Before hand ;Miriam If i’m perfectly honest, I’m sure the reason for signing up for the trip to the River Wharf was partly as an opportunity to spend a weekend in my home county of Yorkshire. As an occasional sea paddler and a regular visitor to the Kendal Mountain Film Festival, I had seen far too many films atKayak Night about year out twenty something’s descending white water in mountain regions across the globe, and the regular dislocation of shoulders and fused vertebrae that accompanied these trips. The thought of fast flowing water and big drops silently horrified me Paul; I cant remember actually signing up to do a river trip. I was meant to be working that weekend. Neither of us owned a river kayak, paddles nor a roof rack and the rubber sealing of my dry suit had perished. There surely would not be enough time to arrange a repair. My excuses sorted! Anyway, someone would need to keep Miriam’s mum company in tea shops whilst the big boys were on the water.So, imagine my shock when the dry suit repair I had arranged on the internet was returned so quickly… and then the canoe club not only lent us both kayaks and but offered to take them to Yorkshire for us. No way out.But, I happily came along for the crack although I seemed to appreciate more than Miriam that it may be a bit more testing than she had imagined. Miriam’s Mum The Canoeing Club’s proposed visit to Appletreewick aroused a desire to revisit old haunts. I worked at Upper Wharfedale Secondary Modern school from 1955-1957 and after moving to Manchester in pursuit of Culture spent many weekend travelling back to walk the fells with friends. It was quite a relief when I learned that Paul was not working that weekend and so I didn’t feel I HAD TO share Miriam’s tent in October, although I did give it a thought. My B&B in Burnsall was just the job The day before mum; I travelled up from Shropshire on the Thursday. A beautiful sunny day and the descent into Burnsall late that afternoon reminded me of the lower dales exquisite features. I had time to walk up, past Loop Scar to the Hebden Suspension Bridge. I started looking at stretches of the river the canoes would have to negotiate.The following day I parked in Grassington and walked down the path to Linton falls. Surely my daughter isn’t going to risk those? I looked at the weir and thought that Miriam and Paul will be carrying their canoes, more that sitting in them, surely? I walked on to the Gastrills and thought, whow, surely not! The Last Supper Miriams A delightful evening meal at The Craven Arms only 200 metres from the campsite, with the early arrivals who travelled up in the big white van. I decided I was going to enjoy the company as well as the surroundings! The following morning Miriam’s mum The group were to launch at Kilnsy Bridge. After kit was dropped off, the cars were taken to Barden Bridge (over which I used to take the bus to Harrogate for singing lessons in the 1950’s and four very brave men allowed me to drive them back to Kilnsey to join the canoes. I watched you paddle off The river A warm autumn morning what a perfect start. We dressed in our cumbersome layers, adjusted foot rests and launched at Kilnsey Bridge. I had a crash course in eddiesand green tongues and we quietly slipped down stream. After very heavy rain earlier in the week the water level had fallen to more manageable levels. I instantly liked the moving water Paul I recall agony getting into the boat and didn’t seem to quite fit. But I didn’t mention it to Miriam or suggest swapping boats Coniston FallsWe soon reached Coniston Falls, a two stage water fall. We were advised that there was an easier one to follow and so not to lose confidence at the first hurdle, I reluctantly walked and watched in awe as the group took the first plunge. I definitely would not walk at the next fallsThankfully Miriam got out at the first sign of an impending drop so I happily joined her. There was no way I was going down that! We watched the others fall off a rocky ledge… Gastrills Strid and Linton Wier& Miriam At the next falls I was dying for a go. We approached the Gastrills strid which can only be described as a kids water shute for adults. I watched with childlike excitement as the group made their way down. I saw mum sitting on the bank. She had not driven all the way from Shropshire to watch her daughter just carry a blue plastic tub along a river bank. I paddled towards the water shute and what a thrill! As soon as I reached the bottom I picked to the tub and dashed to the start for another turn. I was hooked. Paul… Why did I do Gastrils? Well, Kevin said I could do it so I did. I thought it was absolutely brilliant but once I’d done it, I didn’t want to chance my luck again. I think I did the