A Snowy Valentines Date with The Dart

Me hanging about on the Walkham

Me hanging about on the Walkham

Having been away in the Alps on the Powfect ski trip last week I thought that I’d probably need this weekend to sort all my stuff out and gather my life together a bit so had planned to be in London. However, having seen the rain falling as a result of storm Imogen and some pretty intense looking videos appearing on the Kayaking on the River Dart Facebook Page  I decided to join the Regents Canoe Club (RCC) trip to Dartmoor.

We set off from London after work on Friday and drove down the YHA at Bellever in Dartmoor. The drive was a long one, it took us just over 5 and a half hours, no-doubt partly due to the fact it was the Friday at the start of half-term. Once we arrived I sat down for a few beers to catch-up with some people I hadn’t seen for a while and discuss whether the weather was going to behave for the weekend.

On Saturday we woke up to rising river levels, it was decided that we’d split the ~30 of us into two groups; one would head to the Walkham and the other to the Dart Loop. I headed off to the Walkham, a river I’d never paddled before. After a somewhat exciting car shuttle involving the shuttle car doing a 17-point turn, lots of wheelspins, having only two wheels on the ground and fuel warning lights, we got onto the river. (We leave most of the cars at the point we’ll get off the river, with one used to get the drivers back to the start that stays at the top) . It was a pretty paddle and a treat to do a river that was new to me. The main event is a slot-drop feature which resulted in quite a few swims from our group. (In kayaking a ‘Swim’ is what happens if your boat goes upside down and you can’t roll it back upright whilst you’re in it. You therefore have to get yourself out of the boat, resulting in you ‘swimming’ down the river whilst you try to get yourself, your boat and your paddle to the bank safely so you can get back in the boat and try again. A ‘swim’ is not a good thing and normally results in a fair amount of ribbing from your fellow paddlers along with a bit of bruised pride.)

Paddling the Slot Drop on the Walkham in my Powfect hat.

Paddling the Slot Drop on the Walkham in my Powfect hat.

By the time we got to the end of the river everyone was pretty tired, either from swimming a few times, or from rescuing swimmers and their kit. We headed back to the hostel for a quick shower before walking to the East Dart Hotel to watch the 6 Nations rugby before having a very hearty carvery.

On Sunday a group of us had planned to get up and, if it rained as much as it was forecast overnight, have a quick blast down the West Dart before meeting the rest of the group. Having gone to bed with the rain starting to fall we thought we’d wake to high river levels. I woke up and checked the river levels on my phone only to find that they hadn’t risen much, when I looked outside the window I realised why – all the rain had fallen as snow and was sitting about an inch thick on the ground! Paddling through snowy river banks is always beautiful and I was excited to get on the Upper Dart. The river was on a great level (just lapping the slab at Newbridge) which meant that some of the rocks were covered but there wasn’t too much water to make it a difficult paddle. I really enjoyed our descent and had a lot of fun messing around catching little eddies and playing about – a great valentines date with The Dart.

My car, Red Cherry, on Sunday morning.

My car, Red Cherry, on Sunday morning.

It was a great weekend and getting out of London straight away after getting back from holiday was a good decision that softened the bump back to reality.

Weekend Costs
Accommodation and food: £50
Boat and paddle hire: £12
Petrol: £25
Beers: £25
Total: £112

 

Hannis Whittam

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