A little while ago we – the Committee – acknowledged something that we had known for some time; that as a club, we were not running trips. We attract new members through the ‘Come & Try’ sessions and develop paddlers with the one and two star courses, but then people often find there’s not enough to keep interested and drift away. You can only paddle the loop so many times! So we hatched a plan to try and have one trip each month. Mostly planning to put on simple, local club paddles on rivers and canals – with some further afield – but with a priority on inclusivity.
One suggestion was to cover the Nene (or ‘Nene’ depending on your pronunciation – I call it the Nene, but others say Nene) for as much as possible, so that we ‘journey’ its length through a series of paddles. It’s a personal anomaly that I’ve paddled in Scotland, Wales and France but barely seen our home waters beyond the loop and Becket’s park.
So Angie and I set to work. Alan has added some info on the web site (http://www.nckc.org.uk/rivers/) as a guide but we thought it best to check the get out at Earls Barton to ensure car parking, access etc. were all ok. It’s a six mile paddle and in total there were 6 portages so it was going to be a one way trip, given the amount of daylight and the need for a faf or two along the way. Also, as part of the plan was to progress along the Nene over a series of trips, so coming back didn’t feel quite right.
The message went out via email and FaceBook and we were pleasantly surprised to find quite a bit of interest, especially given the time of year. Nearer the time we checked that there was enough transport to get all the boats and paddlers back at the end of the day, and sent out some info on likely weather as well as confirming meeting times.
Meeting up at the club for 09:30, we got enough cars to the car park at Earls Barton to carry the boats home and a couple of cars took the drivers back to the club. At 10:30 we had cars, kit, keys etc all sorted and we were on the water and paddling into a steady head wind. A little light rain had threatened but then abated and the temperature wasn’t too bad for mid November. From the club to the first lock at Abington was a bit of a slog, especially for those of us in open canoes, but we stuck together and found the going much easier when the river narrowed and became more sheltered.
From Billing, the river becomes quite pretty and it was a very pleasing paddle, there were stories from the ‘old hands’ about trips long past and keen interest from the newer paddlers who were enthusiastic to get on the water all year round.
A little way after Billing Mill we had a choice: right continued with the main navigation route, left would take us to a weir that was known to be a “safe runner”. As well as being a little bit of fun, it’s nice to avoid getting out for yet another portage, so that was appealing to some. Of course a “safe runner” doesn’t mean you definitely won’t get wet – and some of the group preferred the right turn option with the extra lock. An important part of the trip is that there’s no pressure on anyone to do anything they’re not comfortable with, so one group went left, the other right and we met shortly after.
We arrived at Earls Barton pretty much on time at about 14:30 and made an (almost) clean exit at the car park for the short drive back.
My thanks to everyone who came along and made it a success, I hope we can continue with monthly trips all through the year – next will probably be a new year paddle so keep a lookout for info.
The players: Angie, Ted, Paul & Sophie, Tracy, Scott ,Chris R, John, Andy, Steve, Chris T, Megan and me.