My last adventure? No chance. But fatherhood has been encouraging me to make the best of any free time I have to get out and do ‘me’ things. I don’t think I’ll be going on any extended overseas whitewater kayaking expeditions for a while, but adventure can always be found if you look for it.
Rather conveniently, the weather has been outrageously wet over the last two months. I took advantage of biblical rain one day, to head to North Devon/ Somerset and explore a river valley that probably hasn’t seen a kayak previously. I was looking at a 3 km carry-in to the river; not such a big deal except that I kept getting blown over. Thankfully, after only a kilometre I found a flooded stream that I could launch on…this proved to be an amusing roller-coaster experience downhill, with the occasional sheep fence to duck or dodge. In due course I reached the main valley, and paddled down a surprisingly sizeable river, the Badgworthy Water. The whitewater wasn’t hard, but it was never dull and this is what whitewater paddling is all about for me…never knowing what is around the next corner. This rather stunning place is also known as the ‘Lorna Doone Valley’ after R.D. Blackmore’s novel which is set here.
In due course the river reached the road and became the East Lyn River, already well known as one of Britain’s finest whitewater trips. At these levels the whitewater was tending towards the challenging, and I hopped ashore and called it a day 2 km before the river flowed into the sea…soloing the final Grade 5 gorge wouldn’t have been the best idea, not for a new parent, at least! I went back this last weekend and paddled the lower sections down to the sea in more sensible levels (=photo of me paddling below, from Simon Knox).
In 2002-3 I spent a winter season researching and writing up the whitewater rivers of the South West for this guidebook. I’m frankly amazed that I missed this lovely little river, it gives me hope that there is more exploring to be done in this part of the world…