Archive for June 2011
Here follow some details on the South West Sea Kayaking Meet 2011…I will supply more details in the coming week, keep checking this blog.
- Thanks for coming! Hopefully it’ll be an enjoyable and sociable weekend. I’ve limited the numbers to about 85 paddlers.
- This year’s event is being held from 8th to 10th July 2011 at Corfe Castle, Dorset.
- The event starts at 9.00 am on Saturday morning with a briefing in the camping field, but the campsite will be open from mid-afternoon on Friday 8th July.
- The weekend is non-profit-making and is run simply for the fun of it by volunteers. We will raise some money for several charities, including the Dartmoor Rescue Group. The fundraising aspect is the main and over-riding aim of the weekend.
- It’s primarily a social event, an informal get-together of friends and soon-to-be friends. It’s not a Symposium or a Coaching Festival. There are no workshops or clinics. It’s just some people going paddling and getting together socially. I’ll do my best to make it all run smoothly (generously aided by volunteers) but don’t expect a tightly choreographed event.
- The weekend is aimed at folk who just want to go paddling and enjoy the wonderful south Dorset coast. The paddling will not suit novices. If you have not been paddling in recent months, please get out in a kayak prior to the event and warm up. Last year, we had to rescue one or two paddlers who had blatantly not been in a kayak for a long time…
The campsite is a field in front of Corfe Castle in Purbeck, Dorset BH20 5EZ. See this map. The camping field is directly behind the marker on the map. There will be an open gate on the main A351 road signposted for the field; basically, as soon as you see the castle infront of you, the gate for the field will be on your right (opposite and just before the Castle visitor centre).
It’s a farmer’s field with very limited facilities; I have hired a couple of portaloos and there is a very weak tap; consider bringing water containers.
Please park and pitch your tents close together as quite a few of us will be camping. The owners ask for quiet in the evening. No fires are allowed, in boxes or otherwise. More details to follow, once I have met the gentleman from the National Trust in a few days’ time.
Your donation has already paid for your camping (through a donation to the National Trust. The remainder will go to the charities involved).
Food and drink
There are cafes and pubs in Corfe Castle village (5-10 mins walk away).
If you are there Friday night, we’ll be in the Greyhound Inn up in the village, come say ‘hello’.
On Saturday night, there will an evening get-together at Studland Bay, a local beach; this will include a sea swim (bring a wetsuit, if you have one!) followed by a barbeque. Bring food to cook, I will be bringing along a large group barbeque down to the beach (there is an official permitted BBQ spot) and you are welcome to bring food to cook on it and be sociable…the whole point of the weekend! Later in the evening we shall return to Corfe Castle and enjoy the hospitality of the Greyhound Inn…
We will get out on the water on both days, it is of course the reason why we came! There is a fantastic range of paddling in the area. During the briefing meeting, there will be discussion of the local trip possibilities. Weather and tidal information will be available, as will photocopied maps.
You will have the choice of either…
* Signing up to join a small guided/social group (led by experienced volunteers)..
* Planning your own day trip.
I would strongly encourage paddlers to plan trips which are ‘out and back’, i.e. starting and finishing in the same location. The reasons for this are both environmental and practical (small lanes, limited parking in many places).
All groups going out on the water will be expected to follow a few safety rules outlined at the briefing, e.g.
- Bring appropriate equipment, clothing and safety gear.
- Wear something on your legs; last year, I fished a guy out of the sea wearing nylon shorts…
- Consider bringing a helmet if you like rockhopping.
- Complete a simple trip plan and leave a copy with the event organiser (i.e. me).
- Groups have a designated leader. This may not be a coach, simply an experienced and sensible paddler.
- Carry appropriate communication equipment.
- Paddling groups no larger than nine on the water.
- Groups paddle and remain together at all times.
- The Coastguard will be informed of all paddlers on the water and their plans – I will take advice from them on the day, on whether they wish for contact from individual groups or from me collectively for all groups.
- All paddlers participating accept full personal responsibility for their own safety (as frankly, you should do every time you go paddling…. )
- These safety rules are non-negotiable – please do not attend the event if they do not suit.
