today was our first paddle of 2010 and it was one that stay in the memory for a while.
for one reason or another, it was quarter to two before we left steve’s house and headed for the river. dropping the car off at beeston was going to involve a 20-odd mile drive, unless we took the wrong motorway junction and had a detour around the nottingham ring road. in which case it would be much longer…
so it was after quarter past three before we got on the water, leaving us a whole 75 minutes of daylight to cover the 15km to beeston.
the car told me it was -0.5 degrees as we left. what it didn’t tell me was that there was a strong northerly breeze blowing that was going to chill any exposed or wet skin. so we got our heads down and paddled fairly hard for the first mile or so to ratcliffe lock.
we realised that where the water was stationary in the locks, it was likely to be frozen, but due to our late start, we decided to persevere with canal rather than the meandering river.
my strategy for the ice was to approach it as fast as possible and paddle straight onto the top of it. then i could gracefully glide across the ice before easing back into the water like a seal from a glacier…
what actually happened was that every time the front of the boat got onto the edge of the ice it would begin to crack. we’d have to back off, get some speed up and repeat. the novelty began to wear off…
finally i did get onto the ice. the graceful glide was actually me grunting my way, inches at a time, propelled by my knuckles.
steve was having the same problems… only more so… i turned around and started breaking the ice from the opposite direction, hoping i could clear a path for him. eventually, he did manage to get onto the ice and celebrated by getting out his new, waterproof camera for the first time, only to find that the battery was flat!
after this delay it really was getting dark and we still had a long way to go.
soon enough though, the soar met the trent and we turned right. avoiding trent lock for fear of it being frozen, we portaged to the right of the weir that the lock bypasses. we stopped for a coffee, a digestive and a pee. just then, we were lit up by headlights and flashing orange lights. as the truck drove towards us, we prepared our excuses… ‘we’re b.c.u. members. we can be here’, ‘we’ll tell them we’re lost, right…’.
as it happened, the three security guards from e-on (owners of ratcliffe power station) who had been scrambled after we had been spotted on the c.c.t.v. system were fine with us, if a little bemused that people would be paddling in the dark and sub-zero temperatures.
once back on the water, we had the flow of the trent behind us and 7km to go. the temperature continued to drop and both my spray deck and boat were now covered with an ever growing layer of ice.
we spooked a few herons, grebes and anglers as we paddled onwards through the darkness, but the sound of beeston weir growing ever closer.
by the time we arrived at the marina, the snow was falling again and it felt like we had an epic day behind us.
i sit at home now with glowing cheeks. the kind that can only be earned by a great day in the outdoors.