape of the barn owls. The light was almost gone, but suddenly a silent pale shape glided across a hundred yards in front of me, before perching in a tree. I slipped into some bushes, to give me cover, and pulled out the binoculars to watch. For a few short seconds, I had a fine view of this beautiful bird, but as its head scanned the meadows for a meal, as the huge eyes turned head on to me, I was spotted instantly despite my cover. Suddenly, the owl simply wasn't there any more, so swift and silently had it alighted and swooped off across the meadows, out of sight behind the reeds. A magic moment, and a fine one to end my day, for I was but 15 minutes and a short lock portage from the car.

    9 and a half years I've been paddling this river, and there is no stretch of water in this world that I love more. There are many more spectacular places, far wilder places, more exotic places, that I have paddled and enjoyed immensely, but none is more special than this quite enclave of Surrey, a magical spot where I can escape completely, just a few miles from home.

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    Magic.

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    ''
    '' there is no stretch of water in this world that I love more. There are many more spectacular places, far wilder places, more exotic places, that I have paddled and enjoyed immensely, but none is more special than this quite enclave of Surrey, a magical spot where I can escape completely, just a few miles from home. '' Wonderful .Mal....

    Paddler,blogger,camper,pyromaniac: Wilderness is a State of Mind

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    Quote Originally Posted by andre View Post
    ''
    '' there is no stretch of water in this world that I love more. There are many more spectacular places, far wilder places, more exotic places, that I have paddled and enjoyed immensely, but none is more special than this quite enclave of Surrey, a magical spot where I can escape completely, just a few miles from home. '' Wonderful .Mal....

    [FONT="]Paddler,blogger,camper,pyromaniac:[/FONT] Wilderness is a State of Mind

    Apart from the spelling! Which I will now edit...but leave this so this still makes sense!

    Thanks Andre.



    Quote Originally Posted by bobt View Post
    Magic.

    Thanks mate.

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    Evocative pictures, a brilliant river to paddle. The only sadness I feel is that the upper Wey is shrouded by banks of Japanese knotweed.

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    Jolly good stuff Mr Grey.
    Not got a clue where any of this is but it seems very pleasant indeed ... and a 400m portage too. You really have infected me with that particular idiocy.

    Take care mate, hope to see you soon
    MarkL
    www.canoemassifcentral.com
    Open Canoe hire/outfitting in the Massif Central
    ”We will make your trip work”



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    I remember your first blog of this, and the inflatable boat.
    It is the sign of a true paddler that the magic never fades,

    Nick

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    Wey to go, Mal.

    I particularly liked the war memorial and the bull.

    Here comes the future and you can't run from it
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    Cracking blog. It's nice to have a local paddle like that.
    Big Al.

    Only when the last tree has died
    and the last river been poisoned
    and the last fish been caught
    will we realise we cannot eat money.
    ~Cree Indian Proverb

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    Great Blog Mal,

    We are so dammed lucky to have such lovely bits of water nearby. :-)

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    Quote Originally Posted by Indianajohn View Post
    Evocative pictures, a brilliant river to paddle. The only sadness I feel is that the upper Wey is shrouded by banks of Japanese knotweed.
    It is so lovely. Do you mean the Floating Pennywort (or even the Himalayan Balsam). I've not seen knotweed on the Wey yet, but the NT and EA are fighting a battle against the pennywort. They'd been hauling it out around Newark Priory over the last few days.


    Quote Originally Posted by MarkL View Post
    Jolly good stuff Mr Grey.
    Not got a clue where any of this is but it seems very pleasant indeed ... and a 400m portage too. You really have infected me with that particular idiocy.

    Take care mate, hope to see you soon
    Portage feels like a walk in the park after Rogen!


    Quote Originally Posted by Mr Nick View Post
    I remember your first blog of this, and the inflatable boat.
    It is the sign of a true paddler that the magic never fades,

    Nick
    Thanks Nick. It still bewitches me to this day; just been sitting just drifting by Newark Priory watching a barn owl, and the sunset.


    Quote Originally Posted by Crow View Post
    Wey to go, Mal.

    I particularly liked the war memorial and the bull.
    There are a few of the black silhouette figures around too, but I forgot to take any pictures of those. The poetry is what really struck home for me though.


    Quote Originally Posted by Big Al. View Post
    Cracking blog. It's nice to have a local paddle like that.
    Certainly is!


    Quote Originally Posted by bigyellowtractor View Post
    Great Blog Mal,

    We are so dammed lucky to have such lovely bits of water nearby. :-)
    Certainly are!

  12. #12
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    Nice one Mal.

    Next year i will have to make the time to visit the area.

    There is nothing like a tranquil paddle, to clear the mind, refresh the batteries and rekindle the spirit.
    Simms ..

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    Nine years!
    I've loved your blogs over that time Mal and enjoyed paddling with you a few times too.
    Joy reckons you’re the only person who paddles more than me......she may be right on that score but I’m not giving up my motorbikes to try to catch the undisputed king of the paddle.
    Here's to the next nine years.
    Dick
    A ship should not ride on a single anchor, nor life on a single hope - Epictetus

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    It’s easy to see why you would keep going back to this paddle.
    John

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