Any queries – post them at
I will add more details soon…keep checking back…
Pretty well the only thing about Shetland that failed to impress us was their Tourist Office. Maybe it was just the particular staff we ran into at their Lerwick office, but they didn’t seem particularly informed or helpful regarding their home. For example, we had to practically beg on knees to view and then get a photocopy of their (very out of date) contact sheet on Camping Bods, and when we asked what events or entertainment were coming up, without irony they recommended that we head up the street to the newsagents and look in a newspaper…
The good news is that they clearly recognise good writing when they see it. They have made use of Heather’s article about Shetland in their latest promotional bulletin! We only heard about this when it was forwarded by a friend. The bulletin seems to link Heather’s article to Sea Kayak Shetland, a commercial coaching operation. We had no dealings with them and know little about them. However, the sea kayaking guidebook is written by someone from this company and is great, highly recommended if you are trying to decide whether to head north. I’ve just dug out the comments I earlier wrote about the Shetland section of this guidebook (it also covers Orkney) and here they are…
- We thought quite highly of the guidebook, it tended to give a pretty readable and recognisable flavour of each island/ region of Shetland. Info was clear and precise.
- Tidal info is a bit limited in some cases, instead the book tends to say ‘tides aren’t really an issue here’ and leave it at that. Truth is, tides really aren’t much of an issue around Shetland, not at least compared to the crazy stuff to be found in Orkney. The Admiralty pilot (and tidal atlas) have more tidal info if required.
- One thing I liked a lot was that although the book can’t cover everywhere in Shetland in 25 routes (there are 900+ miles of coast), what it does do is add a surprisingly large amount of supplementary notes alongside the formally listed routes, along the lines of, ‘If you also check out the coast south of here, you’ll find…’
- If there was a problem with the guidebook, it was one of modesty/ understatement! Time after time we completed some paddle mentioned in the guidebook and were surprised to be absolutely blown away by the quality/ scenery etc – the author doesn’t waste adjectives or hyperbole! I guess that the bar is set pretty high in Shetland, the local paddlers have seen it all before and what might amaze the rest of us is bog-standard to them…
The guidebook is probably more essential for Shetland and Orkney than any other region so far covered by Pesda – the Shetland pilot book printed by Imray is fairly useless for paddlers (just lists anchorages) and the respective Clyde Cruising Club pilots for the two archipelagos are only marginally more useful.
We’ve had two very full summers’ paddling out of our Pesda ‘Northern Isles’ guidebook – great value for £20. Yes, we would have paddled all of it anyway, but it’s entertained and informed us a great deal, made our lives a whole lot easier, and saved us from carrying a large amount of maritime-related paperwork around. Our thanks to the authors.
H and I have booked the ferries for our summer hols; we’re going to be based off Scotland’s west coast upon various quiet Hebridean islands, trying to make serious headway with our writing work.
Of course we’re taking our sea kayaks, but we’re also planning to cart our new toys up north…we are now both proud owners of surf boards. We’re blissfully undeterred by having absolutely no clue how to surf (although I did stand up for a split second yesterday, before falling off onto a bedrock reef). We hope to base ourselves close to beachbreaks on the west coast of the Isles, and to hopefully figure it out as we go…
Nothing can go wrong.
Incidentally, the wave pictured above is breaking on the north coast of Cornwall, and that is as close as we wanted to get to it – viewing it from a cliff top.
Under imminent threat of Nazi invasion in WWII, the appropriately named General Ironside took charge of Britain’s land defences. The south and east coasts became the ‘extended coastal crust’. The west coast also saw defences added, through fear of invasion launched from the Irish Free State.
By spring 1941, volunteers had constructed this defensive landscape of gun emplacements, tank traps, pillboxes and barbed wire. 28000 concrete pillboxes were built to thirteen official designs, with ‘hexagonal’ most common. About 5000 survive and can be seen subsiding into beaches from Devon to Aberdeenshire, often alongside the concrete ‘teeth’ of tank traps.
Photo above from Kimmeridge Bay, Dorset.
The photo above shows me about to descend into the village of Corfe Castle; my house is just visible in the background. It’s just possible that I am lucky enough to have the best commute home from work in the world. I work in Wareham, five miles down the road. I often cycle home, and whenever I can find the energy after a long day, I hop on the mountain bike and take an offroad route. Blasting along airy ridgetops or becoming a human strimmer through overgrown singletrack, it’s all good. There’s no better way to wind down after work.
This evening I called by the field in Corfe Castle being used in a few weeks’ time for the South West Sea Kayaking Meet. The location is great, as hopefully the photos below make clear. It’s not the flattest field in the world however, and the facilities amount to a single not very powerful tap. I’ve rented some loo cabins for the weekend, but the whole set-up is fairly rudimentary. The good news is that the village (with all amenities) is only a 5-10 minute walk away.
