Eleanor, Robert W., Chris and Dan J. braved wintery conditions and paddled on the River Hamble on 4 March.
After sharing out all our available wet weather gear, we launched from the Swanwick Hard slipway (which has a small free car park adjoining it) and headed downstream with the ebbing tide. My fingers had gone like blocks of ice the minute I left the comfort of the Roaring Lion and I struggled to fit my spray deck. However, once we started paddling we all started to warm up.
The Hamble has an incredible number of yachts & floating gin palaces moored along its length. So many in fact that we all managed to find a boat named after us apart from Robert ("Eleanor", "Dandy" and "Badger"). Very few of these boats were actually moving, so we had no trouble avoiding collisions. In summer it might be a different story.
On the trip I tried to educate Chris about the 1980's soap opera, "Howard's Way" which was filmed in the area. I see myself as a Jack Rolfe type - occasionally very grumpy with a love of traditional ways of doing things. Chris is more your Tom Howard character - willing to embrace modern methods where he can see their advantages. Fortunately neither Eleanor nor Robert were Ken Masters racing around in a power boat while wearing a pastel coloured jacket with the sleeves pushed up.
Like many estuaries, the Hamble is home to lots of sea birds. We spotted oyster catchers, cormorants and little wading birds whose name we weren't sure about.
The initial plan had been to eat our packed lunches at Warsash after landing on the slip there (near the mouth of the estuary). However, as the rain came down harder the plan changed and we decided to pop into "the Rising Sun" for lunch. This was a fairly up market pub with a nautical flavour, but (Robert's haddock and chips apart) the proprietors appeared to be doing their bit to fight the nation's obesity epidemic. Outside the pub were various plaques and monuments to the role of the area as the starting point for Commandos who had participated in the D Day landings.
Low tide had been forecast for about 1.30pm and the paddle back upstream grew possessively easier as the flood picked up and the wind dropped. The sun also came out just before we got off the water. The total distance paddled was 5.7 miles.
My thanks go to the other three for joining me in spite of such a dire (and accurate) weather forecast and making it a fun day out. Thanks also to Peter Knowles, author of "Pub Paddles" who suggested all of the successful parts of my trip planning.
As recommended by Julian, I would aim to time my next trip to the Hamble so that I could launch closer to high tide and explore some of the creeks north of Lower Swanwick/Bursledon.