Archive for the ‘River Kayaking’ Category

Road Trip – Tarn Gorge Kayak Trip   11 comments


The highlight of any stay in the Tarn Gorge is a trip down the river in a kayak. Many stretches are not easily accessible from the road, especially the narrowest section so a kayak is the best way to see it as well as being a huge amount of fun.



Unlike the Dordogne the Tarn is shallower and much faster flowing with several small rapids. Nothing difficult but it does add to the excitement




This time we let the kids loose in their own one person kayaks and it was a huge success. Most kids do some form of kayaking on school trips and they were all totally competent in navigating the river


They took the mick out of some the adults less than impressive skills but again all in good spirit and many laughs ensued



It was a stunning sunny day and the views in the gorge were sensational


Our friend J clearly having a great time – shame about that hat!


After navigating the weir, rapids and bridge through La Malene it was time for a stop and a swim. We found one of the best swimming spots of the whole holiday. A deep and large pool with rocks for jumping




Its only really accessible by kayak and we made the most of it


The DBs show off their jumping prowess



As does C albeit from a lower perch


Others just enjoyed a swim in cold clear waters. A splendid spot


Time to move on and more paddling fun



The kids decided they were skilled enough to actually stand up in the kayaks. Here is TJF, the DBs and C.





I also showed them how to raft up and encouraged them to them walk along the line of kayaks without falling in


While others watched on and avoided such childish antics





Into the narrows or Les Detroits to give them their proper name


An amazing section where the walls of the gorge narrow in to around 100 feet




We found a beach to pull over and spent another happy half hour exploring and swimming



The kids found a rock in the deeper water that provided a good deal of entertainment





How many people can you get on one small rock in a fast flowing river



We stopped off for lunch at the campsite (one of the advantages of the route) before paddling a short way past to the finish



Over all too soon and I think most of us would have happily carried on further if we could have (the gorge is blocked by a chaos of boulders a mile or so further on)



We stopped for another bout of swimming and play before heading back to the campsite


Another grand day out and highlight of what was becoming a classic holiday


These river kayak trips are a real feature of any holiday in this part of France and I was glad to be able to share this with our friends and see them enjoying it as much as I’ve done in the past

Road Trip – Canoeing Down the Dordogne   13 comments


There is a whole collection of stuff to do in the Dordogne region. Castles, caves, gardens, towns and the usual collection of activity based adventures. One of the best outings is a kayak trip along the Dordogne itself and its big business (as on most of the large French rivers in the south). We’ve done this many times before and was one of the main reasons I suggested the region as a good destination to our happy band.


We hadn’t really made any plans for the trip but on one of mine and Mark’s morning strolls to the bakery we noted what a glorious clear and sunny day was developing and made an executive decision that we should do the trip that day. We booked in at the hire place over the car park from the bakery and then noted how little time we had to get back to the campsite, get everyone out of bed, breakfasted, lunch packed and be ready to walk back to catch the bus to start. A little fraught but we made it!


The trip was pretty much the same as the one we have always done from Vitrac, past Domme, La Roque Gageac and Beynac and finishing at Les Milandes. Its a classic trip with loads of interesting views (castles, hilltop towns, cliffs) and numerous great places for a  swim. After an epic amount of faffing about picking boats and agreeing who would go with who we set off. This is Mark and TBH trying to deflate a rubber ring, one finding time to smile other not!


There were 12 of us in the group but despite the fact that most of us have spent some time in kayaks and canoes the only people who seemed able to control one were me and Mark. The first section (no more than a mile or so) took an age, most went round in circles, backwards leading to bickering and recriminations (all in good humour). We tried to tow TJF behind us but the current was slow and it was really hard work to paddle with such a dead weight behind so we quickly abandoned the idea.




We were compelled to pull over to re-arrange the teams. Thing is, pulling over for a stop is hardly a chore when the scenery is this magnificent. Obviously whenever you stop in such fine and hot weather you should have a swim.


This turned out to be wonderful spot beneath the cliffs and the stretch was teeming with fish and brisk current to flaunt you downstream before getting out and doing it again


We were also hungry so we had a first lunch and stopped for a good hour such was magnificence of the location. One of the best micro-moments of the whole holiday


Here is a good shot of us swimming and fish spotting. There were some seriously big fish in here


Suitably refreshed and with teams re-arranged we set off again


There is pretty much nothing finer than gently floating and paddling down a scenic river under a clear blue sky in hot sunshine




The kids decided to liven things up by standing in the canoes and changing places. They all looked pretty smug about their ability to do it and the perceived cowardice and lack of skill from the adults. Until they tried once too often and TJS fell in!


