Canoe trips have become pretty much annual lately and this summer I only got one chance to take a day out of my schedule to paddle on the Wye. Kokila came too, seeing as we now have 2 kiwi kayaks. I chose a stretch of river that's scenic and fun with lots of shingle beaches where we could take a rest - Glasbury to Hay. Shuttling was simple as the start and end are only 4 miles apart by B road and I was able to stash our folding bike in Hay at the riverside car park just downstream of the bridge - well secured with 3 locks! After that we drove up to Glasbury and found one of the last spaces in the car park where canoeists were starting to gather to take the same run down river as us. Together we managed to drag everything over the grass pretty easily and launch from the gravel bank on to a gentle section of shallow river passing under the bridge. Almost straight away we hit the first of many easy rapids, usually it was obvious which way to follow them but occasionally we had to take last minute detours from the main channel to avoid rocks.
When I came up here 2 summers ago my Aussie friend Prachar was tipped out on a seemingly innoccuous mini-rapid thanks to a fallen tree just out of sight below the surface so I was aware that summer water levels made these riffles a little more intersting than the faster, deeper water you get in Spring and Autumn. Usually you get to see some great wildlife up here - jumping trout, herons, quite often kingfishers, but today the animals were being a bit shy apart from the many swans and ducks - also some amazing dragonflies. The views of the mountains from here are spectacular too, so it's a great stretch for a lazy paddle on a warm summer day. We drifted down at an easy pace, enjoying the flat stretches and the grade zero rapids, until one of those underwater rocks tipped Kokila out and left her midstream with a paddle but no kayak! She recovered well and when I offered to tow her dowstream she decided to make her own way to the bank so I could chase the upturned kayak and stop it drifing out of sight. Although she was waist deep and in some faster water, Kokila got herself over to the bank and I towed and nudged her kayak over to the same bit of gravel so we could empty out the boat and recover with our thermos mugs of tea. It wasn't hot after being chilled in the river but it did the trick!
Back in the boats we carried on down, a bit more wary of hidden objects, and found a lovely beachy section for lunch. As other groups passed us we spotted quite a few who had been in so that made us feel better! We only saw one other boat tip over but most groups had at least one boat where you could see there had been an impromptu swim. Last obstacle of the day was Boatside Weir, which had a clear channel of faster water on the right hand side - we took that and it was easy going, but those who tried to shoot it mid stream behind us ended up aground and having to pull their boats back into the deeper water to follow us down. At Hay we took the extreme right arch of the bridge and this proved the best option - the second arch saw quite a few run aground in the shallows. After landing we carried the boats up to the carpark and I set off on my ride back to Glasbury - not too much traffic on my side of the river as the A40 runs on the other side so it was easy and even on Carmen the foldy I was there in around 20 minutes. Back in Hay with the car I loaded the boats and then we enjoyed the unique sheeps milk ice cream from Shepherds at a terrace on the edge of the old cheesemarket building. Hay is a great place to chill, especially after a paddle (or a swim). There were all sorts of people around - hikers and canoeists of course but also a guy in fabulous vintage renault - check this out next to our canoe-laden car.
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