The external temperature gauge on my car briefly flickered to as high as zero before resuming its steady reading of -2 degrees centigrade. I was on my way to meet Mike Alter, John White and Ian Bell for a spot of open boating on the Dee, and it was going to be cold. Very cold.
We met at Mile End Mill and immediately commenced some highly intricate faffing (signing-in faff, deciding what to do faff, drinking tea faff, car shuttle faff, kit sorting, faff, plus copious amounts of general common-all-garden faffing). After we had faffed ourselves senseless we launched from Carrog Bridge and made our way quietly downstream past a couple of fishermen, who appeared to pay us no attention whatsoever.
The stretch of the river between Carrog to Horseshoe Weir includes several Grade 1 sections, a brief stretch of Grade 2, a couple of little play spots and ample opportunity for chatting and watching the world go by. Salmon jumped, steam trains puffed their way past and it felt as if everything was good with the world.
Everyone was paddling just hard enough to keep the blood flowing to their fingers, and so we were soon at Horseshoe Weir and the start of a slightly more difficult stretch of water. We elected to run this section as far as Nomads/Mile End Mill, rather than paddle the conveniently located nearby canal that runs parallel to the river.
One by one we shot the small drop at the river-left side of the weir (shooting the weir itself is decidedly dangerous and a definite no-no), and eddy hopped towards the Serpents Tail. We got out of our boats at the top of ‘Serpents’ and inspected the line. It was way out of my league in an open boat, and I was relieved that there was a consensus to wimp out. We therefore bravely and courageously portaged and lined our boats past ‘Serpents’, and carried on past several small drops to Mile End Mill, where our cars were waiting.
The very last ‘small drop’, right next to the car park, required a dog-leg manoeuvre to avoid a ‘hole’. However, I decided to take a direct approach and paddle straight through this ‘hole’. Everything went exactly according to plan, apart from a minor mishap at the beginning when my boat filled with water. And the bit in the middle when I capsized. And the bit at the end when I swam to the bank. Other than that, I executed everything perfectly!
A great day. Thanks to Ian, Mike and John for their company and guidance, and hopefully there will be more open boat trips on the calendar soon.