weir lead by the same blind faith and stupidity. Fantast Eventually, having parked at Linton falls and walking up to the Gastrills you all arrived. Shall I watch? Dare I watch? Well D—it if she’s going to hurt herself I might as well be here anyway. She looks pretty happy. Just think of all the things she’s done in her life that I haven’t known about until after!!! I really enjoyed seeing you all shooting the rapids (that’s what it looked like to me anyway). I couldn’t believe my eyes when you all descended the weir. Did I secretly wish I could have a go? Linton Falls Crowds gathered on the bridge at the Linton falls as the rescue preparations were put in place. We all watched in awe as Steve and Kevin took the falls. For me, it was only a memorable picnic spot. Maybe another day…? After lunch Paul After lunch I had my first dip a slow roll out sideways and quickly rescued by Alison. Getting back into the canoe was difficult it seemed to be getting smaller! A second dip followed after clipping a rock at what felt like speed. I flipped and my head (thankfully shielded in a helmet), bounced off the bottom. I began to panic about car keys and more anxious had another couple of falls each time rescued immediately. I was getting frustrated. Miriam was not falling out and what’s more, she always seemed to be smiling. Each time I got back in, the canoe seemed smaller. We then changed canoes but I hadn’t realised that Miriam had sabotaged it by shortening the foot rest to suit her and so still felt wrong. Obviously, the subsequent falls were due to this and not my own ineptitude!!! Towards the end, wet and tired, I had zero sense of humour remaining. Each time Paul fell, I seized inside. I knew that my confidence and balance would go if I had fallen in. Each time he fell, he felt more vulnerable, not to mention the cold and exhaustion. With blood emerging from Phil’s hand and Steve having lost a paddle, I began to realise that I, too, needed to exercise some caution. Paul All warm and dry, we had a fantastic night back at the Craven Arms, talking through the day and lifted by the camaraderie. I was feeling positive again and just needed a few more skills to feel a bit more comfortable in the canoe and I’d be fine. But in my sleeping bag that night, my wrist began to ache (a canoeing injury!) and the doubts set in and I felt it would be best for the group if I didn’t paddle the next day. The next day I decided not to paddle, and the sunny warm day was perfect for a riverside walk and watching the group. I think I was more scared watching Miriam than I had been on the water. I felt like an expectant father. Sitting on the bank, I decided that I needed to acquire more skills and be a bit more assertive when the foot rest was in the wrong place. I wondered whether canoe surfing would be more me? I had really enjoyed the river days and was so impressed by the way the youngsters fitted in. This was obviously due to the Scouting and canoeing training. Congratulations! After you had all left Yorkshire, the next day we three met up with an old friend of Miriam’s who came down to meet us in the dale to catch up with news. This was a friend with whom Miriam had spent a number of years as a director of an education charity working on the Thai / Burma border. Overhearing snippits of past recollections of refugee camps, armed military and meetings in unknown locations, I realised that the escapades on the river over the last couple of days was little to worry about! We finished the day with an evening walk from of Hubberholme, right at the head of Wharfedale. We returned along the path above the river in the dark with only a small torch and the light from Jupiter reflected in the river through the trees. If the club makes a trip to rivers near Shropshire, let me know and I’ll come and watch. I’m not far from Wales. After thoughts This was a really unexpected brilliant new experience and certainly one to repeat. However, at the end of the second day, I tried roll for real but my skills acquired in the rolly polly pool canoes were not up to delivery in canoes in real waters and my attempts failed. Disappointed, I realised that it had been through luck, joy and a spot of good balance rather than skill that I maintained myself above the water for the rest of the weekend. Frustrated, I immediately realised how vulnerable Paul had been feeling the day before. Miriam and Paul Many thanks to Bramston Canoe club who gave us the opportunity to paddle the delightful river and for the time, patience, expertise and kit that made it all possible. Any also thanks to my mum who always encouraged me which means that to this day, in what in my undeniable age I still see the point to just having a go for no other reason than fun.