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Thread: A refreshing Wey for Colin to play

  1. #1
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    Default A refreshing Wey for Colin to play

    Last Saturday was to be an exciting day in the snowy wilderness, as watching the news you'd have been forgiven for thinking that Surrey had turned into the Arctic.

    Except most of it missed and went somewhere else. So despite having to brush a few cm worth of the car and canoe that sat on top of it, by the time I reached the Tannery, there was but a light sprinkling. It was, though, a beautiful cold winter's day.






    Colin and Jim arrived and soon we were heading up the Navigation (again!) towards Send.









    At the Worsfold Gates we swung right, messily, bumping into each other in the flow, and headed for Gresham Mill.






    The water levels were pretty high, so we had extended views across the meadows.






    Time for The Portage. Thanks to the expected slippery footing, we'd all brought trolleys for a change, so the 400m across the field and round the back of the mill was simple enough.












    Soon enough we were once more afloat in the pool below the mill, ready for a quick 5 minute play on the flow coming out from underneath, before heading onwards. Little did Colin know how long it would be before he was heading back down the river again...






    Here I must admit to a terrible failing on my part. I didn't take any pictures of the excitement which soon occurred, strangely choosing to help rather than point lenses. I must train this instinct out, and remember my task in life next time - to record all such events properly.


    We gathered below the mill's red-brick walls, each playing a little in the two outflows that emit from the dark arches. Jim and I were mostly contentedly ferry gliding from side to side across the leftmost (river right) flow, a simple fast section with nice clean eddies today, working well. Colin was mostly playing in the other, more chaotic, outflow, to the right. Here, the flow pushes close to the banks, and is bouncier, less clean and quite boily today. I seem to remember saying as much to Jim, as he's not really played in such things before. Anyway, I'd just crossed the flow low down to the eddy beneath the banks, and turned to watch Colin. He entered the wave train, but wasn't quick enough to react to a gunwhale dipping into a wave. Suddenly, I was looking at the pale sahara pink of an upturned NC Pal. And then a cold looking head and a slightly surprised looking Colin.

    The flow washes out safely enough, but it was obviously damned cold for somebody with no drysuit on. We shepherded the canoe towards the reeds, Colin stabilising himself by holding onto my offered bows, and got him to shore.

    The canoe took a bit more effort, for an empty Tuffstuff Pal holds a fair bit of water. I got ashore to help, and we dragged the canoe to the bank. Being upside down, we had to break the "seal" by lifting one gunwhale first, Colin being already somewhat damp volunteering to stand in the stream to do this. We then sloshed out as much water as possible then I hauled the canoe's nose onto the bank and let most of the rest drain over the stern. Eventually enough was gone for us to drag it out.

    Now to deal with Colin's moistness. Fortunately he had plenty of spare clothing in drybags, as well as a "changing robe".

    At this point, a polite and well dressed man appeared from the luxury flats which acted like a grandstand watching over our antics. "I don't want an argument but..." were his first words. Oh, oh, I thought. He wanted us to move on as this was private land (it is). Then he discovered Colin's dampness, and heard what had happened. In an instant, his attitude changed, he offered hot drinks or other help, and even invited Colin in to his flat to change. In the end, he couldn't have been more helpful, he'd just been worried that canoes being dragged up the banks and onto land would damage the natural barrier of reeds and other undergrowth which fringe the pool, and stop kids getting into trouble. In the end, we didn't need his offered help, but it was much appreciated.

    Colin got changed, shivering by now. I'm very much and advocate of getting a fresh dry base layer onto anybody cold and wet immediately, and this started to do the job quickly. The air temperature wasn't too cold, maybe 5 or 6C, but there was a cutting breeze. Fortunately, Col's bags contained a full set of dry layers, and after perhaps 45 minutes at this spot, we were finally ready to go again. We didn't play in the flow again.










    At Old Woking, Samson and Delilah are training Junior. This spot will soon be a battle of wills, paddler v swan, once again.






    Now we needed to reach our royal lunch spot. The journey down the Wey was, as always, a delight.




















