English White Water

Ten years ago, I researched and wrote the South West section of the guidebook ‘English White Water’. I recently learned that a second edition is in the offing. I have dug out the old guides I wrote to see what needs updating, and I’ve also pored over maps of Devon, Cornwall and Somerset in search of possible whitewater I might have missed first time around. So, this winter I have an excuse to indulge one of my favourite passions; exploring tiddly tree-infested ditches by kayak.

On Saturday evening I set out for Somerset and North Devon, with a few likely ditches in mind; I was hoping to utilise the heavy rainfall to catch some rarely paddleable sections. I only got half way before being stopped by flooding, and spent the night sleeping in a parking lot in the back of the car. By early morning, the floods had subsided enough to allow me to get to Exmoor, with a few detours. There was a slight problem in that I had no friends to play with (they were all busy doing not-young-any-more stuff like being married, doing DIY, raising children and in one case, actually giving birth) but I was happy enough to paddle alone. Paddling solo had its rewards; for instance, along one wild section of river I was followed closely by a herd of deer for several miles. Walking the shuttles was a bit more tedious.

In the afternoon, I hopped onto the well-known and classic East Lyn River for a quick blast downstream. Halfway down, I was lucky enough to run into the guys in the images here, who let me join them…this made the difficult final gorge less scary than it might have been, I was grateful for their company.

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