We had another stop beneath some white limestone cliffs for a swim. Very scenic but the water on our side was rather shallow and silty



We set off again for the next leg


This takes you past the picture postcard village of La Roque Gageac.



It looks stunning although we’ve never actually stopped here as it’s always thronged with tourists



The next stage is a long gentle paddle down to Castelnaud. This was the only stretch that felt busy with several school and youth groups which, in the manner of most French teenagers seemed intent on making as much noise as possible



Castelnaud appeared and we stopped for another break. Most waded across a braid in the river to get ice creams while me and Mark took a swim up towards the confluence of the Dordogne and our campsite river the Ceou. It was an odd experience as the temperature difference between them is very marked. The Ceou is very cold indeed and makes the Dordogne feel like a heated pool. Where the water was mixing you could have one leg in warm water and one in cold. Very strange and enjoyable dip


Suitably refreshed we set off the final leg past the very impressive town and castle at Beynac. We saw signs like the one in the image below all along the valley. A bit of research reveals they are looking to blast a bypass round this town through some wonderful countryside. You only have walk, drive or canoe through this area to realise the traffic, certainly by UK standards is not any real problem. Let’s hope the local opposition kills the plan


The views as you pass by Beynac are the best of this trip in my opinion. It provides a grand finish to a superb trip that I think everyone thoroughly enjoyed



Good preparation for the next kayak trip on the Tarn the following week

A Review of 2017   18 comments

I’ve read quite a few blog post in the past few days reviewing other peoples 2017 exploits. I enjoyed them so much I thought I’d do the same. Good excuse to look back through my photos and remember what we got up to. At my age I need help remembering stuff!.

Acutely conscious of the modern trend for these awful “round robin” letters you get at Xmas (we get one of these smugograms every year) I tried to select photos that bring back a particular memory for me so its more a personal, family introspection on outdoorsy stuff, than a blow by blow account of the year. As its based on my photo collection if I didn’t photograph it, it ain’t here!


We started the year off in Tenerife and New Years Day was spent on this rather splendid beach (the earlier part of the day was in the mountains but I cocked up the photos from that part of the day!)


Returning to the British winter, a walk along the Cats Back in the Black Mountains with TBF, memorable for a cloud inversion after a very wet morning. A reminder that despite our travels we are lucky to have some stunning scenery on our doorstep


A solo day out in the Brecon Beacons, the first snowy walk near to home and pretty much the only one with significant snow during the early part of the year (made up for it at the end)


A glorious day out in the Black Mountains with TJS and a cooked breakfast on a cold Table Mountain. I like this photo though as it has Mynydd Troed in centre shot, my very first mountain climbed when I was about 10


And my usual skiing trip (only a weekend this year) to finish off the month. Snow was a bit rubbish but we had a laugh nonetheless



Another solo day on Fan Fawr in the Brecon Beacons. I remember this day for a very mild Friday afternoon (16C) and snow in the mountains 18 hours later


A short walk with TBF on Hatterall Hill



The first weekend of the month is always spent in Scotland with friends of long standing. A new location at Bridge of Orchy and a two out of three days were magnificent winter days. The walk along this ridge high above Rannoch Moor on the first day was superb


Me and TJS also managed a cheeky backpack into the Black Mountains. Straight from work on the Friday for a one nighter in my new tent. Need to do more of these this year


2017 is the year I rediscovered cycling – mainly to help my knee and also to be less of a lazy layabout during the week. The Hardman – a VERY keen and VERY fit cyclist caught wind and insisted we meet up in the Peak for a trip along a couple of the old railway trails. A cracking sunny day and I survived cycling with the Hardman!


And we finally managed a meet up in the Berwyns with Uncle Fester after a few aborted attempts



More cycling and solo trip through the Brecon Beacons on the “Gap” route. Cycling to over 600m was a first for me and I started to feel that I almost, might, actually enjoy cycling.


