Archive for March 2011
The picture above shows Chris Wheeler paddling in Pembrokeshire. Good times and treasured memories.
Dartmoor Search and Rescue Team Ashburton are a volunteer Mountain Rescue team, part of the Dartmoor Rescue Group.
On the night of 21st November 2009, the DartmoorSearch and Rescue Team Ashburton were called out to the River Dart valley, after the death of our good friend Chris in a kayaking accident. They searched for hours in the dark to locate the accident scene, and then they spent all night carrying Chris out from the Dart gorge.
We would like to thank them for their selfless and professional assistance. On 17th April 2011, we’ll both be paddling 26.2 miles through central London, on the day of the London Marathon. This event is called the ‘London Kayakathon’; participants like ourselves aim to raise £30,000 overall for various charities – see
for details of the event.
Please consider making a donation to support the work of Dartmoor Search and Rescue Team Ashburton; just follow the ‘Give Money’ link above. We do hope that you will support us, and this worthwhile cause.
CLICK HERE TO SUPPORT US
With thanks, Mark and Heather Rainsley.
This photo shows us camped under a full moon at Bembridge on the Isle of Wight, last week. We were relaxing after a very long day paddling along the south coast, which finished long after dark. The camera was rested on a convenient post and a long exposure was used to cut through the darkness.
I’ve just finished working for the day (it’s nearly midnight) and I’m looking at a 13 hour day without breaks tomorrow. It’s good to have memories like these to keep you sane…
Under two weeks to the Easter hols, all good.
We headed out of Swanage this morning, hoping to pay a visit to Purbeck’s puffin population. As we rounded Durlston Head, we hit a stiff headwind and soon changed our plans; it would have been a grim bash into the wind to see the puffins (in their cave near Dancing Ledge) and the choppy water meant that serious photography would be impractical. Durlston Head was rather fine however, the air thick with guillemots and razorbills who were kept inshore by the breeze.
Later, we ate lunch in the sun, up above the cliffs in Durlston Country Park. We then headed home to find our cat Ted also enjoying an alfresco lunch.
Incidentally; the previous weekend, Heather was camped beside the water a few miles west at St Alban’s Head, when … a pod of dolphins surfaced metres away from her. The same pod was seen at Durlston the following morning, with about 20 spotted by the local lifeboat. Sadly, they didn’t make another appearance today.
An 8 mile walk from Seaton (Devon) to Lyme Regis (Dorset) through the Undercliffs National Nature Reserve, on this muggy hazy March day. This remarkable and forbidding landscape was created by a series of major landslips, most famously the Bindon landslip of 1839; a huge chasm formed within the Undercliff, with a corresponding (and shortlived) wall of rock appearing out to sea. The Undercliffs have since become heavily overgrown and are effectively a wilderness ecosystem, with only one narrow path running through the 300 hectare reserve.
Evening dinner of Thai green curry, using fresh Lyme Bay prawns. All good.
These photos show just some of the numerous defensive works guarding the Western entrance to the Solent, the kilometre-wide Needles Channel. The various fortifications span from the C16 (Henry VIII) through the C19 (‘Palmerston Follies’) to the Second World War. The site was even of importance in the Cold War, being used to test rocket engines.
This past weekend was the vernal equinox, when spring supposedly begins. We took advantage of the big spring tidal range to paddle around the Isle of Wight, a journey of around 65 miles. I’ve paddled around Wight numerous times now, and it’s never a dull experience. Indeed, this weekend reminded me repeatedly that it is perfectly possible to have a full-blown challenging adventure practically within sight of your home, as the Island is, in my case. Added to the usual challenges of rounding Wight in a weekend, were the relatively short days, some bitterly cold temperatures, and the fact that we weren’t exactly in peak physical condition…
After the usual faff with gear, four of us launched after 9 pm on Friday evening to paddle from Keyhaven around the Needles to Freshwater. Heading out of the Solent through the narrow Needles Channel, we realised that a boat was closing on us from behind; in the dark we could see a green (starboard) light with a red (port) light to its right, meaning that the boat was heading right for us. As it grew nearer over the next half hour, we changed course several times to get clear of its path…but each time our pursuant appeared to then change course and follow us again. I concluded that it must be a small fishing boat, weaving slowly up the Channel; no real problem for us. Then we heard a series of loud ‘parps’ on his horn; he had spotted us and the message was clear; ‘get out of my way‘. This time, we paddled perpendicular to its course and finally managed to clear its path. This was a good job really, as our slowly moving fishing boat reared up out of the dark shortly after, and turned out to actually be an enormous freighter, going full pelt. How we laughed. Well, I did, anyway…
Anyway, we reached the Needles rocks at last, and rode the tide race between these tall stacks. Why do the most serious part of the whole trip at night? I’m not sure, but suffice to say, seeing the Needles lighthouse up close at night is an unforgettable experience. The full moon lit up the 500 foot chalk cliffs and illuminated our path as we glided along smooth water to Freshwater. The temperature plummeted towards midnight, with ice forming on our decks. The landing at Freshwater involved clawing your way ashore on steep pebbles and dumping surf; I got wet and consequently far too cold. Thankfully it wasn’t long before we were all in tents, coaxing life into our hands over stoves. The 19p Tescos noodles which I shared with Lizzie won’t win any culinary awards, but they did the job.