    The Palace walls offered a perfect windbreak and suntrap, once used by Henry VIII for similar feasting purposes, though I suspect it was more weatherproof in those days. We spent a pleasant 40 mins or so boiling water and scoffing stuff. Before we set off again, I went for a little explore, looking back on the Palace from upstream.












    The afternoon sun was just starting to fade, but we still have a few hours of daylight left as we set off on the smoothly flowing stream once more.


















    With plenty of time left, we decided to continue on to the Newark Priory loop, by now the breeze mostly gone. There was no way we wanted to finish early in conditions like this.












    We turned down the backwater, and portaged the weir. Below this nasty little drop, the water was boiling and definitely to be avoided in the centre. However, with the levels as high as they were, the eddy was surprisingly calm, with little recirculation, and the drop to the river non-existent. This meant re-entry was easy enough, but with a positive downstream stroke or two required as soon as you were in. The stream below was fast with a few trees, and we took it pretty carefully.









    The road bridge round the corner always comes with a little sense of concern for me. Its not that its particularly low, but the roadway slopes from the upstream side downwards to the far side. So if we ever arrived here and the bridge was only just high enough to get under, by the time you got to the other end, it would be lower still. Not a pleasant concept, so I approached with care, ready to indicate an eddy-out if required. It was fine, the roof just above our heads.

    Below, the dangers were over, as the trees fall back, the current slows just a little, and you enter the lovely and little-visited water meadows around the Priory. Soon we were in the big eddy just above this crumbling old ruin.






    No, THIS crumbling old ruin! (sorry couldn't resist )









    This is one of those special places, made all the better by the fact that you can only reach it by the river, for the land is all private and walkers unwelcome. The flow next to the Priory was great, a really good spot with a few eddies to play on, and we spent a few minutes there before heading on.









    Now, somewhere around here is an old dead oak, if you know where to look. Here we paused for a few minutes, with my binoculars, and I showed the lads where the barn owls roost, before we moved on.






    We spent a very pleasant 20 minutes exploring up little Hoe Stream, with its beautiful quiet, tree-shaded, slopes.












    Returning to the Wey, we started heading back, portaging Newark Lock.






    Above, where the river is widest alongside Papercourt Meadows, the sun had just set, and the sky was tinged with warm colours.









    This had been a truly wonderful day, and we made the most of every minute of it. Thanks to Jim and Col for your company.



    However, the story isn't quite over...
    Paddler,blogger,camper,pyromaniac: Blog: Wilderness is a State of Mind

    Paddle Points - where to paddle

  2. #2
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    Default Wild Wey

    The following afternoon, after spending some time walking on Chobham Common earlier, I found the lure of returning too strong. This time I paddled up from Pyrford Lock, late in the afternoon. A grey wagtail flittered about by Walsham Weir.






    The weir has just been re-structured in part, so I got out to have a look at what they'd done. Supposedly there's now a better fish ladder, but it just looked like a normal sluice weir to me! The good news is that portage on river right will be a little easier here now, or at least until the undergrowth grows back up!












    Conditions were just as good as the previous day, in fact they were even calmer. From the other side, Newark Priory was reflected perfectly in the Wey.















    Today, though, I'd not come to view the ruins, but to watch for the wildlife. I made my way to a spot where you look straight into the big keyhole-shaped hole in a dead oak, where the owls roost. As I approached, a deer watched me without fear.






    Here, a pair of barn owls have made their home. When the light is right, with binoculars, you can even eatch them sleeping. The photos are not going to be brilliant from now on, for I need a much longer lens for these shots. However, if you look carefully, you might be able to make out a face.






    I sat, wrapped up warm in plenty of layers, and watched the owls slowly wake up and become more active. Meanwhile a pair of Egyptian geese were behaving strangely. First, the male suddenly took off an went straight at a buzzard, which I hadn't noticed perched nearby. The goose chased the buzzard, mobbing it just like crows do, then returned. Now, both geese staked out the owls' home tree, one sitting high above, one on a brand behind the trunk, both looking towards the owls hole. Clearly, they were there because of the owls, I had no idea geese would want to hassle owls.


