Sea kayaking – round the Great Orme by Sarah Horton

Ian Bell put out a suggestion for ‘sea Sunday’ for Sunday 13 August 2017, asking if any sea kayakers would like to find a sea trip. This was much welcomed by me and I was delighted to meet up with a group of eight paddlers on West Shore.
We got on the water by 11am, the tide was coming in and we had a short sandy carry to find water.
Off we went in a buoyant mood happy to be out in the sun and sea.

The shore along the Orme from West Shore is rocky with houses along the cliff, but once we got round the first headland it’s a different landscape completely.
The cliffs here are Clwyd limestone, which runs from the east coast of Anglesey to Llangollen. Plenty of seals and birdlife here for us to observe as we gently made our way round the cliffs.
Arriving at East Shore, the pier visible now, we decide not to land on East Shore itself, but a small beach just before the pier, where we have our lunch. Strange to be sat here with our sea kayaks, as the sea comes in, and hearing the noise of the pier and hundreds of day trippers having a completely different sort of Llandudno day experience.
After lunch we head back the way we came, peacefully retracing our route, enjoying the sea, clouds, occasional sun, seals and birdlife, and gentle conversation.

Returning back to West Shore, just as we approach high tide.
And thanks to Ian for planning our return, with perfect timing, as we only have a short carry back to the cars, and ice cream or tea and coffee is readily available.
A lovely, gently day, thanks to my fellow kayakers – Ian, Nigel, Anthony, Dave, Fi, Di and Pete.

Alpine paddling – Middle & Lower Durance, 04/08/2017

The last day of paddling so we made it a long one at 39km-ish. The shuttle left the camp early (thanks Keith & Mark) and we walked our kayaks over to the Durance to get on just below Les Ecrins Campsite slalom course to set off for Embrun. We paddled as 1 large group led by Helen, playing in the little waves between the camp and St Clement slalom course. We all were a little lethargic on the Middle Durance as we were a tied from 12 days of activity. The waves at St Clement woke us up as we stopped there to play before taking a break for lunch on the beach.

We then continued down the lower river to the Rabioux wave. We all did as Sarah told us and asked Mrs Rab to please let us through. Dom and Hannah were keen to turn their 1:1 swim:no swim into 1:2 – they both did it. Nice one guys you beat Mrs Rab! On we went through the increasingly bouncy rapids to the Embrun wave for the last play of the trip. It was then off to the supermarket for BBQ food to finish off the holiday back at camp. There definitely wasn’t any ‘Guinep juice’ left after a second night of sitting round the BBQ.

Alpine paddling – Ubaye Racecourse, 03/08/2017

3 clubs (Liverpool, St Helen’s and Colwyn) joined forces for the day. Forming 2 groups of 7 we set off for our second run of the Ubaye race course. There were a lot less swims this time round even though the water levels were a little lower making the run a slightly more technical. Our group led by Ian and Little Stu would have had a dry run if Dom hadn’t of suddenly become camera-shy and flipped himself over to avoid Keith waiting in an eddy at the bottom of a rapid. Feeling braver this week we were all trying our skills out on the small waves along the way. Once again we had a hello from the raft guide in the pink bikini bottoms on the outside of his wetsuit. We weren’t expecting to see that again.

We stopped for lunch in the sun on the beach after shark fin rapid. Hannah had found a tooth in the shallows of an eddy earlier in the river, but we don’t think it belonged to a shark although it was quite big. In the second half of the river we found a frog hanging about chilling on a rock in the final eddy of a challenging rapid. It didn’t seem to bothered to be joined by a group of kayakers. We finished the day with a final sighting of a pink panted raft guide and set off for camp after Keith managed to manoeuvre his way into a parking place between the nonstop bustle of rafting vans and trailers. Due to a road closure we didn’t make it back to the cafe next to the lake, so the pear sorbet will have to wait for another Alps holiday. I can’t grumble as the creme Brulee ice cream the week before was rather good.

Alpine Paddling -Upper Durance 02/08/2017 by Hannah Bellamy

Ciaran on the Upper Durance

The second river of Ciaron’s last day!

As tonight is the night we’re going out into Briancon for a meal, we planned for an early finsh and this afternoon paddled a short section of river; the Upper Durance. Apart from the sewage outfall which has given this run the nickname ‘stinky poo river…’ this is a very beginner friendly run, with fun and fast moving water with a few little rapids and lots of playwaves.

Today has been one of the warmest so far, and we took the run steadily in the sunshine, geting out just before the barrage. We headed back to camp to shower and spruce up for our evening meal.

More Photos…….