Saturday morning, we could have headed out early on the water, but our ice-caked tents dissuaded us. Instead, we walked to the Needles and did tourism, as the temperature climbed to something quite pleasant. However, our 2 pm launch was into a nasty cold headwind and choppy waves, meaning that we literally crawled along the south coast, wrapped in scarves, hats, buffs and woolly pogies. Things got better when we reached St Catherine’s Point towards sunset; the sea calmed and we bounced through the big tide races at the southern tip of Wight, riding the strong tides all the way up the east side of the island. The moon rose straight out of the sea, providing illumination once more for another long night paddle. We finally reached Bembridge at Noideawhen o’clock after covering about 27 miles and cheekily put our tents up in front of some rather nice beach huts, with the owner’s permission.
Sunday was unusual in that we got to paddle by daylight all day, although the bitterly cold headwind (yes, another one) whistling along the Solent meant that we didn’t limp back to our start at Keyhaven until the sun was on the horizon.
In one fleeting weekend, I shared countless memorable experiences with my friends. That, for me, is what it’s all about.
Surfers at St Ives in Cornwall on a cold grey day…
‘Failure is just nature’s way of telling you that you’re crap.’
A friend and I had planned to make the long open crossing to the Isle of Wight, early this morning. However, we fell short of our target by about twenty miles. We planned to launch from Kimmeridge Bay yesterday afternoon for the straightforward paddle to Swanage Bay; here we would camp overnight and launch early to cross to Wight.
What actually happened was that – after all sorts of faffing – we launched a bit late from Kimmeridge. This meant that we were looking at the last hour of the trip to Swanage being against the tide. We were happy with this, given that it is close to Neaps (weak tides). However, as we paddled towards St Alban’s Head, it became clear that we were were crawling along really slowly. Reaching the headland, it was obvious that the tide had turned against us at least an hour early, and it had a bit of oomph to it … we battled up the tide race and another mile past before giving up and heading back to camp in Chapman’s Pool. Our Wight attempt had failed within a few miles of the start.
This morning, we woke to rain (pic above) which quickly cleared, allowing us to enjoy Purbeck’s cliffs in sunshine as we paddled to Swanage. Spring has certainly sprung; we saw hundreds of guillemots, dozens of razorbills and eight bobbing puffins. Not unpleasant, and it’s not as if the Isle of Wight is going away anywhere soon.
Cape Cornwall is England’s only cape. It used to be thought to be England’s westernmost point, but is actually 800 metres east of Land’s End, a few miles to the south. The chimney on the summit was part of a tin mine; after the mine closed down it was decided not to demolish the chimney as it served as a useful navigational mark.
This inhospitable promontory is Gurnard’s Head in west Cornwall. It’s so-named as it resembles the form of a gurnard fish. Gurnard’s Head is one of at least 33 identified ‘promontory forts’ in Cornwall and Scilly. Promontory forts were a style of Iron Age (‘Celtic’) hill fort which utilised the coast’s form to reduce the need for enclosing banks. Promontory forts can commonly be found along the length of Britain’s coasts, especially concentrated in the western Atlantic extremities. To give some context of timescale, these forts were in use from around 2600 years ago. In the case of Gurnard’s Head, earth banks cut off the narrow landward neck, buttressed by stepped drystone walls. As you can see, Gurnard’s Head is not an environment obviously conducive to comfortable living, and nor is it as effective a defensive refuge as might first be imagined. What was the real significance of these forts?
We’ve been moving forward with the book ‘Savage Shores’ and have started the long process of writing. I’m particularly chuffed as I’ve just completed my first draft chapter, on the relationship of our Prehistoric ancestors to the coast.