Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Rhos-on-sea, Little Orme and Llandudno - 6th February 2016

I must admit I was in two minds as to whether the paddle should go ahead - we had lost our planned trip leader and the forecast was foul. However I think we were all keen to get on the water, and the way the winter had been going, wet and windy was the norm with no sign of a let up.

So an intrepid group of five set off from Rhos-on-Sea in blustery conditions heading W towards the Little Orme. The forecast was for winds up to force 6 from the S and SE, but luckily either the land was keeping the worst of the wind off of us, or the forecast was over estimated, as we were not being blown around that much.

We made steady progress around to the Little Orme and peeked into the caves and blow holes on the E end of the cliffs. There was just a little bit too much swell to make venturing into the caves safe, so we could only peer in from the entrances. A large group of seals were beached at the back of the small bay and a few of them came out to see what we were up to.

Look hard and you can see the seals on the beach!
We carried on around underneath the impressive cliffs. It seemed unusual to see them without the thousands of birds that will shortly be nesting there, but it did allow us to explore the cliffs from close range instead of being worried about disturbing the nests.

The wind was quite strong against us now as it found its way around the headland, but we had a following swell that made for an easy paddle into the bay at Llandudno. We headed for the N end of the beach near to the pier and had lunch sitting on the beach under the shelter of the promenade wall.

We re-launched suitably refreshed and paddled underneath the pier and on for a short while around the Great Orme. Time was getting on, so we turned around and started our return journey. We decided to go straight across the bay back towards the Little Orme and as we were on this crossing the wind picked up - exhilarating for some, but tiring for others, and we were grateful or regaining some shelter under the Little Orme cliffs and a chance to see the caves again.

We made our way back past the bay at the E end, and were again met by the more inquisitive members of the seal colony. As we continued on, one seal stayed with us and become increasing boisterous, rubbing his face on the back of my kayak, bumping into me and splashing me. It's the first time I've had such a playful seal accompany me - normally they limit their attention to watching from a short but safe distance. We wondered why this particular seal was so tame? Maybe fishermen had been feeding it from kayaks?

By now we were back in the full force of the wind and the paddle back to Rhos-on-Sea was becoming a bit of a slog.One member of our group was finding it particularly tiring and not making much progress, so to save time I gave a tow for the last few hundred yards.

So in the end it was well worth going out, and the friendly seal made the day. The weather did end up pretty foul though, so we were grateful of the seafront shelters to get changed in on the promenade.

About 18km paddled.

Monday, 1 February 2016

Bridgewater Canal - 31st January 2016

The River Goyt wasn't running at a very exciting level, so Jim and I decided to get some miles in on the Bridgewater Canal instead.

We parked up under the M60 bridge and as we were getting ready some poor lad in a rowing boat capsized about 50 metres away from us, so we got on to offer assistance. He was pulled to the side by an attending bank crew, but Jim offered up some warm clothing and a flask of coffee. He was pretty cold, only wearing a tee-shirt and tracksuit bottoms and I bet it took a while for him to warm up again with the water temperature only being about 4-5 degrees C.

After that excitement we carried on down through Sale passing many new apartment blocks and people exercising on the towpath. Urban gentrification has taken hold hereabouts, especially since the tram line was installed giving quick access to the city centre.

As we made our way out of the southern Manchester sprawl, the scenery comprised of alternating industrial complexes and apartment developments, interspersed with the odd cluster of traditional canalside cottages.

An abrupt change to the surroundings occurs when the canal leaves Oldfield Brow and makes its way past Dunham Massey park. I'd just been talking to Jim about seeing kingfishers on the Macclesfield Canal, and he said they were also present here. Then on cue a kingfisher flew past us and stayed just in front of us for a couple of hundred yards.

We clocked up the miles chatting about future paddling trips and the merits of different styles of rolling a kayak and eventually arrived at the town of Lymm. Refreshments in Lymm normally involve visiting the excellent fish and chip shop, but being a Sunday, this wasn't an option. Luckily however, a recent new option is a canal barge that has been converted to a cafe and we partook of its excellent hospitality (and warmth) with a bacon and egg butty and a cup of coffee. (http://buttyandsweet.co.uk/)

Suitably refreshed, we relaunched into the increasingly heavy rain for the uneventful return trip.

We returned to our launch site and as we were loading up a police car passed us and went over to talk to the occupants of two other cars that were parked up further under the bridge. No idea what they were up to, but perhaps it isn't the safest place to launch from. We made our own getaway and had a post paddle crumpet and coffee round Jim's to warm up.

We paddled approximately 30km. Weather was pretty miserable all the time! Must have been paddling for about 5 hours total.