On and In the Tarn

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Inevitably, we hired kayaks and had a paddle down the Tarn.

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Andy demonstrates that you don’t have to be young to be bonkers.

The Tarn is a bit more racy than the Dordogne, with some shallower, fast flowing sections and lots of places to stop for swims and for the DBs to throw themselves into the river.

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The scenery is amazing, the water beautifully clear and very inviting.

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The beginning (I think) of Les Détroits – the straits.

You can perhaps see, in the photograph above, that there are a lot of people congregated on the shingle bank downstream. They are examining a fast-flowing section which we had been told we should portage around. In fact, everybody seemed to be canoeing the little rapid quite successfully, so we did the same.

The section through Les Détroits was quite odd – suddenly we were fighting a strong, chilly head-on wind. Once the steep cliffs either side of the river receded the wind calmed down again.

Our route took as past the campsite (I think we stopped for ice-creams) and then past the mushroom rock, just after which there was another small fast-flowing section. Having successfully navigated that, I was upended by one of the flat-bottomed commercial passenger boats which ply the river with, it seems, almost complete disregard for the many canoeists also on the water. Somehow, I didn’t lose either my hat or my glasses, and only my pride was hurt, but I was infuriated and may have hurled a few choice Anglo-Saxon expletives after the departing boatman.

On a couple of occasions, later in the week, we drove a little down the valley to swim in the river in an area where a substantial rockfall in the past has left the river choked with huge boulders.

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It was a fascinating spot. The water was very deep and, in places, where side-streams issued into the Tarn, the water was bracingly cold. Upstream, the water flowed through narrow little channels and forcing a way upstream became both challenging and exhausting, but highly enjoyable.

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The big boulders in and by the river provided numerous opportunities for big jumps into the water. Even A joined in. Me too, but nothing too ambitious.

It was a great find, enlivened, for B at least, by the radar speed sign on the road above the river – which he found he could trigger by running along the road.

On and In the Tarn

Following J-Dawg down the Dordogne

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An idyllic lunch stop.

So, once again, we rented canoes and kayaks and paddled down the Dordogne. It’s the obvious thing to do frankly, and it’s hard to think of a finer way to spend a day.

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TJS, TSS, LS and TJF take a dip in the Dordogne.

We stopped for a swim in this spot last time we visited the Dordogne, and I was very much looking forward to doing the same again. I’d brought goggles because I was confident that there would plenty of fish to see in this stretch of water, and I wasn’t disappointed. As on our previous visit, I followed a large fish which had barbels around it’s mouth (a Barbel then?) which was also being followed by around a dozen smaller, stripy fish, possibly Perch?

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B realises that his kayak will double up as a stand-up paddle board.
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Most of the party opted for solo kayaks, but our friend J-Dawg (who has been burdened, by her daughters, with a whole host of nicknames) was concerned that she would find herself continually going around in circles and getting left behind, so I joined her in a larger canoe. Now, I’m hardly an expert paddler, but I can generally get a boat to travel in something approaching a straight line, ironically using something called a J-stroke, or my inexpert approximation to same. To be honest, the canoe was very comfortable and an excellent choice.

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TBF on the left, the raft is the younger members of our party.
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But one result of this arrangement is that I have a lot of photos of the view downriver which feature J-Dawg’s life-jacket and fetching pink bucket-hat in the foreground.

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TBH looking very happy.
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Roque-Gageac
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B in more conventional canoeing style.
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Château de la Malartrie
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Castelnaud-la-Chapelle
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Château de Beynac

All-in-all, a fantastic day’s outing.

Following J-Dawg down the Dordogne

Kayaking Down the Tarn.

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Another excursion, this time on the River Tarn, which was faster flowing than the Dordogne, less busy and more dramatic, especially in Les Détroits, ‘the straits’, where the ravine narrows and is closed in by cliffs on either side…

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Once again, we stopped regularly to swim, including a stop at the campsite which was conveniently situated for lunch.

