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Thread: No salad on the Abbey River

  1. #1
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    Default No salad on the Abbey River

    I'd been weather watching all week, as had Jim. On Friday, we met at the Tannery for a pleasant couple of hours paddling at the end of a long working week. During this, we discussed where to go on Saturday, given the fairly strong winds forecast. For a while, I'd been wanting to get onto the Thames and do either St Patrick's Stream or the Abbey River at Chertsey. However, I didn't fancy battling winds on the more open sections and when Jim mentioned the Wey and Arun canal, that seemed like the perfect solution. Heading home, fully intending to post a proposal for the Wey and Arun in the Meets section, I noticed a sign by the road in Old Woking, as I made my way through the Friday Evening traffic. "Wings and Wheels 15th-16th June at Dunsfold". Now this is a big event, quite near to our proposed meeting place, and notorious for many hours of traffic problems. Time to rethink.

    After a bite to eat and a couple of glasses of wine, I went on Paddle Points in search of further inspiration. I mean, I know the area rather well, but sometimes its still good to look about for alternatives. Nothing sprang to mind, as the wind meant it probably wasn't worth a long drive. So I thought again of the Abbey River. The wind was due to be southerly. We'd be heading north on the Thames, then back down the very sheltered Abbey backwater. So, it might just work.

    All this is why my post in the "Meets" section was so late!


    The Abbey River is an interesting and varied trip, for it is a huge contrast from the paddle up the Thames to reach it. This narrow backwater winds its way for a couple of miles, from the big loop of the Thames at Penton Hook, to the former grounds of a long disappeared Chertsey Abbey, a benedictine monastery. It is truly ancient, for it was cut by the monks to provide water for their mill and fish ponds. 1000 years ago.

    Sometimes, its just a bit of tree dodging. Sometimes its an almighty battle through undergrowth. Sometimes, it is worse than that, for the Salad takes over. Floating pennywort has plagued this ditch for a few years now, though in the last couple of years concerted efforts by the EA and Canal & Rivers Trust seem to have helped. Who knew what we would meet this time?



    http://www.paddlepoints.net/PaddlePo...hp?PP=142&r=40



    Having cajoled Maj into joining us, we met at Chertsey Mead on Saturday morning. The day would be a two parter. A hopefully-wind-assisted paddle up the wide Thames through the suburban landscape of Surrey, followed by a bit of a jungle adventure down the tiny stream itself. The water was high enough that the beach was almost non-existent, but there was very little flow despite the recent rains.









    Jim and I had been watching a series of Stand Up Paddleboarders, all wearing bright orange tops or hats, and with numbers attached somewhere, heading downstream singly. As we paddle up towards Chertsey Bridge, we met them every couple of minutes. They were part of an event, heading from Windsor to Teddington. Into the wind.






    At Chertsey Lock, we were lucky with our timing and paddled straight into the empty lock, for a quick ascent shared with two Gin Palaces. Above, we were more exposed to the wind but, joy of joys, it was mostly behind us and the going up to the M3 bridge was simple.









    The first of several tall, thin, spectators watched us pass by.






    This was sociable paddling, plenty of time to chat, making good progress thanks to the wind, with relatively little effort. We passed plenty of moored vessels, and the beautiful wooden boats at Dennet's boatyard.












    By now, approaching Laleham, the banks were becoming lined with a variety of different styles of unaffordable properties.







    An agile grey wagtail was merrily munching away on the many insects briefly living alongside the banks. He was happy to pose for a photo between meals.






    Now the lock at Penton Hook was in sight, and here we headed to the left up the old river towards the marina and past the first two of the three weirs here.









    Once more, we were being watched, as in the undergrowth on the island, another tall figure lurked. He didn't hang around once I rudely poked a lens in his face though.


















    Having denied the poor heron his lunch by moving him along, we stopped to eat our own. On the western point of the island, a small beach allows egress to an overgrown picnic bench, a pleasant, sheltered spot. A pleasant half hour or so allowed the taking on of enough calories for the adventure to come.


    Having moved some ballast from boat to belly, we slipped back out onto the pool, off which the Abbey River exits.






    I poked my bows down the stream, and suddenly we were in an entirely different, narrower, world.









    The stream is quite shallow at first, and the clear water full of lily pads. Bushes, reeds and rushes press in from both sides, nettles sometimes hiding in ambush amongst them.












    This first section runs past a large mobile home park, though at times you can barely see it. At other times, the gardens of the homes run down to the river.






    A little while later, and you leave behind all signs of urban life, and seem to slip back into a different time. Despite being surrounded by suburbs and motorways, and with the sounds of airliners constantly overhead due to the proximity of Heathrow, somehow this little river is a haven of wildlife, a little jungle strip meandering its way slowly back towards its parent, the Thames. On the map, this blue line looks like nothing much, winding between hidden golf course and invisible reservoirs. The reality is so much more, a wonderful little wild spot, full of life.












    This is where we normally encounter the Salad. At times, this can make progress almost impossible, building up beneath the canoe and causing so much friction and holding the weight of the canoe off the water, that a huge effort is required. Most of the salad is the intrusive species, floating pennywort. Thankfully today, there was no sign of this. There was still plenty of fun, constantly weaving between rushes and trees, never being able to see more than a few yards ahead, but there was nothing to really impede progress.


















    Today, it was a joy. Simple, but fascinating to paddle. Beneath me, the canoe felt alive, turning just when I wanted it to, heeled over to free up the ends. There's a real satisfaction in smoothly making your way down such a passage in a 16' canoe.















    The odd tree to fight through was almost welcome, so easy was the rest of the paddle compared with on some occasions. Only once did the saw come out, to remove an intransigent, whippy, thin branch just at the wrong height, that wanted to attack my face.






