CSCC Reports 2009: River Mole - December 2009

After the wettest November on record, finally there was a forecast of sunny weather on 1 Dec, so I joined Chris and his Song of the Paddle contact, Garth, for a trip on the River Mole in Surrey.

We launched near Dorking at the bridge in Brockham. 

Chris and I paddled tandem in a canadian and Garth went solo.  The flow was about 3 miles per hour and the river had broken its banks, so we had to steer carefully to avoid tree branches. 

Garth coped fine with this, but Chris and I suffered from co-operation difficulties and found the conditions quite challenging, ducking under branches at regular intervals.  However, we made it to Box Hill without incident.  The weir had massive stoppers, but we had portaged around it.   

We enjoyed a very pleasant lunch at the National Trust site by the weir in the sunshine and then continued on our way.  We soon encountered a tree branch which was totally blocking the river.  Chris and I initially headed to the river bank, thinking of portaging, but suffered from indecision after watching Garth managing to bump over the top of the obstruction.  We drifted towards Garth, but unfortunately came to a shuddering halt upstream of the branch and after failing to bump over it (the added weight probably to blame) we found our canoe capsizing and ourselves clinging to the tree.  Fortunately it wasn't a strainer and we let go and swam after our boat.  A capsized canadian weighs a lot and it was hard to nudge it into an eddy and secure it (Chris wrapped the painter around a tree trunk).  Our swim had lasted about five minutes. 

Chris' paddle and map had disappeared, but Garth was able to retrieve my paddle, throwline and pogies.  Setting off again we were keen to avoid a repeat incident, so when we came to a low bridge which was blocked with tree branches Chris and I headed with a lot more purpose to the river bank and were able to portage round the bridge.  Another tree blockage was safely negotiated by leaning onto it and slipping through a narrow gap. 

On the approach to Leatherhead (just before the low bridge) we saw a spot of white water by a partial blockage, so Chris and I again paddled furiously after Garth in an attempt to get off the river.  Chris managed to cling onto a slender branch a few metres from the bank, but in doing so lost another paddle, leading to mild panic.  An attempt to throw a line to Garth (now safely on the river bank) failed, so Dan thrashed around with the last remaining paddle and with some relief we made it to terra firma.  On inspecting the river we found a length of barbed wire strung across much of the channel and attached to a hefty fence post.  This looked as if it might have been placed there during the summer months (when the river channel would have been narrower) to mark the boundary of land owned by an anglers' club.

We opted to end our paddle there and so avoided the wire, the low bridge and a second weir.  We could have run the weir but Chris and I were happier walking back to fetch the car.  Distance paddled - just over 7 miles.

It is a shame that the Mole is not more easily navigable, because it passes through some glorious countryside.  In addition to the hills we saw some lovely old farmhouses and kingfishers.  The pub in Brockham had a lot of character and a log fire. 

My thanks go to Chris and Garth for organising. 

Chris's pictures