Easter and a major backpacking trip with TJS to the Cairngorms. The weather was wild and windy but we had a couple of superb wild camps and TJS bagged his first Scottish 4000 footer


I even coaxed TJF out for a bike ride along the Brecon and Usk canal


May Day weekend was mostly in April. Mixed weather but we had a fine gaggle of friends on a hike around Greendale, taking in Buckbarrow and Seatallan



No finer way to celebrate a birthday than a lunchtime hike. This one was on one of my local hills, Bryn Arw with TBF


Followed by a weekend away in Cornwall. It almost felt tropical on the white sands just north of Padstow on one of our walks


Whitsun weekend was spent with our good friends in Silverdale. The Sunday was a real winner with a long but easy stroll and a fantastic pub lunch. Weather was mixed the rest of the time but great company, many laughs and a chance to relax



A different walk from the usual mountains. One of the small hills that overlook Gloucester and across to the Cotswolds. Not something I’d do every day but a nice change


One of the highlights of the year was the long-planned backpacking trip with the kids into the Howgills. Despite poor weather we gave it a go and it was a huge success. The kids really enjoyed the adventure and I’m hoping they have caught the wild camping bug



After the backpack trip I was out of action for a few weeks recuperating and resting after a minor knee op. Didn’t affect my water based fun though, a nice albeit far too long trip down the river Wye


By the end of July I was back in the hills again (the knee op has been a great success I’m pleased to say). A fine evening stroll with TBF and TJS on Ysgyryd Fawr (we even took a cheeky cold beer to drink on the top)


Another “local walk for local people” – this time Garway Hill where we reached the top, saw this nasty storm approaching and raced it back to the car. We won.


Late July brings the annual camping trip to Towyn Farm on the Llyn Peninsula. We packed in lots of walks and beach fun in a very mixed few days of weather. My abiding memory though was this game of Kubb which was huge fun with both adults and kids alike taking it far too seriously and larking about in equal measure. A happy afternoon



The big family trip of the year, a rail trip around some of Europe’s finest cities. An real change from our usual outdoor camping trips and it was real success. We all took took to the city life rather well you might say. One of my best ever holidays. A few photos that made me smile

One of the many fountains in Paris (we called this one the fountain of throttled fish)


A monster thunderstorm in Turin


My favourite seafront walk in Venice


The Colloseum in Rome – of course


Schloss Belvedere in Vienna (courtesy of an unplanned extra couple of hours from a very late train)


The thermal baths in Budapest – “like taking a bath in a wedding cake”


A stroll along the Spree river in Berlin on a sunny Sunday afternoon


And the railway bridge over the Rhine in Cologne



Back to earth with a bump. A few days after the heat and sun of Europe we were walking in the Black Mountains in driving rain and cold winds!


But there was still enough warm weather left for a round of the hills near the Talybont Reservoir in the Brecon Beacons



A walk with friends in the Roaches on the dreariest day of the year (when everywhere else was sunny – I’m not bitter)


More evidence of my new found cycling passion (probably too strong a word). A ride around the tracks of the New Forest while TJS took a look around Southampton University


And why settle for one trip to see major cities when you can do it twice. As a special treat for TJS 18th Birthday we spent a week in Barcelona. Probably my favourite city but despite all its famous sights, this little known hill and its view overlooking the city was my favourite spot



After sunshine comes the reality of winter. A couple of cold but beautiful days. One in the Black Mountains on the Sugar Loaf and Crug Mawr


And one of my favourite walks in the Black Mountain


A delayed birthday treat weekend for TBF saw us in Padstow for a couple of nice meals and walks along the Cornish coast and Dartmoor



And last into the proper depths of winter. The first snows saw me and TJS head into the highest peaks of the Black Mountains


The day after saw the biggest dump of snow I’ve seen in my own backyard for many a year. Walks around my village in deep snow under crisp blue skies were wonderful


The start of the Xmas holidays is marked with an annual get together of my University friends and their families. Always great fun but this year we could climb the hills in snow (rather than wet rain) and play at snowballs


Finally coming full circle with a return to the Canary Islands to spend Xmas in Lanzarote and Xmas Day sunning ourselves on the beach


Well I enjoyed looking through my photos, choosing a few and reliving a great year. Hope you enjoyed it too. All the best for 2018 🙂

Back with a Splash   14 comments

The enforced break is over and I’m back in action. Knee op went well and after a couple of weeks R&R I’m starting to head outdoors once more. A bike ride around the Forest of Dean and a short walk with TJS on a gloomy Friday evening proved I’m fit and able.