    Some time later, as the sun dipped to the horizon, the first owl hopped out. The geese watched, but didn't do anything. You can see both owl and goose here.






    Eventually, having been clearly visible through my binoculars for a good half hour now, the first owl dropped ghost-like into flight, and headed off over the meadows.








    The other owl came out, then flew off too. The geese immediately dropped out of the tree, and just walked casually away. With the light now almost gone, I pushed off, and drifted back downstream. As I passed the end of the woodlands where the Hoe, Wey and Navigation meet, one of the owls flew silently through the trees to me left, before crossing back and forth across the river right in front of me. The light for photos was well past, so I simply watched with pleasure, before following it out of the woods to the open meadow below.

    Here, both owls were hunting, their pale shapes showing against distant trees, a delight to watch. As I turned, finally, chillily, but slightly reluctantly, to leave, a fox wandered clearly across my view, just 20 yards in front of me. The Wey had put on a special wildlife show for me today.
    Paddler,blogger,camper,pyromaniac: Blog: Wilderness is a State of Mind

    Paddle Points - where to paddle

  3. #3
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    Great blog.
    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

  4. #4
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    Excellent post and lovely photographs. As a complete novice..I'm totally hooked now, it looks like a whole new world, but a February swim is not on my agenda. I'll wait for milder conditions to get some paddling time in..

  5. #5
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    Fantastic photos (as expected) of a superb day on the river, Mal. Your return the next day really was serendipitous. I love the shot of the Egyptian goose peeping out on the owls' tree. Odd behaviour indeed.

    Sadly, I also neglected to snap Colin's watery mishap - partly due to a sense of guilt at immortalising his moment of misery, but mostly due to my amateur faff with the flow to get ashore.

    Here are a few extra shots from the Saturday...

    Happy paddlers setting out in warm dry clothes


    A quick refuel before the portage


    Col, comfy in his 2nd outfit of the day


    The author and intrepid rescue team leader


    Col posing for that elusive Canoe Magazine front cover



    Lunch this way, chaps


    Palace picnic


    No rushing on a day like this


    Mal is determined not to miss another swim shot


    Excellent blog, Mal, thanks.

    Jim (the crumbling old ruin )

  6. #6
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    Mal,

    lovely blog, credit to Colin for bringing spare clothes - i never do this and i when i do, i leave them in the car.
    The canoe become so heavy when filled with water and Colin's a bigger than most. Imagine trying to empty that out when you are floating in water, flipping it and getting yourself and your gear in the boat - not easy (i need to do this before i get my key for the Windsor Canoe Club ).

    Nice of the resident to offer help - people are quite reasonable mostly.

    Tempted to do the hoe descent at some point before the vegetation grows... how did it look?

    Maj

  7. #7
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    Lovely as usual Mal....enjoyed immensely.
    A ship should not ride on a single anchor, nor life on a single hope - Epictetus

  8. #8
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    Popped back this evening. No photos, as the owls were late getting out of bed. However, they did eventually come out, and sit contentedly together on a branch preening, before heading off on the hunt.



    Quote Originally Posted by Big Al. View Post
    Great blog.
    Cheers Al. Seems you're enjoying Down Under from the FB posts!


    Quote Originally Posted by saxonaxe View Post
    Excellent post and lovely photographs. As a complete novice..I'm totally hooked now, it looks like a whole new world, but a February swim is not on my agenda. I'll wait for milder conditions to get some paddling time in..
    Thanks. Whilst a little caution, and preparation, is needed in winter, if you choose your place carefully there's no reason not to go out even as a newbie. The highest risk part is normally the getting in bit! Join us sometime on a canal trip.


    Quote Originally Posted by JimHou View Post
    Here are a few extra shots from the Saturday...
    Excellent additional photos Jim, always good to see others piccies.


