CSCC Reports 2009: Symonds Yat - 12th September 2009
On 12-13 September Diane, Beth, Bridget, Dan J. and Tom went paddling on the Wye. The water level on the reworked rapids at Symonds Yat was just right and so the river provided a good learning opportunity for white water paddling. It was a lovely sunny weekend.
The CSCC had booked this weekend as a 3 star WW assessment with the BCU in May, giving candidates four months to prepare. The weekend was preceded by two training sessions on moving water at Harefield, with Saturday at SY spent on further training, followed by the assessment on Sunday. Three of us presented ourselves for assessment. None of us passed. Nonetheless Tom was full of praise for how much progress all of us had made and gave us advice on the skills we need to improve to pass next time round.
We had stayed close to SY on the Saturday, but on the Sunday we drove up to the launch site at Kerne Bridge and launched there and paddled back down to SY. We ate lunch at Huntsham Bridge (being unable to find solid ground elsewhere), but our stop was cut short when we encountered a party of canoeists launching with the Monmouth canoe hire company who gently pointed out that it was private property.
It seems that canoe hire is big business and they have more or less taken over the navigable stretches of the Wye. However, it is fair to say that the main hazards on the river are the heavy metal hire canoes being paddled inexpertly by novices. We witnessed far more capsizes at SY than we used to see previously and it was confirmed to us by a representative of the canoe hire company that far more of their customers were taking a dip these days. The companies should probably consider being slightly more accommodating to independent kayakers who may provide the best hope of assistance when their customers get into difficulties.
The best wildlife spotted during the weekend was kingfishers flying low over the water. Less happily, we saw an enormous, but deceased pike. There was also a very low flying swan incident - Tom was paddling upstream when a look of amazed horror appeared on his face. We all turned to see a VERY large swan flying at a height of 1-2 metres parallel to the water DIRECTLY towards us. Thankfully it passed over us landing with an assertive flap of his wings further on down the river in order to menace another pair of canoeists.
Along with John, we stayed at the Church Farm Guest House at Mitchel Troy near Monmouth on Saturday night. This B & B has a lot of character (watch out for the low beams and doorways!) The owners kindly did their best to dry our mountain of smelly canoe gear overnight and also allowed us to help ourselves from their bucket of home grown damsons. We had dinner at the nearby Somerset Arms pub which served reasonable food and well kept Newmans beer (but disappointingly, no local cider). SY East car park charge is £3 plus £1 for each boat.
Our thanks go to Tom for giving up his time on three weekends over the summer to coach us. After paddling for ten years my bad paddling habits are well entrenched, so I was pleased and surprised to see signs of improvement on white water at last.
Dan (with contributions from Tom and Diane)