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This time the younger members of the party each had their own boat, which was definitely a better arrangement, and they enjoyed larking about standing in their kayaks and rafting up to traverse across the front of each others boats.

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If anything, this was even more enjoyable than the Dordogne paddle and unlike that trip, when I was tuckered out by the time we finished, I would have liked to continue, although that’s not possible because the river enters a dangerous jumble of boulders downstream.

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Once again, I only took photos when we stopped, whereas Andy has more photos, including many excellent ones of our respective kids. You can find his post here.

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Kayaking Down the Tarn.

Canoeing on the Dordogne.

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One given of our trip to France was that it would include some canoeing on the two rivers we would be staying close to. This is something Andy has done on his previous trips and promised to be a real highlight of the holiday. In the event, the whole trip was great and it’s quite difficult to choose a favourite part, but the canoeing certainly didn’t disappoint.

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Actually, this spot, featured in the first three photos, is a strong contender for favourite for me. This was the same day that Andy and I had walked, in clearing mist, to the bakery together, and, whilst we were there, we found a canoe hire place and booked four three-man boats. Later, we were all back in Castelnaud for a bus ride to our start point, near a village called Vitrac if I remember correctly. This shingle bank was the first of many places along the river where we stopped for a cooling swim and the warm honey-coloured rocks, the incredibly clear water and the numerous fish we saw made it very memorable. We watched a couple of fish which were really quite large. I think they were Barbel, although any opinion I give about fish must be taken with a huge pinch of salt. One of them was persistently shadowed by a much smaller, stripy fish – a perch perhaps? Although, why a perch would trail alongside a much bigger fish I don’t know.

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The river was quite fast flowing here and we found it best to swim downstream and then walk back up before heading back down again.

This…

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…is another one of our stops. The river was even more powerful here, but the main current was on the far bank, under towering limestone cliffs. On our side the water was heavily silted and very warm.

The Dordogne was generally very warm. When we stopped at Castlenaud Andy and I had a memorable demonstration of just how warm whilst the others went off into the village for ice-creams.

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We swam upstream to the mouth of the Céou. The water flowing into the Dordogne from the Céou felt positively icy and the Dordogne like bath-water by comparison. It was a strange experience, since you could swim through alternate pockets of warm and cold water.

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The mouth of the Céou is just about dead-centre of the panorama below.

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From Castelnaud we paddled on, to eventually stop between Beynac and Les Milandes. I think there was some talk of the whole route being 16km. Regardless of how far it was, I know that I was very weary that night on the campsite. Missing from my photographs and description is some of the spectacular scenery we canoed past: Beynac was stunning and Roque Gageac even more so, but I didn’t have my camera with me, relying on my phone which, most of the time, stayed safely inside the watertight plastic barrel which had been provided. Andy has a waterproof camera and has more and better photographs, so I’m looking forward to his post of this trip on his own blog.

Canoeing on the Dordogne.

And Other Seas…

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Just occasionally, after very heavy rain, the fields behind our house can flood. It’s a rare occurrence, but the downpours towards the end of November brought the most extreme flooding we’ve seen in our time here…

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This is what it looked like on the Thursday morning. On the Wednesday evening I’d driven through water which, I suspect, I would have baulked at in daylight. After I took this photo, we struggled to commute into Lancaster, having to turn back twice where roads were closed.

Of course, every cloud has it’s proverbial silver lining. Where I saw flooding, the DBs saw an opportunity. On the Wednesday night they’d already been out together for a ‘paddle’, or more accurately, a wade, in the temporary lake. On the Thursday they decided to go one better.

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And paddle a kayak in the field.

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It was windy, and pretty cold, so we didn’t stay out for long, but it was an unusual experience, to say the least.

 

And Other Seas…

How Do I Get Down?