The SWSKM is now full I’m afraid. I’ll send out (and also post here) details of what the event entails within the next few days. One thing that you may wish to be aware of, is that on the Saturday evening, instead of indoor talks, we are all going to relocate to the beach for a swim and barbeque. I swam there last night incidentally, the water is currently a balmy 13 degrees C. If you own a wetsuit, this could be the time to dig it out…or maybe bring your boat down and practise rolling etc? More info to follow.
PS Apologies for slightly ropey photo quality; all pics taken on mobile phone.
Hey, why not?
Found at Orkney, Galloway and Pembrokeshire.
The Torrente Egua is a steep creek in Piedmont, Italy, which happens to be the best quality Grade 5 river I’ve paddled in a long while. The gradient is ridiculous; in the very first rapid, you actually head downhill towards the top of a church steeple! However, amazingly for a river this steep, the rapids are all clean and friendly, and there are no portages. After heavy rain, we had a good chunky level to smooth out the drops, and the river just kept getting better and better. We were paddling well and ‘in the zone’!
So it was that we reached the take-out, just above a walled in waterfall with a very sticky back-tow at the bottom. Everyone but myself got off. I was really fired up from the river so far, and simply didn’t want to finish the trip. I was going to run that waterfall and no one could talk me out of it. I didn’t inspect the base of the drop properly, I was convinced I could find a nebulous sneak line around the towback, and mostly, I was blinded by mindless optimism!
It was over in seconds. I clumsily plugged the worst part of the towback (not that there was any hope of clearing it anywhere), got flung rapidly end over end in the base of the waterfall, and pulled my deck.
The swim wasn’t good. The towback kept me trapped in the base of the fall. Swimming in deep highly aereated water, I didn’t surface. This was not a good scenario at all, but was the inevitable price of poor judgement and hubris. Thankfully I had enough of my wits about me at least, to raise my arms above my head. I didn’t know how deep underwater I was being held, so I was hugely relieved when I felt my hands break the surface. An instant later, I felt a rope land on them. It’s good to know that you can rely on your friends to cover your back, when you get things badly wrong…
All the same…play safe out there kids, and remember, white water paddling has no Playstation-style ‘re-start game’ button.
A few pictures of the industrial wastelands of west Cornwall.
From South West Sea Kayaking…
Viewed from the water, the plethora of chimneys, engine houses, levels and tips do not jar. On the contrary, they are a hauntingly beautiful sight, blending as integral components of the landscape.
The aforementioned issue of Paddle World carrying my feature on Shetland is now on sale.
…will the wind finally drop? We haven’t had settled weather here in the south for over a month, since we failed to get to Lundy Island.
Maybe going to paddle tomorrow. Maybe not.
***Edit*** The wind didn’t drop. We went biking.
Robin Hardy’s 1973 film Wicker Man is my personal favourite; I’ve watched it an unhealthy number of times, loving the plot, the scenery, the music, the gratuitous nudity. If you’re not familiar with the film, simply watch it. Enough said.
Although the plot is set upon a fictional ‘Summerisle’, the filming was mostly done in and around the coast of the Machars Peninsula in Galloway, south west Scotland. It was a long overdue pleasure to spend a week based at Isle of Whithorn, the small town at the tip of the peninsula. It’s a short distance from St Ninians Cave and Burrow Head, where the shocking climax was filmed.
“Where is Rowan Morrison?”.
Our very good friends Si and Cheryl got married this weekend. I’ve shared some great kayaking adventures with Si around the world, ranging from last week’s Italy jaunt to a year taken out of work 2000-2001, in which we did a round-the-world Grand Tour lugging white water kayaks with us. I got married during the New Zealand leg of the RTW trip, although Si somehow failed to attend the ceremony. His lame excuse was that he was severely ill with Leptospirosis at the time, forcing H and I to drag bemused strangers off the street to legally witness the ceremony…
Si met Cheryl shortly after returning from that trip, and they’ve continued the worldwide paddling adventures over the past decade; we’ve been lucky enough to join them on a few. Congratulations to both of you from Heather and I, wishing you a long and happy life together! Thanks also for laying on such a great weekend for us all, it was a fantastic chance to catch up with old friends.
A few photos follow of the wedding, and also of earlier adventures on four or five different continents…