Saturday, 30 April 2011

Kayaking the Yare IV: Bawburgh to Earlham Park

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IF YOU were whizzing along Norwich’s southern bypass on Friday morning with your window open, you might just have heard an expletive or two coming up from the bridge beneath you. It was me in my inflatable kayak, coming to terms with a right royal puncture -  inevitably in the middle of bleedin’ nowhere. Until then my royal wedding plans had gone like clockwork. First load up bike and canoe in the car. Second padlock the bike to a UEA lamp post, third drive on to Bawburgh. I would then kayak down the Yare to the university, hide it in the undergrowth and cycle back to the car. As the guests started arriving at the abbey I’d be happily lost in the Bowthorpe Bends. By the balcony kiss I should have been propping up the bar at the King’s Head making sarky comments. The reality was slightly different. With one of the two chambers burst I could limp on, but it took me a while to realise that in this newly crumpled kayak, everything was taking twice as long and was twice as hard.

Which is a shame because this is probably the most varied and challenging of all the four stretches of the Yare I’ve covered. Everyone agrees that there’s no point kayaking any higher up than Bawburgh. The village is a great place to start and I’d spotted three kingfishers before I’d even shot Bawburgh bridge. Beneath Bawburgh you are in farming country, albeit the kind of farmland where warblers nest in the thick nettles on the river bank. The river itself felt incredibly clean. It’s full of underwater vegetation going with the flow. Every time I scooped up a handful, a few watery creatures came up with them.

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Then it’s under the A47 bridge and into a tighter, more claustrophobic Yare which winds through gravel pits. Here vast white willows have crashed across the river making navigation a challenge. You get the impression that these trees spring into a second life once the main trunk has fallen. The canopy remains and new shoots emerge, leaving you trapped in a micro-climate. And in my case, a climate complete with sharp underwater branches ready to puncture the surviving chamber. 

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Extravagant meanders mean the river takes two miles to travel less than one mile east to Colney. In between the modern estate of Bowthorpe pops up on the port bow. Two more giant willows have split next to each other on a flood plain opposite,  presumably as the result of a lightning strike. Again new growth is everywhere, but the grotesque remains of the trunks leave each tree looking like an extra from Harry Potter’s Forbidden Forest.

Then there is wonderful sheltered reach backing onto some lucky houses in Colney. That’s where the main photo (above) was taken. By now the sun was out and the wildlife with it – an egret went fishing just yards away. But it was shallow too and my lack of buoyancy meant I kept grounding. Eventually I commandeered a garden jetty for a major bail out.  Because everybody was watching a certain wedding no-one was around to object. Later the river swings southwards again and West Earlham replaces Bowthorpe to our left. Bored and tired by bailing and grounding, I eventually gave up at the cafe in Earlham Park. And thank you to the owner who didn’t mind me sloshing in river water as I asked for my cup of tea. Wills and Kate were man and wife and I’d just about completed my mission. Now, who knows how to fix a puncture in a kayak?

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Kayaking the Yare III. Cringleford to Earlham Park.

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I DUSTED off the kayak for the first time this year today and yes it was good to be back on the water.  Today’s task was to pick up where I left off before winter rudely got in the way; kayaking the upper River Yare two hour chunks at a time.The first leg last October saw me go from just above the old mill buildings in Lakenham to Harford Bridges. Two weeks later it was Harford Bridges to Cringleford. Today I went in just upstream from the mill building at Cringleford (pictured). From there you peep into the extensive back gardens of houses on Colney Lane before river and road veer apart on the approach to the UEA. As ever the river provided its own nature show. Grey wagtails balanced on the weir close to the mill while a green woodpecker yaffled from the trees. Further upstream I’d like to claim both sedge and reed warblers but I’d only crumble under cross-examination, such was their camouflage among the reeds.   Rather bizarrely I saw six policemen on the Cringleford stretch. Four were following up reports of boys playing with a lifebuoy (slow crime day was it fellas?) while the final two were cycling along the riverside footpath. (“Well the rest of the patch is the Larkman so yeh, it is a bit more peaceful.”)

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At the UEA, the river heads west with only a narrow strip of land between the river and the university lake. A basic slipway close to a footbridge (pictured) here meant I could get out and stretch my legs among the dozens of walkers doing the same. Further upstream things got even busier at Earlham Park with kids piling into the water to cool off. And whereas I am used to being the only craft on the river, today I was one of four. Canoes and kayaks are definitely becoming more popular. Come and join the fun before the river gets too crowded.

* Access on this stretch is easy. At Cringleford, get down to the river on the Eaton side of the bridge. A footpath quickly takes you under the A11 and brings you right next to the river. That footpath continues all the way. You could get in from the UEA too or even via the new-ish access road to the hospital.  Next stop for me? Colney to Bowthorpe.

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Thursday, 14 April 2011

A new start for the New Inn

New Inn

GREAT news from Rockland St Mary courtesy of local resident Tony P. As Tony’s photo makes clear, the New Inn will re-open this Saturday. Wherryman’s Web regulars will remember that this pub closed in a hurry last November. Boat owners love it for its position at the head of Boat Dyke. Walkers and villagers make good use of it too. I’ve yet to establish whether this means there is a new leaseholder in place (good) or whether Punch Taverns have installed a manager (less good, see comment on this previous story). But to be fair Punch has at least lived up to its pledge in February that the doors would  reopen by Easter. Here’s to a new start at the New Inn.