I’ve spent the past two weekends on Dartmoor reacquainting myself with some of the best rivers in the country. It’s been a long summer with none of the unseasonable rain that allowed as much fun as we had the previous year, but now the paddling season seems to of properly started.
Last weekend a group of us from Kingfisher Canoe Club embarked on a day mission with the intention of squeezing both the Erme and the Upper Dart in to the limited amount of daylight that November provides. Despite my alarm clock failing me (okay I forgot to switch it on) we managed to do both of these. Slightly disappointingly the Erme was on the low side, we just caught the end of the run off from the previous nights rain. However, the Upper dart was fantastic with the water just covering about a quarter of the ledge at Newbridge. It was a long day, but oh so worth it.
This weekend I decided no matter what I was going to do the full two days. The forecast was good and despite the Kingfisher crowd only committing to a day trip there were plenty of other friends planning on spending the weekend down there so I was guaranteed good company.
It rained a lot on Friday night, the Met Office issued various severe weather warnings. Despite the weather, or perhaps because of it, a surprisingly large group of twelve of us met up for breakfast before heading off to run the river Tavy.
A good level makes the Tavy a fun blast, dodging the trees adds to the excitement and it proved a good warmup for the main event of the day; the Upper Dart. Now I’ve run the Upper Dart at what I thought was a good level. At least what I thought was a good level, it turns out that others think differently. The level we ran it at on Saturday was higher than I’ve ever run it before, it looked like a different river – A river that had my sphincter twitching for the entire run down it.
Anyway despite the fear that was evident in the faces of some of our group we managed to navigate the torrent without any major mishaps, much to everyone’s relief. The more I think about it the more I realise I enjoyed it, but I’m extremely aware that the consequences of getting it wrong at this level could be horrific. Still people keep telling my that this is the level when it starts to get good.
A quick blast down the Loop made for a good warm down before crashing at the Dartmoor Lodge Hotel who fed and rested me before the following days paddling; a quick blast down the Upper before meeting up with two friends, from Kingfisher and giving them a guided tour of the Dart Loop. We managed to crack off the Upper in about 45 minutes (anyone would think eddies had gone out of fashion) finishing just in time to meet Nick and Guy.
There had been no rain the night before which left the river lapping at the edge of the ledge, which made for a good level for Guys first time on the Dart. And a good effort he put in as well considering it was only his second whitewater river ever he was rolling like it was second nature.
It was wet and grey on Saturday and I was far to pre-occuppied to get my camera out. But I did manage to take these at Triple falls on the loop on a very sunny Sunday: http://picasaweb.google.com/simon.knox/DartLoop.