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Thread: A Shalford Loop the Loop – 10th May 2019

  1. #1
    Join Date
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    Ash Vale, Surrey (by the Basingstoke Canal)
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    Default A Shalford Loop the Loop – 10th May 2019

    With a reasonable forecast, Peter (Impcanoe) and I met on a bright Friday morning in Shalford, Surrey, on the banks of the Wey Navigation. The put-in at Broadford Bridge is an ideal point to paddle the figure of eight created by the Navigation and the annexed natural river loops around St Catherine’s and Unstead locks.



    We set off downstream, following the canal for a few hundred yards, before reaching our first detour of the day. On river right, Riff Raff Weir is easily portaged via a grassy bank and a short drag through long grass. The put-in is a beached area immediately below the weir. The main flow from the weir is pushed under an overhanging tree, so it’s probably not an ideal place to linger. There is, however, plenty of room to keep clear and safely join the fairly quick flow of the river.






    The levels were fairly low today and the flow quickly recedes, perfectly setting a gentle pace with which to explore and enjoy this peaceful mile of backwater. It’s been said many times, but it really is remarkable just how quiet this little stretch of river is, considering its proximity to Guildford town centre.

    Basking in the warmth of the morning sun, we let the river dictate the pace, gently guiding us around many verdant, tree-lined meanders. I had first paddled this way on an SotP trip in February, so it was a joy to see the river banks clad in their late spring clothes.









    There are a few fallen trees on this stretch, but nothing which wasn’t passed with ease and the folding saw made only a brief appearance to remove some tree debris caught up in one of the existing gaps. At this gentle pace, the fallen trees become interesting features on this beautiful stretch of river, adding to its unique charm.


















    We only encountered one new blockage, which I didn’t recall seeing last time, situated just before the river sweeps to the right to rejoin the navigation. Here a straight, partially submerged tree trunk lies across the width of the river, leaving just a narrow gap at river right. Peter, in his slimline Dagger Sojourn, managed to slip though after a small nub of wood was sawn from the end. However, my boat is a good few inches wider, so a not-so-nimble leap into the undergrowth was needed to lift the boat past. We could probably have got over with a run up, but opted for the gentle approach. In higher levels, it may be possible to run over the tree, assuming it doesn’t rise with the water.















    Turning left onto the navigation, we shortly reached St Catherine’s Lock, where we rested, allowing our weary knees to flex, click and crunch.



    Ominously dark clouds were now approaching, so we took to the boats, heading upstream past Riff Raff Weir and our start point at Broadford Bridge.






    We were just passing the long since defunct junction with the Wey and Arun canal, when one of the black behemoths of the sky singled us out for a soaking. Waterproofs were hastily donned and we headed for the shelter of a nearby oak.






    Far from ruining the day, the slow moving shower gave us the opportunity for another rest and a natter, whilst adding some textural variation to a perfect day on the water.



    The shower passed, we portaged Unstead lock and headed up the final arrow straight section of canal to the weir marking our second detour.

    Having negotiated the get-out to the right of the weir, we spent a little time checking the portage and put-in. The portage is short, but an electric cattle fence makes it more challenging. Dragging the boats along the fence line, we pushed the bows under the fence and then retreated back to the weir, where it’s possible to crawl under the lowest wire without touching or disturbing the fence.



    A short undergrowth yomp brought us back to the boats, which could then be pulled under the fence and lowered down the steep, high bank into the water. Thankfully, most of the undergrowth here is not nettles.






    Canoes launched, we avoided the rather boily and confused weir pool and steered into the moderate flow. The sun had now retreated behind an overcast sky, but the sense of wildness on this stunning little backwater prevailed. Nature is in charge down here and when trees choose to lie down for a rest across the water, no-one can prevent them. Thankfully, progress wasn’t hindered and whilst care was needed, we were easily able to point our boats through the gaps.



    The rain made another brief appearance, but we were ready for it this time and the shower was short-lived.






    After a mile or so of gentle meanders, we spotted a suitable lunch spot, tied up the boats and sat on the bank. We took our time, chatting about this and that and munching packed lunches until it was time to take to the boats for the final leg back to the cars.



    The final few meandering corners of this silent little backwater brought us back out on the navigation and the last few hundred yards back to the bridge.






    Thanks to Peter for excellent company on another fine day on the Wey.

    Jim

  2. #2
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    Really pleasant trip. We've done some good Fridays now, seen some sights and wildlife and discussed the world and the meaning of life at our leisure. So enjoyed it that I turned out on Sunday too, as did Jim.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2018
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    Merstham, Surrey
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    Looks like a great paddle, makes me wish i had fridays off!

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Impcanoe View Post
    Really pleasant trip. We've done some good Fridays now, seen some sights and wildlife and discussed the world and the meaning of life at our leisure.
    We certainly have. May there be many more.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ellery View Post
    Looks like a great paddle, makes me wish i had fridays off!
    Fridays are the new Saturday.....for the retired and self-employed anyway!

  5. #5
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    I do love the wild look of that route. The overhanging trees adding to it. There is something quite peaceful about being in your canoe sheltering under a tree from the rain.
    John

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by MagiKelly View Post
    I do love the wild look of that route. The overhanging trees adding to it. There is something quite peaceful about being in your canoe sheltering under a tree from the rain.
    I completely agree, John. The natural river loops on the Wey all have a special charm, but the Shalford ones do feel quite wild. I love the rain on a paddle....when I'm under shelter.

  7. #7
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    Great stuff gents.

    Missing the Wey at the moment, hopefully back on it this weekend!
    Paddler,blogger,camper,pyromaniac: Blog: Wilderness is a State of Mind

    Paddle Points - where to paddle

  8. #8
    Join Date
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mal Grey View Post
    Great stuff gents.

    Missing the Wey at the moment, hopefully back on it this weekend!
    Thanks, Mal. I think the Wey has been missing you! If the weather plays ball, I fancy another Bowers visit now that Maj says it's entirely blockage free at the top.

  9. #9
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    Up for that in theory.

    Was actually vaguely thinking of an overnighter though, which would be in the usual spot. Probably won't be back in time Friday for an evening paddle then, so will say how the weather looks Saturday/eve.
    Paddler,blogger,camper,pyromaniac: Blog: Wilderness is a State of Mind

    Paddle Points - where to paddle

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