Time for some outdoor fun but there is more to life than boots and bikes. A long standing plan to kayak the river Wye having done many trips on French rivers. Having two cars makes this much easier and the Wye is very much the local. A route from Kerne Bridge via Symonds Yat and Monmouth to Redbrook was the plan


Its a fine a leisurely way to spend a day. A little too leisurely as it turns out



We passed by Welsh Bicknor YH and I rekindled memories of a stay there in my teens for a school history trip. We had to walk over the bridge in the photo below with all our stuff including food (which from memory consisted of many tins of beans). I was surprised to see the bridge in a very dangerous state and clearly closed. Its a very long walk in to the hostel at the moment


A little further on near Yat Rock we pulled up for lunch (and a Funster snooze)


Back on the river it began to dawn on me that it was quite a long way between Kerne Bridge and Redbrook. A very long way.



I’ve become used to the relatively swift flow of rivers like the Tarn and the Dordogne in France. The Wye is like a lake in comparison so rather than letting the river do the work, we had to paddle pretty much the whole way



Past the tourist haven of Symonds Yat and a short portage around the rapids. We should have just gone down on the water as they aren’t especially tough – a good deal easier than dragging a 3 person kayak 300 yards over slippery rocks


Onwards through the Wye gorge and under the bouncy bridge at the Biblins campsite


Its a very pretty stretch and very quiet. By this time however we were all feeling that we’d had enough of the river!


The stretch to Monmouth seemed to take an eternity but at least the crowds had gathered to cheer us through – well they might have been there for the rowing regatta but I’ll take whatever I can get


I was excited to pass under the bridge at Monmouth – seeing as I drive over a couple of times most days on my way to and from work.



Its a mightily impressive structure


At last we were on the home straight (after an involuntary dip trying to push the kayak over a shallow section)


Finally the bridge at Redbrook came into view and we were done


The pub on the opposite bank looked mighty tempting for a beer until I realised it was after 6pm and we’d been paddling for over 6 hours! Time to go home for tea 🙂


A long day, probably too long – lesson learned – but great fun and a surprisingly tough workout that my arms are only just recovering from.

Wye Valley

Turns out it was almost 16 miles – hell of long way to paddle but easy on the knees at least

Touring through the Tarn – Downstream   5 comments


Well if you visit the Gorges du Tarn you better spend a day floating down it. Rather than cycling back to the start, this time I took the easy way out and used the bus. Allowed a brief period to enjoy the views at La Malene



We’ve done the down stream stretch from La Malene many times so this time we gave the upstream section a go from St Enemie, itself a very fine medieval village where we had lunch a few days before


This stretch wasn’t as dramatic as the previous trips but it was a good deal quieter.


An early stop for lunch was what was needed – it takes a while to drop off, drive to the far end and bus back



It was warm and sunny but a little breezy, more than enough to deter the rather fickle Funsters from taking a dip. Water this cool and clear has to swum in my opinion so I had to take the waters alone


I let the Funsters loose in the kayak without my guidance and they went round in circles for a few minutes before I took over control and ensured we continued our journey in the right direction


A fine way to spend a sunny day, floating down a dramatic tree lined gorge, watching the world drift by



One of the highlights is the village of St Chely du Tarn, perched on cliffs above the river with its own Tufa-lined waterfall



Predictably I threatened to take the boat under the falls for a refreshing shower but thought better of it



The Cirque de Pougnadoires is the drama highlight of this stretch but less so than Les Detroits and Cirque des Baumes on the lower stretch. Not too shabby though


You have make time for plenty of stops to swim and soak up the sunshine. The Funsters are much better at that!




The Chateau La Caze stands guard over the final long stretch back to La Malene




A brief bit of fun trying to negotiate a very stony weir and a final swim at La Malene ended a superb day messing about in a boat

Vistas in the Verdon – Kayaking the Gorges   4 comments

Well, you lucky people now get two “kayaking on rivers in France” posts for the price of one. Aren’t you lucky

First off is one of the classic trips in the area into the western end of the Gorges du Verdon from where it enters the Lac de Sainte Croix


We’ve done this many times before although on a rented pedalo. This normally involves a long queue and significant cost and this was the primary driver for the purchase of the new kayak (and pedalos are a little un-cool)

I had an idea that we could attach an inflatable to the back and tow TJF along and she loved the idea. As you can see she was in her element!