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We were at Fellfoot park with a bunch of friends from the village, for the annual church picnic. To us the park has become Fell-ten-foot Park because of Little S’s unfortunate experience here: our family has track record with tree-climbing accidents. I spotted A high in the tree and decided to take a photo. She managed a smile, as you can see, but was hissing at me, not wanting to attract the attention of our friends, but wanting a private word with me:

“I don’t think I can get down.”

After taking this ideal opportunity to lecture a captive audience on the inadvisability of climbing anything you aren’t absolutely sure you can definitely climb back down, I relented and helped her find the good footholds on the knobbly trunk which she was having difficulty picking out from above.

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The weather was very changeable and would eventually have us abandoning our idea of a barbecue in the park. However, this didn’t deter The Tower Captain from taking his Mirror Dinghy for a row…

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…or the boys and their friend E from swimming to the far bank. This was some feat, because, after rain, this bottom end of Windermere has quite a strong current.

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A and I also took one of our inflatable canoes out, which she described as ‘extremely relaxing’; presumably much more enjoyable than being stuck up a tree.

I chatted to a National Trust volunteer about photographs of camping pods which were on display and she told me that the plan is for the Park to become a campsite, or perhaps, in part a campsite. Apparently it has been one in the past. The Trust’s campsite at Low Wray, at the far end of the lake, was fully booked for the entirety of August when I tried to make a booking, so more capacity for camping on the lake shore seems like a sensible plan.

How Do I Get Down?

Hutton Roof, A Snake and Skaville

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Speckled Wood butterfly.

Whit Bank Holiday weekend. This first two photos are from another opportunistic quick fix: B had a party at Capenwray Hall, I thought I would have a couple of hours at least to get out for a walk from there. Sadly the driveway which I had assumed would be a right-of-way, because it links to a footpath, turned out to be private. I drove to the Plain Quarry car park on Hutton Roof instead, but was a while getting there because I got stuck behind a couple of cyclists on a very, very narrow country lane (they weren’t riding abreast, the lane was just too narrow for me to safely pass).

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As a consequence, my walk was a bit shorter than I had hoped, but at least I managed to get out for a wander in the end. It was hot and sticky and quite hazy. Once again on Hutton Roof I was tantalised by a cuckoo which called incessantly and seemed so close that I was sure that I must see it if I looked hard enough. I didn’t, but not for want of trying.

I didn’t linger too long looking for the cuckoo however, because I wanted to get back for a surprise visitor which I knew would be arriving toward the end of the party…

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It’s some kind of Python. B was very taken with it.

On the Sunday we all went to Cartmel to see Jools Holland and his Big Band. I didn’t take any photos, so I’ve added a youtube clip of Mister Holland featuring two members of The Selecter, who also appeared as guest singers at Cartmel – a real highlight for me.

It was a great afternoon, with three support acts, a fair, sunshine, a tasty picnic with some friends, and a few family games of Kubb.

On the Monday we took our canoes to (S) Fell (Ten) Foot Park at the southern end of Windermere. It being a beautiful, sunny Bank Holiday Sunday the park was extremely busy. I’ve certainly never seen it so packed. Not that it really detracted from our fun. We messed about in our boats and then had a swim in the Lake. Well, four of us did: TBH was engrossed in her book.

Hutton Roof, A Snake and Skaville

Paddling the Periphery*: Harrow Slack, Lilies of the Valley, Belle Isle.

Once we’d decided that we would spend some time at home together over the summer, we resolved to try to get out and be active, turn our hands to something new from time to time, generally make the most of what’s on offer on our doorstep. We tried archery, not once but twice. We cycled along the shore of Windermere, and would have cycled again, but for difficulties with a defective cycle carrier. The boys and I dabbled in gill-scrambling. All good. But top of our wish list of things-to-do was a spot of canoeing. Attentive readers will be aware that as long ago as last New Year I expressed a yen to go “messing about in boats: to do some sailing; to buy, beg, borrow, blag, build a Canadian Canoe”.

