I don’t know anything about river management. However it is always frustrating how difficult it is to paddle for any distance on my local river; the Great Ouse.
I suppose packrafting isn’t high on the list of the Environment Agency’s considerations but when there isn’t a lock with high moorings there are barrage balloons across the water. It seems almost impossible to go any distance along this river.
It is also fair to say that the water flows so slowly along the Great Ouse that even the gargantuan uninterrupted stretch of 7 kilometres I managed this Sunday (see map below) took a while.
White water in Cambridgeshire can only be found where there is organic scum (at least I assume it’s organic) so around these parts we settle for the sedate and enjoy the peace and stillness of the Sunday morning river. This kind of tranquility is just what we need as we head into the hectic Christmas period. Yes, it’s a time for celebrating, eating too much and general revelry but it is also a good time to remember that the excesses of the festive season can (and probably should) be tempered by the sort of tranquility that is actually quite easily found in nature.
I didn’t run into any other waterborne folk, as you might expect at this time of year, which adds its own kind of charm. And what I lacked in speed I made up for in birdlife; six geese, five swans, four herons, three kingfishers, two cormorants and a partridge in a … well, maybe not that last one.
The mobile aspect of the packraft makes it into such an enjoyable toy. My Alpacka Denali (with paddles and spraydeck) fits into a 20 litre dry bag, so the whole expedition feels much less of an effort than hulking a canoe might be, especially when Mrs ArmchairMountaineer is on hand to drop me off.
Secondly, and perhaps most importantly on the Great Ouse (btw, I really think it should be called the Adequate Ouse), it means you can get out and walk home when you are:
a) fed up of portage
b) tired because there is no current
c) frustrated because you are actually travelling upstream thanks to the mild breeze
d) in need of a beer
I didn’t look at the time but I suppose I paddled for a couple of hours, occasionally upping my stroke to try to stay ahead of a couple of grannies walking the dog on the footpath.
Apart from the pleasure of watching the light dance around on the water, the sun ducking behind fat grey clouds and occasionally blinding me through dark skeletal frames of trees the best thing about a river on a Sunday morning is the relative peace and quiet. I say relative because it is hard to get away from the sounds of man and his machines, whether cars or trains in the case of this paddle.
Depending on what happens to my knee in the new year (another appointment at the hospital next week) I may be spending a lot more time in the Alpacka than on my feet in the future. I suppose it won’t be all bad.