    In one spot, an ancient girder bridge feels like something out of a jungle war film, or Tomb Raider perhaps.









    The next bridge is much more massive, as we passed just 10 feet under the wheels of rumbling trucks. Until you reach it, though, you can barely see it. Here it is, in the middle of the photo!






    We were approaching Chertsey itself, and the little park that lies roughly where the Abbey itself once stood. Here the lily flowers are of the more exotic type than the standard yellow variety.









    Having been wished "good luck" by the one person we saw during the whole time on the Abbey River, we passed under the old farm bridge. There's a broken line of old concrete "sandbags" under the bridge. A narrow gap was just wide enough for me to get the heeled canoe through, the Maj made adjustments to make it simpler for the other two.















    Strange creatures lurked above.









    We were now on the final section down to the meeting with the Thames. This is often the hardest bit, for both salad and reed reasons. Today, we had to wind our way through the plants, but I was just a tiny amount of pennywort, just 4 leaves. Knowing how this grows, I will still put in a report to the EA so they know its not been completely eradicated here!












    Where the monks' mill must once have stood, a care home now stands, in pleasant grounds. As we approached the pool above the little ornate arched bridge through which weir and punt rollers pass, a gentle rain started. Mrs Duck sat just below, with her 8 children lined up alongside.















    The rain seemed to be a sign that we should stop for a while, perched on the walls beneath a canopy of wisteria below the arches. Jim tried a little circus trick, attempting to run on the spot on one of the punt rollers, which led to a wet foot, of course. We had a brew and some snacks, and watched while some male mallards chased off Mrs Duck and her Ducklings. Most rude.






    After a far longer stop than was really necessary, long after the rain ceased, we headed onwards, into the sheltered pool below, before making our way down to the Thames again, below Chertsey Weir. On the way, we found Mrs Duck and her brood established on a new perch.












    Ahead, a thin line of moving water flowed from the weir. Today it was pretty benign, and a brief angled ferry glide had us across.









    Our final short paddle took us down, under the elegant Chertsey Bridge, back to our little launching beach.















    Every time I do this paddle, I ask myself "why don't I come here more often". For it is an utter delight, just 5 miles, but full of contrasts, and the Abbey River itself is one of the hidden gems of this busy corner of England.
    Paddler,blogger,camper,pyromaniac: Blog: Wilderness is a State of Mind

    Paddle Points - where to paddle

  2. #2
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    Brilliant. Enjoyed that thanks.
    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

  3. #3
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    Ah yes…a fine day on the water. I thoroughly enjoyed the micro adventure. Definitely one to do again soon, having been spared the lettuce fest!
    Fine pictures and a gripping read, Mal. Here are a few snaps from a different perspective….

    Follow that beetle...





    I prefer my boat...





    Maj proves he's got more than 50 horses under the hood...







    Folk around here are just from another planet...


























    Thoughtful of the architect to think of weary canoeists...













    Maj hastily dons his lesser spotted buoyancy aid...

    Last edited by JimHou; 16th-June-2019 at 06:51 PM.

  4. #4

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    Great write-up and pics. Not too far from home either so added to the list :-)

  5. #5
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    Looks like a grand day out....as a born’n’bred Londoner I really should have paddled the Thames more than once, and that was the DW.
    A ship should not ride on a single anchor, nor life on a single hope - Epictetus

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Big Al. View Post
    Brilliant. Enjoyed that thanks.
    Cheers Al, a surprisingly good trip this. Which is weird given how often I've done it, but somehow I forget how idyllic the stream is.


    Quote Originally Posted by JimHou View Post
    Maj hastily dons his lesser spotted buoyancy aid...

    Sorry Maj, I might have moaned at you a bit at the point you were playing in weir streams sans BA.

    Good photos Jim, glad you got one of the Toilet Tunnel too.


    Quote Originally Posted by Sussex Leprechaun View Post
    Great write-up and pics. Not too far from home either so added to the list :-)
    Definitely worth doing, though be prepared if the salad returns!


    Quote Originally Posted by Patterdale Paddler View Post
    Looks like a grand day out....as a born’n’bred Londoner I really should have paddled the Thames more than once, and that was the DW.
    Indeed, after all, its simply a bigger Ditch.
    Paddler,blogger,camper,pyromaniac: Blog: Wilderness is a State of Mind

    Paddle Points - where to paddle

  7. #7
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    Jim, Mal - what a fab day and great photos. I love the one Mal and I drinking tea in such an odd place.

    So where did all the salad go? i was really surprised that it completely disappeared.

    Are we doing this again this year? perhaps a clean up... just a thought

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mal Grey View Post

    Sorry Maj, I might have moaned at you a bit at the point you were playing in weir streams sans BA.
    Haha, appreciate your "moaning". I always forget to wear the darn thing because i am always running late mainly due to me faffing about.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mal Grey View Post
    Good photos Jim, glad you got one of the Toilet Tunnel too.
    Ah yes...the toilet tunnel - my top tip is to always take your camera when you head off to the bushes. You never know when a surprising, unexpected photo opportunity may appear. Hmm....that sounds so wrong

  10. #10
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    Awesome bush bashing. Wish i could have made it. Hopefully next time Mal!!

  11. #11
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    That looks like a great little run and I just love the roller system, very sensible, next time.

    Nick

  12. #12
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    I do like the look of the backwater. Looks like an ideal place to paddle. More so without the salad I’m sure.
    John

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by MagiKelly View Post
    I do like the look of the backwater. Looks like an ideal place to paddle. More so without the salad Iím sure.
    John,

    You would not believe how hard it was to paddle through that stuff last year. I seem to recall i skipped the gym session and slept very well through the night!

    Hoping to meet you on a paddle sometime soon...

    cheers

    Majid

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