Review by Brian
We assembled at Blackroot 9:00 Sunday morning. The sun shone, the water glittered, the fishermen eyed us up suspiciously.
Didn’t seem to have enough cars for the number of boats, but eventually John turned up with a big white van and we were soon on our way. The canal wharf launch site was a bit pushed for parking, so there was a hectic few minutes of dropping off gear, getting changed and generally trying to make sure nothing (and nobody) was forgotten before the transport was finally organized.
John (different one) had been waiting patiently for us and soon got us underway. I think I counted 15 of us on the water. Several people on their first tour, 6 I believe. A nice day for it too, if just a little chilly.
This was a new trip for me but John clearly knew the area very well and filled us in with interesting little snippets of information, for example pointing out Tixall Lodge and a Mary Queen of Scotts connection. So interesting a lady on a narrow boat having her morning coffee joined in the conversation at one point!
We safely portaged around a lock and seal launched back in without drama.
A little further and we reached the aqueduct. This involved a slither down to the river bank and a further slither down the bank (a bit steep) into the water. Stuart set the standard with a spectacular head- wetting splash. Sarah tried rearranging the river bed with the nose of her boat. Tim then seemed to take a slightly unhealthy delight in supervising launching, each one from a slightly higher point than the one before! He was last in with another very satisfying splash. Nice to be on moving water again, even if it was a fairly leisurely flow.
John told us how he had paddled this route last Winter when the river was in flood, very different to today’s conditions. Passing through the grounds of Shugborough, we played in the water coming over a small weir. Angus got a bit stuck on some shingle- soon got going again though.
We needed to avoid the odd fallen tree and one of these led to our one incident of the day. Simon, one of our first timers (wearing his new cag too), got a bit sideways avoiding some branches; just where the river flow was running a bit quicker as well. Over he went, but safely out and to the side. He was very philosophical about the experience and maintained that going for a paddle was an excellent way to spend a Sunday! I believe it was his birthday too!
Before much longer we reached our get out point (at a garden centre) and clambered out for coffee, sandwiches and a chat about the day’s events. I thoroughly enjoyed myself; I hope everyone else did too. Thought all our first timers were brilliant! Thanks to everyone for their company and to all the organizers for making it happen.