Its a spectacular trip with the sheer walls of the gorge rising up over 1000 feet. In truth its less the Verdon river and more just an extension of the lake into the lower part of the gorge.


There is still a current though and paddling a kayak upstream towing a dead-weight person in a large rubber ring is hard work!



The views were as spectacular as ever and me and TJF enjoyed a swim halfway down where the cascade tumbles into the gorge



Its very well known, with several places to rent water craft and extremely popular. Quite brash and noisy but well worth a couple of hours on a hot sunny day


TBF took on the more challenging swim, half a mile back to the shore across the open water of the lake from the bridge



Our second trip a couple of days later was down at the opposite end of the Lac de Sainte Croix. The lake itself I’ve overlooked in the past but as you can see from the photo below (taken from the roadside) and from later posts to come, its a wonderful spot.


Our trip was along the Gorges de Baudinard from the Pont Sylvestre. The weather was stunning and the start point where the gorge opens out to a small lake and campsite was sublime


Its still the Verdon river but its southern outflow from the Lac de Sainte Croix. Whilst not as deep or awe inspiring as the main gorge, its no less wonderful.


After a short stretch of shallow gorge it opens out into medium sized lake (and a much easier place to launch than where we did)


We had TJF in tow once more


After passing through the lake its a long leisurely paddle back up to the dam at the end of the Lac de Sainte Croix. Being little known its much quieter and sedate than the main gorge. Just a handful of boats from the rental place at the campsite


There are numerous overhangs and caves to explore



As you reach the end the walls narrow dramatically and are dripping with lush foliage, terms and water. With water feeding in through the rocks and little sunlight the water is markedly colder than the lake



Being the only one in the party who can control a kayak properly, I did threaten to take everyone under the dripping water for an ice cold shower. An ice cold look from TBF made me think better of it


We returned back down the gorge to enjoy the views again


You can’t float down a river this stunning and not take a dip in its cool, clear water. Or should I say cold, clear water. Even out in the open the water here was sharply cold, verging on freezing. We both took turns taking a swim. Once used to the temperature the swim was superb. The water was crystal clear and refreshing and the outside temperature still near 30C so easy to warm up. TBF after an initial shock loved the swim and again took a long stretch down the gorge


Another big thank you to the “Wild Swimming” guide for finding us such a stunning and peaceful spot in the tourist mecca that is Provence. Well worth seeking out and one of my new favourite places

Down in the Dordogne – Kayaking in the Sun   6 comments

Of course the main draw of the Dordogne is the river itself and whilst the bridges, lanes and villages give you a feel for it, the best way to experience it is from on the water


We’re experienced at this now having done the classic Dordogne trip twice (once on a glorious day and once in the rain). We’ve always hired kayaks before but this year I wanted a little more freedom so we bought our own inflatable kayak.


This means you don’t have to pay out every time you want a trip and start and finish when and where you want. The downside is no free lift back to the start. It was left to yours truly to drive the car to far end and cycle 12 miles or so back to the start (in hot weather on a mainly busy road). Well worth it for extra freedom it gave us


With all the to and fro we didn’t get started till lunchtime and not long after paddling off we stopped for lunch on one of the many beaches for a picnic and a swim. The Dordogne is justly popular and busy with kayakers but the atmosphere is still fairly peaceful and relaxed and there are numerous places like this to stop, relax and swim in the cool clear waters


The photo above is our new toy, a Sevylor Alameda for anyone interested and very well it performed on several kayak outings. Despite being big enough to hold 3 people it only takes around 10-15 minutes to unbag and inflate. Its also pretty durable and survived numerous scrapes on beaches and rapids



The river is slow moving so the pace is nice and easy. It passes some wonderful and classic Dordogne sites. This is the village of La Roque Gageac





And in the distance is the Chateau de Castelnaud


We pulled over for short stop, swim and cold drink, for it was a very hot day


This is the impressive Beynac et Cazenac and its hilltop chateau




We pulled up near where I’d left the car and took another final evening swim before heading back to the campsite. Much better under a clear blue sky than in the pouring rain!

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