Posted by: Bruce Duncan | June 17, 2009

A busy week in London and North Wales

After a few days rest following Andy Kitchens Bob Graham round I packed up my car once again and headed south to London for a week of training and to do some work for my team mate Nick.

The plan was to do some decorating and gardening for Nick and to fit in as much training as was possible, especially inline skate training and kayaking.  Sadly the weather was pretty poor, so the skating fell by the side.

We did however get a monster kayak session in.  Nick had been talking for a while about kayaking through central London, and I was keen to join in on what would be an awesome trip.

After looking at the tides we set off at 5:30pm on Sunday night, this was planned so we could paddle down the river and then turn with the tide and have a nice paddle back, it was to be an out and back kayak, and we would see how far we could get downstream before the tide turned.

As we headed downstream we were both looking forward to an exciting paddle, the river was quiet at first as most pleasure craft were moored up after a days use.  When we approached Westminster Bridge we could see the river was still pretty busy with tourist boats still cruising up and down, and the bridges were still full of people looking out over the water.

Paddling along side the Houses of Parliament was really cool, a totally different perspective of the famous building, and a chance to study its intricate carved masonry.  Westminster Bridge proved to be fun too, with what seemed to be a wee tidal race by the northern shore, a series of foot high standing waves made our lives interesting for a few seconds.  Nick and myself were very aware that we didn’t want to end up in the water, and especially not here.  There were a lot of big boats around, and we kept close to the rivers edge, enjoying the sights, but keeping an eye out for the many other vessels.  Soon we were heading under Tower Bridge; it soared above our heads and was a real spectacle to see from the river.

The river was much emptier after this, with only the Thames Clippers zooming up and down the river, the speed restriction ends shortly after Tower Bridge, so these boats were really flying along and giving us a sizeable wake to play on.

The flow of the river was still fast, so we continued to paddle all the way around the Isle of Dogs, looking at all the lights on in the offices and thinking of all the poor people working while we were having so much fun.

The Isle of Dogs is huge and it took a long time to paddle all the way around it, but as we rounded the southern tip, we could see the O2 Arena, another great landmark to kayak around.  We got all the way round to the other side and we were only just a kilometre or so short of the Thames Flood Barrier, and had we known this I think we would have paddled to it.  It had taken us 2hrs 10mins to get here, a very fast journey thanks to the flow and tide.

The timings we had in our head suggested that the tide should be turning, but we could clearly see that is wasn’t.  We paddled back to Tower Bridge, we could tell it was much slower, but we didn’t have a lot of choice but to put our heads down and go for it.

As we paddled back under the main span of Tower Bridge the river had a number of boats still out and about, river restaurant cruisers and a few water taxis were all that kept moving.  We paddled back past all the major landmarks again, and at about 10pm we reached Westminster Bridge, here we had a wee rest and some more food, we had thought we’d be off the river by this time!

It got dark soon after, and the river became totally flat, the mirror like effect was stunning, and when paddling under the Chelsea and Albert Bridge the lights looked fantastic.  We were very tired and sore, but we pushed on hard at the end to get back to Chiswick pier, arriving at 11.30pm after almost 6hours out on the river.  Tired and cold we got out the boat and put it back on the rack, then drove home, and slept before we hit the pillow I think.

Monday was a much needed day of rest, but then Wednesday Nick and myself were out cycling all around London, clocking up almost 90km, London cycling is pretty fun, a whole new skill to master from normal road or mountain biking.

Taking on the London traffic, and winning

Taking on the London traffic, and winningCycling past the Queens house

On Friday I headed up to North Wales to complete my 3* Sea Kayak course, I needed to get this qualification to satisfy the entry rules to the Coast to Coast race I am doing later this year.  I stayed with my friends Tim and Jayne Lloyd near Caernarfon, and spent 2 great days kayaking around Anglesey with Surflines.  The coast was amazing, lovely rocks to paddle through and between, and some good swells to surf, with a few seals to sit and watch too.

Getting set for a days paddling, the sea mist burnt off very quickly

Getting set for a days paddling, the sea mist burnt off very quickly

I got pummelled at one point by a big breaking wave catching me from behind, this was the first time I’d had to do an Eskimo roll in anger, I managed it no problem, but sadly I lost my sunglasses!

On Saturday evening, Tim took me on a great wee ride from his house up around Moel Ellio, the sun was still high in the sky and the riding was brilliant, a great was to finish the day.  I got another ride in on Monday at Pen Macho, which is just south of Betws-y-Coed, a great fun fast swoopy trail enjoyed in blazing sunshine.

Singletrack in Pen Macho forest

Singletrack in Pen Macho forest

Back in Keswick now for a few days to reset, before the next adventure.

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