Alpine paddling – Upper & Middle Guisane, 02/08/2017

1st river of Ciaron’s last day. The water levels were a little higher than last week with the warmer weather providing some extra melt water. Team bra (Ian + his team of girls – Helen, Hannah, Wendy & Jenny) set off in the fast ferocious flow. Today there seemed to be less eddies and the few we found required positive paddling strokes to catch them. By S-Benders team suspenders only had one set of wet bra straps. The full group reformed before styling the rapid in a forward direction this time. We continued down the river back in our groups. Hannah leading the way we made our way through the villages to the bridge covered in Petunias at the get out. Ian geting a surprise as he rounded a tree lined bend to get an eye full of the local ladies sunbathing topless in an opening. The river will now be known as Booby River, renamed by Helen. We enjoyed some lunch in the sun and had a look at the bio pool still chuckling about the big knocker sighting – a rare experience for us Brits – while Keith peddled off for the van.

Alpine paddling rest day – Ecrins National Park & Glacier Blanc, 01/08/2017 by Hannah Bellamy


Today we took a rest from paddling and journeyed to the Ecrins National Park. Established in 1973, the park covers nearly 200 000 hectares and is home to 1800 plant, 75 mammals, 235 bird, 16 reptile, 10 amphibian and 21 fish species. It also encompasses more than 10 glaciers, and Glacier Blanc was to be our destintion today.

The park can only be explored on foot so we set off bright and early, at 6.45 to walk in the cool of the morning, stopping off at the boulengerie for croissants en route. We paid our 2 euros (for the whole bus) to enter the park to be greeted by a group of deer, and set off along the path. We followed the signs up to Glacier Blanc – although some of us made a small detour towards Glacier Noir!-steadily, enjoying the views. The path is well kept, with a combination of strategically placed rocks and hand ropes where the rock is steep (so the group of us who did the via ferrata yesterday were well prepared!). We met our first marmot, sat on an outcropped rock overlooking his territory, about 20 mins in and continued to meet the alpine mammals (a giant, but rather cute, chipmunk come guinea pig) throughout – Keith even charmed one into eating from his hand.

Glacier Blanc

About halfway into our walk we crossed the fast flowing river of melt from the gacier and had a group photo on the bridge. We could feel he cold from the water in the air so this is definitely not a river to take a swim in! Our final destination was the ‘refuge Glacier Blanc’, a purpose built, very well equipped mountain hut with picnic benches overlooking the spectacular panoramic view down the valley and up to the Glacier. The snout of Glacier Blanc, the part that we could see, is receeding and is now more than half the size it was 100 years ago.  We lunched (at half past 10!) and relaxed, enjoyng the scenery, before we heading back down, racing the rain. We had a look round the visitor centre and finished off our morning with ice creams in the cafe.

Glacier Blanc Receding each year posibly because of global warming

Our afternoon was spent back at the campsite, chatting, catching up with washing and BBQing!  It was Chris Thompsons birthday.

Chris Thompsons birthday


Alpine Apres Paddling – Chateau-Queyras 31/07/2017 by Ian Bell

Once we were changed from the paddle of the Chateau-Queyras Gorge, 5 of the team decided to take opportunity to via ferrata back into the gorge to take a close inspection of the u-bend. This meant that the rest had the onerous task of siting in the cafe while they waited for us. We started out by going to hire the harness from the raft outfitter, this gave Stuart T an opportunity to demonstrate his french language skills and negotiate us a good deal on the kit hire.

Once kited up we set off to the start where Stuart gave us all instruction on how we should clip and un-clipe to the safety line. We then decided on the order Stu agreed to lead with Me and Jen going second and third, Chris fourth and Hanna agreeing to be the back marker. Off we went. The course has been altered since previous years and no longer has the wooden bridges across to the castle side of the gorge. Our course ran down the left hand side as you look down stream and containsed a high wire and a wire bridge as well as the normal mix of metal and nature hand holds.

We had ample opportunity to inspect the water and debate the line that we took or did not take. We got to what may be the end of the shore course and an exit we were not sure if carrying on would just take us to one of the old bridges. So while we took a well needed breather Stu did a quick recce for us and then signaled back that it was still part of the course and we then continued to the end of the new section. Thanks to Stu for guiding this another thing ticked on my bucket list.

Ian Bell




Alpine Paddling – Middle Guil – 31/07/2017 by Chris Thompson

After the big fast flowing waters of the Durance on Sunday, Monday saw a change of pace as we headed to the shallow, rocky and technical river Guil.  Described in the guide book as “Probably the best class 4 paddle in the Southern Alps” we knew we were in for some fun.  The Guil is a great river for a mixed ability group as it starts easy (ish), and gradually builds the futher down you go.   It runs right next to the main road, so people can paddle as much (or as little) of the river as they want, and then head for the safety of the road when they’ve had enough.

