Review by Brian
15 paddlers met on the sunny morning in question at Peel’s Wharf at the appointed time. Ferry was arranged (thanks Rich) and we set off along the canal in fine spirits led by Pete and Tim. I paddled with Barb for a bit and admired her new red Dagger Blackwater. It looked very clean and shiny.
This paddle was part of the current 2 star course, though some of us were just along for the ride!
The first real excitement of the day was leaving the canal and joining The Tame. This involved seal launching form the bank, a reasonably long slope and a bit difficult for first timers. Tim supervised and we all managed successful launches. I did notice the new dagger was looking a bit grubbier now. Pete and Tim were last on the bank and then announced that they didn’t fancy launching from there and set off down river to find an easier access!
We continued down on moving water, paddling through Tamworth and getting a whole different view of the A5 and the Snowdome. Next excitement of the day was the low weir just past Ladybridge. The weir had a tree caught against it but still with enough room to pass safely. Pete went first and set himself up as official photographer to catch the action. First group went over easily enough but Graham got a bit sideways. I rescued his boot (I do mean BOOT and not boat!) as it floated past, Graham rescued himself! Matt also took a swim here; I missed that but heard the splash.
We retired to the bank and Tim and Pete talked about the features and dangers of weirs. Another Seal launch was in order now. This time a bit higher and more of a drop – all good experience for the 2 starrers! All went well. I thought Alice’s was particularly graceful. Then came Barb’s turn. Oops! – Never mind, undaunted but a little wetter she tried again from a different part of the bank. Same result! Barbs remained determinedly cheerful though, and in fairness I don’t think the keel of her boat helped much. Incidentally the boat was definitely muddy now and had lost its ‘just out of the box’ look.
We paddled the flood relief channel towards paper mill weir. It was a bit clogged up with weeds and not as pleasant as it could have been – a lot of litter too – a real shame.
Paper mill weir looks scarier than it is. Pete and I went first, Pete this time armed with his ‘helmet cam.’ We will have to check out Facebook for the results! Everyone shot through in fine style with no dramas. Great fun! Most of us clambered back up for a second go. The only casualty here was Simon who got it a bit wrong while playing in the white water at the bottom.
We meandered the next part of the river spotting heron and kingfishers. The portage through Hopwas Woods back to the canal is always a test of fitness! Poor Rich made a bit of a mess of his launch back into the canal, but unfortunately made a worse mess of his shins when he climbed out, scraping them painfully across the concrete under hang which was hidden under the water. I was relieved to see him the next night at Blackroot not too much the worse for his mishap.
We paddled the last section of canal back to The Tame Otter. Barbs had dried out. Then she fell in again! By now the boat looked as though she had been paddling it for the last 10 years!
A very enjoyable mornings paddling, nice weather and great company. Thanks to Tim, Pete, Rich, Alison, George, Liam, Megan, Graham, Barb, Hannah, Matt, Simon, James and Alice.