13-14th October Devon WW trip
Most of our regular WW paddlers were unable to join us for this weekend as they were doing there 3* Sea assessment which unfortunately clashed with the club calendered trip. A very last minute decision was made to head for Devon as there was a lot of rain predicted due to hurricane Calum.
Kevin managed to book us a room at the Fox Tor Cafe bunkhouse in Princetown with enough time to get a meal and a pint, or three at The Plume of feathers next door. In the pub to help our pints go down we looked at the WW guide book, maps, river level websites and weather sites to devise a plan for Saturday. With some ideas of rivers and a good weather picture in mind we decided to confirm with James in the morning over breakfast. James arrived at about 11 as we were stepping out of the pub.
Saturday: West Dart River, Two Bridges to Dartmeet.
Being an unknown river to all of us, at a high level, no other paddlers about and up to a kilometre walk out. The kit checks at the put-in were quite thorough. First aid, Throw lines, Crabs, Group shelter the list goes on and the boats get heavier. As we got on the water at Two bridges it was apparent that we would have to paddle hard against a force 4-5 head wind as it blew us back up the flowing river. The first few kilometres of the river was relatively featureless open moorland, coming around a corner we could first hear faster water and then see an event horizon so it was time to get out river right and have a look. This was a 50 metre bolder garden a grade 3+ with several steps and overhanging trees at the bottom. I happily agreed to be the probe (first to run the rapid) the line I chose went well until the bottom drop where the flow pushed to the left more than expected putting me against a rock putting me upside down in the pool at the end, one failed roll and one more successful I was in the eddy river right signalling to the others I was OK. James next, he took a similar line to me and hit the same rock as me with the same result plus swim (one sticker to James). It was now Kevin’s turn aka Yoda, once again the same line until the bottom, after watching the two probes fluff it, his line went to the left of “that rock” a duck under the tree and into the pool at the bottom. This is why you send the probe first!
The rest of the west Dart was a lovely river with plenty of technical sections low trees, bushes and rock-gardens to contend with, but only worth doing when the upper dart is on Huge to avoid a scrape.
Saturday: Upper Dart, Dartmeet to New Bridge.
At the top of the Upper Dart while James and Yoda were doing the car shuttle to get the top car, I was approached by a couple of guys asking if we were doing the upper and could they join us? Dave a 5* WW paddler and his mate Steve. After the introductions and a quick briefing on signals and kit carried, off we set. Dave set a blistering pace down the mad mile, the river level now on High, with Kevin as tail-end Yoda. All was going well until at Luckey Tor or not so lucky for James when the stopper decided to grabbed him, he bailed out (second sticker) and followed Yoda’s upturned boat down and continued down the river for another 200 metres boatless getting out river left with his paddle. Yoda rolled up and got into my eddy river right, where was James boat? Where was Dave and Steve? Steve had taken a swim and Dave had chased him down the river probably 400 metres or more, they were fine. I got out of my boat walked up the bank, to find James’s boat mid river between a rock and a tree. About 45 minutes later, 2 failed attempts to get Yoda over to the pinned boat, lines and pullies set-up, the boat was free and reunited with its owner, who decided to walk out he’d had enough. With energy levels low and now four, we continued down. The next big feature took me four attempts to roll up successfully, my lack of WW lately and fatigue was showing. The next feature (sorry don’t no the name) I took a swim (one sticker for me). Now Euthanasia falls, guess what, I took a swim (sticker two for me!) this was getting frustrating I was begging to feel like a liability for the rest of the group. With furious determination, back in my boat Dave said we only have a couple of features to go including “Surprise surprise”. Surprise surprise is a slide on the right into a slot with a drop into it on the left. My decision was to drop-in off the left, as I got there I looked down to my right to see this huge white hole of water 6-8ft below, Its to late now in I go. Dave said “that was a different line” “you disappeared” the good thing though no need to roll or swim. That was the end of the upper-dart thankfully, I was shattered physically and mentally and my boat 3 years old now looked second hand. A huge day.
The crazy woman in the pub and the lockout.
Nursing our bumps and aching limbs in the packed Plume of Feathers that evening with fine food, ale and planning Sundays capers. We observed a lady at the bar slowly getting sloshed, as it got later and the pubs clientele dwindled and she decided to join us “Oh no”. After around 10 minutes of introductions and chatter I had to nip to the loo, to be joined by one of the guys at the bar “thanks mate for saving us” he said. “you ********” I said, in a nice way, we both laughed and returned to the bar. She was being very complementary to us, things like James was cute, I had gorgeous eyes and Kevin didn’t look his age. Clearly her beer goggles were working very well. It turned out she had had an argument with her boyfriend and he had gone home. She was insisting on buying us a drink and wouldn’t take “no thank you” as an answer, in fact she was buying everyone in the pub a drink and putting them on her room. In hindsight I wonder if the room was booked on her boyfriends credit card! Seeing an opportunity when she wondered off we took our chance and legged it. As I entered the bunk house and having a key, a thought entered my mind “did one of us tell her where we were staying?” so I locked the door and went to bed. In the morning speaking to other occupants of the bunkhouse it turned out someone had locked two people out and they had to sleep in there car, “I’ve no idea who that was” oops!
Sunday: Dart Loop, New Bridge to Holne Bridge Weir.
Compared to Saturday levels, Sunday was pretty mild apart from the tree across New Bridge, the river level was now on the sill and dropping. We were joined by two guys that James new, James and Nick. We had a very gentle trip down the loop indecent free. The decision was made not to park and finish at the dart country park as they were charging unreasonable half term prices, cutting the trip short by about half a mile the cars had been parked on the road by Holne bridge weir. Time to go home via Royal Wootton Bassett for a great meal at Sally Pussy PH.
Great trip wow.