    Quote Originally Posted by silverbeard View Post
    Mal,

    lovely blog, credit to Colin for bringing spare clothes - i never do this and i when i do, i leave them in the car.
    The canoe become so heavy when filled with water and Colin's a bigger than most. Imagine trying to empty that out when you are floating in water, flipping it and getting yourself and your gear in the boat - not easy (i need to do this before i get my key for the Windsor Canoe Club ).

    Nice of the resident to offer help - people are quite reasonable mostly.

    Tempted to do the hoe descent at some point before the vegetation grows... how did it look?

    Maj
    Best learn from Colin's mistake then Maj!

    Hoe looked pretty good, but has come up too much since.


    Quote Originally Posted by Patterdale Paddler View Post
    Lovely as usual Mal....enjoyed immensely.
    Cheers Dick
    Paddler,blogger,camper,pyromaniac: Blog: Wilderness is a State of Mind

    Paddle Points - where to paddle

  9. #9
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    Brilliant and beautiful as always Mal!

  10. #10
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    Great report Mal, a really lovely day to be out on the water. As you say, shame there wasn't a bit more snow hanging about; even Aldershit was picturesque as I left for the put-in.

    Many thanks for your calm reassurance during my little swim and to both You and Jim for your roles as "Gentleman's Gentleman" as a stripped and re-dressed :-)

    Re the taking of pictures during future incidents, you are all more than welcome. In my other life as an off-road motorbike rider, the rule is; quickly make sure the person is in no immanent risk of death, get cameras out, and take the piss lots. :-)

    I did take some photos of the day. I'll have a look to see if any are half-decent to post here
    Last edited by bigyellowtractor; 11th-February-2019 at 07:04 AM.

  11. #11
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    DSCF0447[1]

    The get-out for the portage


    DSCF0449[1]

    Apres portage


    DSCF0451[1]

    Mal& Jim


    DSCF0452[1]

    A pair of really quite mellow swans


    DSCF0456[1]

    A lovely afternoon


    DSCF0462[1]

    That rarely photographed ruin


    DSCF0466[1]

    A Hoe-down (actually a hoe-up)


    DSCF0467[1]

    See, it was cold


    DSCF0471[1]

    Oily black reflections


    DSCF0475[1]


    Smoke on the water

  12. #12
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    Great blogg as always and a reminder I really need to take dry clothes with me on winter paddles at least. I’ve become a bit blasť about going paddling with no change of clothes and it’s going to bite me in the bum at some point if I don’t stop it.
    John

  13. #13
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    Nice one ,guys. Some great photos there .. A priory ruin shot and'' oily reflexions'' ...

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by AdrianO View Post
    Brilliant and beautiful as always Mal!
    I know I am.




    Quote Originally Posted by bigyellowtractor View Post
    Great report Mal, a really lovely day to be out on the water. As you say, shame there wasn't a bit more snow hanging about; even Aldershit was picturesque as I left for the put-in.

    Many thanks for your calm reassurance during my little swim and to both You and Jim for your roles as "Gentleman's Gentleman" as a stripped and re-dressed :-)

    Re the taking of pictures during future incidents, you are all more than welcome. In my other life as an off-road motorbike rider, the rule is; quickly make sure the person is in no immanent risk of death, get cameras out, and take the piss lots. :-)

    I did take some photos of the day. I'll have a look to see if any are half-decent to post here
    Cheers for the addition shots mate, all adds to the memories.


    Quote Originally Posted by MagiKelly View Post
    Great blogg as always and a reminder I really need to take dry clothes with me on winter paddles at least. I’ve become a bit blasť about going paddling with no change of clothes and it’s going to bite me in the bum at some point if I don’t stop it.
    I'm generally pretty good at having "something" with me in winter, and on several occasions this has been needed. So far, not by me, fortunately! This was, though, a nice reminder to make sure there's a full set with me, including socks!


    Quote Originally Posted by andre View Post
    Nice one ,guys. Some great photos there .. A priory ruin shot and'' oily reflexions'' ...
    Cheers Andre.
    Paddler,blogger,camper,pyromaniac: Blog: Wilderness is a State of Mind

    Paddle Points - where to paddle

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