Archive for 19/10/2014
With the Weather compleatly on our side The Chelmer tour was well atended with 26 paddlers in 22 boats supported by Bramston CC, Tiptree scouts, Tendering CC, Maldon and Dengie CC, Chelmsford CC and some independent paddlers. Starting at Springfield getting on the water for 10:30 after the car shuttle. Progress was good with everyone chipping in all helping each other on the portages. At Stoneham Lock we all stopped for lunch, some with picnic baskets and champagne (very civilised). After paper mill we bumped into a group of open boaters from Stour boating who said they would be joining the tour next year. Thanks to June at Hoe mill for allowing us to use the camping field to park the cars. From email feed back I think everyone had a great day on the Chelmer.
Let us know if you wish to join us Next year:
October 04th 2015.
Thanks to everyone for making the effort to help make the Chelmer Tour a success. See you next year.
The adventure started with the long drive up to Fort William, we left late Thursday and arrived Friday afternoon at Fort William to book into a very nice B&B in the middle of Fort William. On the way we stopped off for something to eat at Loch Iubhair.
Day 1 – Neptune’s Staircase to Bunarkaig
We drove 5 mins outside of Fort William to Neptunes Staircase parked up and had a look around at Neptune’s Staircase. There are 8 lockes in this staircase which lift boats 20 meters in total up onto the Caladonian Canal. After doing the car shuttle we set off up the canal. We stopped at Gairlochy for something to eat and the checkout the informal camping available there. It was decided that we would push on and find somewhere on the banks of Loch Lochy to wild camp for the night. We did find a nice pebble beach and set up camp and got a fire going.
Day 2 – Bunarkaig to Well of the Seven Heads
After waking up to the beautiful view of the loch we broke camp and set off paddle Lock Locky up to Laggan Lock and onto Well of the Seven Heads. As John had his VHF we thought we would try our luck and ask the lock keeper if we could go through the lock rather than doing the portage. Unfortunately he did say no so we then had to go around and try to find the portage point, as we were out the boats we stopped for a cup of tea before pushing onto the Well of the Seven Heads. Along the canal side we were treated to a display of bravery, or stuipidity depending on your view point. We had spotted a small herd of cows on the towpath running after two cyclists and the one of the cyclists stopped and faced off these cows and tried to get them to turn around. He did eventually succeed in turning the cows and proceeded to chase them back down the towpath and into their enclosure. They had apparently knocked over one of the fence posts and pushed through to the towpath.
While Jill and Ben did the shuttle to get the cars John and I found a place to camp for the evening. We also found that the Swan Magnet also works in Scotland after having a family of swans visit us by the camp fire.
Day 3 – Well of the Seven Heads to Fort Augustus
We decided that rather than having a rest day we would move the cars up to Inverness and leave one half way down at Drumnadrochit and then get a taxi back to the Well of the Seven Heads. While John and I waited we found out a little about the Well of the Seven Heads. The history of the Well dates back to the Sixteenth Century and clan war between two clans. It started with the murder of the Keppoch family and ended with the heads of the Seven murderers being presented to the Head of the Clan after having been washed in the Well.
When the drivers got back to the Well we set off to Fort Augustus, paddling through Loch Oich and rejoining the Canal at the Bridge of Oich. By now we had worked out the best way to negotiate the portages so locks Cullochy and Kytra were done with minimal fuss. When we reached Fort Augustus We had to get around the five locks which covered a distance of 750 meters. We had a bit of a hiccup with finding somewhere to camp as informal camping is not allowed at Fort Augustus so in the end we decided to try paddling to Old Pier to see if there was anywhere we could camp. As we came around the corner we saw a big sign stating that there was a campsite on the Old Pier. As we had now nearly run out of light we were really glad to see that sign.
After finding the owner we were shown around the campsite and facilities. Considering we had run out of daylight and needed a place to camp as we were shown around it got better and better. We were shown the slipway, then the field for camping, then the converted stable yard that had a kitchen, shower and toilet and the best part of all there was a TV room with pull out sofa beds so we didn’t even need to pitch the tents!
Day 4 – Fort Augustus to Lochend / Abban Water
After waking up to another beautiful view we packed up the boats and decided we would be able to complete Loch Ness in one day with a stop off at Urquhart Castle for a bit of Nessie Spotting. We had a short walk back to Fort Augustus to top up our supplies in readiness to tackle Loch Ness.
As we started paddling, we felt the wind start blowing at our backs, which was a good change as it had been a slight headwind for the last couple of days. This meant that we had both wave and wind assistance. We averaged about 4 miles an hour and even at one point 5 miles and hour so we were flying along. Jill thought this would be a perfect time to try sailing with her new kayak sail. So we stopped off in one of the bays and attached the sail to har boat and set off again. Jill paddled out into the loch to catch the wind and then she was off with Ben in hot pursuit, both of them surfing the waves that had picked up slightly.
We reached Urquhart Castle and stopped off for lunch and to look at the Castle. When we had beached the boats and thought they were safe one of the tour ferryboats arrived to collect the tourists we found that the boats were not high enough for the wash so franticly rescued the boats from floating away. We were surprised at how shallow the water was that the ferries were grounding on, the water was only about knee deep.
While we were having lunch we had a visit from one of the guides from the castle asking about our trip so far. We had explained that we were attempting to paddle the loch in one day and he asked if we had a map to show us potential campsites on the loch side. So we had two options we could either paddle the coast line up to Lochend as originally thought or paddle up and cross over at Tor Point and camp on the beach at Dores. The guide didn’t know if there would be anywhere to camp at Lochend but was sure there was a shingle beach at Dores. So off we went and would decide when we got to Tor Point which way we would go. The section between Urquhart Castle and Lochend is very straight with very shallow bays if any at all so when the wind started to pick up the waves also picked up. The waves picked up to about one and half meters plus which made the paddle more interesting. Once we made it to Tor Point we decided we would just carry on to Lochend and Abban Water to find a campsite rather than crossing over to Tor Point.
When we got to the bay at Lochend we needed to cross over to the start of the canal on the opposite side of bay. Jill still had her sail up so instead of crossing she went shooting straight down towards the shingle headland with Ben chasing after to try and let her know she needed to change her direction.
Once we were back in the canal we needed to find a campsite, we did find a nice grassy knowle to pitch the tents and get a fire going and dinner cooked for our last night on our Caladonian adventure.
Day 5 – Lochend / Abban Water to Inverness
After breaking camp we paddled across the smallest of the lochs we were on, Loch Dochfour, we entered the canal again for the last time and came across the longest weir face I have ever seen. Dochgarroch Weir is over 500 meters long.
After admiring the weir we set off for Inverness. Along the way we came across super heros and princesses. The local school at Inverness were doing a sponsered walk from Inverness down to Dochgarroch and some of the students had dressed up as super heroes and princesses, as well as quite a few in novelty onsies. The prosesstion continuted for a very long time as the whole school was doing the walk.
We soon reached the end of the canal at Inverness and were happy we had completed our adventure and prepared for the long drive home.