The drive out turned out to pretty technical as well as Keith navigated narrow, twisty mountain roads with oncoming coaches and lorries.  We dropped the bike off at the bottom of the river, and as we drove up alongside the river we scouted all the possible get-outs.

We started at the top with 12 paddlers, and started navigating (bouncing and scraping) our way down.  When we reached the first get-out option, 2 of us decided they’d had enough and headed up to te road to wait for their pick–up.  The remaining 10 paddled on.  Things got a bit more tricky and after a portage and a swim or 2 (and the not so surprising “surprise drop”) we arrived at the top of the Staircase rapid.  At this point another 3 headed for the road, and the remaing 7 started the long portage round Staircase.

Tension was building as we paddled on – with some of us longing for the sight of the tunnel which marked the next get-out.  Keith and Ian (the Jedi paddling masters) ran the final section on their own, then Keith started the mammoth cycle back up to the top where he picked up the minibus and drove back down collecting all the paddlers who where waiting on the roadside.

All in all – a great river!  Back in the bus, we headed back up to see what was wating for us at Chateau Queyras…

Alpine paddling – Chateau-Queyras 31/07/2017 by Jenny Brown

We arrived at Chateau-loo and headed over to look at the gorge. It looked a little different to Helen’s description: quite a fast flow around some rocks, over in 5 mins, easier than the challenging lines of the Middle Guil we’d just conquered. If was actually a torrent of bubbling blue through a gap just wide enough for a paddler to fit through with a technical entry through what is best described as a rock garden. 6 of us headed to the get in. After a deep breath I followed Ian off the bank into the river. I could picture the line in my head, but stared at the rock I wanted to manoeuvre round, hit it and pinged off backwards down the other side of the river than the side I wanted to be on. Some emergency paddling got me facing forwards again as I entered what I’ll call the loo pan and into the V that was the start of the u-bend. From this point on the only option was to go with the flow and ride the wobbles as they came. I had 3 thoughts as I got flushed….

  1. My support strokes seem to be working ok, please don’t give up on me now.
  2. I seem to be managing to react with low braces, Keith won’t be able to comment on high paddles today.
  3. There’s Keith and Ian, don’t take your eye off them and you’ll be in that eddy in seconds. Stay focused, you can do it, just ignore every rock, boil and bubble that pops up in front of you.

Phew into the eddy panting with fear and shaking with relief. I’d been successful flushed! Shortly followed by a boat, body and 3 more kayakers we had moments breath and continued on. Helen said that was the worst over, Ian reminded me not to listen to Helen.

We were off again from the midway point, well the 2nd half felt a lot longer than the first with each rapid. Stopping to regroup in the big eddies that split the 3-ish more bouncy boulder drops/rapids we styled it safely down. Helen picking her own more scenic route in places. This was definitely going to be the day known as “cacky-pants”. As we passed under the bridge our welcoming crew cheered and helped us with the long carry back to the van. At this point I was regretting dressing for a swim rather than a walk – long neoprene legs and hot sun not a happy combination. A quick change back at the van next to some angry ants and then we were off again for….via ferrata and/or ice cream.

More Photos……


Access Needs YOU!

All, there is a Welsh government review into access to water in Wales. It is VITAL that as many paddlers or water users respond to this.

For those new to the sport, some context:

1930’s onwards people believed you needed permission to paddle on rivers. Fishermen didn’t like sharing and even managed to persuade some policy makers / judges that this is the case.

Access agreements were occasionally formulated, always in favour of fishermen, but many (most) rivers remained off limits. example of an access agreement included the river Dee above llangollen, which allowed about 4 days use per year.

Quality agreements were limited. Attempts to make sharing more equal was rebuffed by the fishing lobby. They even managed to have access to water removed from the right to roam act.

Late 90’s / Early 00’s – a doctoral thesis suggested that there is a right to navigate all rivers.
A seperate government study found that paddlesports do not disturb fish.

After more attempts to make access agreements fairer, including a government attempt that actually REDUCED access whilst attempting to improve access, Paddlesport bodies diecided to ignore them.
Legal position of access is disputed.

Welsh government is reviewing again. So far the well organised committees of Countryside Alliance have made 600 submissions AGAINST access (be careful, their stratergy appears pro access but it is not)
Dissorganised paddler who would rather just paddle, have made 12 submissions to improve access.

PLEASE help!!!!!!! Respond to the survey below.

FURTHER, if possible, please write to the Welsh Assembly to tell them why access matters. A pro forma example letter will be distributed late August.

NB – be very careful if liking the the countryside alliance posts / comments re access, they actually want to REDUCE access.

Mike (you might have to cut and paste the link. More information is on the canoe england, canoe wales websites facebook pages. Also see waters of wales)