Well we sailed on the Kent Estuary back in May – I don’t think that ever made it on to the blog – but it was terrific fun. And now we have some Canadian canoes, inflatable ones, having decided to take the prosaic approach of buying them.

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We’ve two canoes, a two man and a three man. I don’t intend to review them, we’re very happy with them, but I don’t really have anything to compare them too or sufficient knowledge to to give an objective assessment. However, there do seem to be some real bargains out there and if you’re interested in some details leave a comment and I’ll get in touch.

We’ve had them out three times so far; twice at Fell Foot Park and, sandwiched between those outings, another trip on Windermere, but this time starting on the Western Bank from Harrow Slack car park. We travelled across to it on the Bowness Car Ferry (above).

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These photos are from that second trip. It was pleasantly sunny, but very windy.

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We paddled along the shore with the wind behind us, took a tour around two small islands called Lilies of the Valley and then landed back on the lake shore….

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…to stretch our legs, climb trees….

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…and photograph the local fungi….

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Back in the boats we cruised past the two small islands again and then followed the western shore of Belle Isle, keeping out of the wind which was funnelling down the lake.

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Belle Isle is comparatively large and is privately owned, with a house on it. Here we are (some of us anyway) hugging its sheltering bank. The two islands behind are the Lilies of the Valley.

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This photo…

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…is from our third trip. The people in the boat in front are our friends B and M. (Tempting now to add ‘Bargains’ to that, but if instead, I call them M and B I shall only think of Mitchells and Butlers – I dread to think what these low rent free associations say about my character and misspent middle-age?) Anyway, that’s our friends B and M, M and B. We’re canoeing on the River Leven. We did that the first time we launched the boats from Fell Foot Park too. Then, the water levels were much higher and there was quite a strong current. We managed okay, but we met others who were struggling. B, who had two kids in an inflatable dinghy which was rapidly deflating, was making no headway at all, and in the end we gave him a bit of a tow to the shore.

I’ve since found a copy, stashed away sometime ago, just in case I ever got around to buying a canoe, of John Wilson Parker’s ‘Atlas of the English Lakes’.

An Atlas of the English Lakes

This clip of the front cover pretty much sums it up. It’s a lovely book, a sort of ‘Wainwright for the Lakes’ with hand drawn maps, handwritten text and lots of detail about access, boat launching etc. All that, and it’s published by Milnthorpe’s Cicerone Press.

Anyway, he warns against paddling downstream in the rivers flowing out of the Lakes in general, and down the Leven in particular, precisely because there can be a strong current and you’re then faced with paddling back against it. It is a pleasant trip down to Newby Bridge, and just about the right distance for us at the moment, but perhaps we shall have to be a little more circumspect in future.

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Fell Foot Park has the advantage over Harrow Slack of other facilities besides somewhere to launch – toilets, a play area, a cafe, an ice cream shop, room to throw a Frisbee, picnic tables etc. We try to not be in a position to need the cafe however – brewing the tea is part of the experience.

*So will the blog now have a sub-title “Paddling the Periphery?” Credit where credit’s due – this suggestion is from Alan Sloman’s comment on my January 2013 post about wanting to do some sailing and canoeing. Hopefully, there will be many more  ‘Paddling the Periphery’ posts to come.(Probably only when the weather is kind though).

Paddling the Periphery*: Harrow Slack, Lilies of the Valley, Belle Isle.

Messing About in Boats

The church picnic was this weekend just gone. We went to Brown Howe on Coniston Water. Some people cried off because the weather looked iffy, but it turned out fine after a little drizzle.

The kids messed about in boats:

And the adults…

…messed about in boats.

S seemed to get in on a lot of the action.

 

How do I work this thing then? Can I take it out on my own? I won’t break anything, honest.

  There was a barbecue, and civilised things like cups of tea.

One loon even went for a swim.

It was cold.

 

A splendid time was had by all.

Messing About in Boats