After only kayaking once before when I was at school I was keen to try paddling again and what better way then to try a river trip on the Ouse in Sussex?
The Trip: The weather started out well for early March and it wasn’t too cold…we even had some blue sky and sunshine!
Starting at Barcombe Mills we paddled as a group of 6 with the very capable Tom Hatt instructing us. As there were a few beginners in the group we took our time initially learning to manoeuvre the kayak, which resulted in a few of us ‘beginners’ going round in circles and crashing into each other repeatedly until we warmed up and got to grips with handling a kayak. This resulted in a lot of laughs, fun and thankfully no capsizing…although there were definitely a few near misses and wobbly moments!
After learning how to use the paddles effectively to be able to move forward, turn, brake and paddle backwards we started paddling further up the river. The trip was very scenic and we took in the great outdoors including spotting a group of Canadian geese and some friendly local fishermen. After a limbo under a low bridge and dodging a few trees we made it to the Anchor Inn and the sluice which marked our halfway point on our trip to Isfield Weir. It was time to get out and carry the kayaks a short distance before launching again. 2 of our group decided to stay at the Anchor to rest up and enjoy a drink by the log fire whilst 4 of us carried on to the next section of the route.
Due to recent flooding the water levels were high and we paddled against a current to get to the Weir. This was a challenge and a great learning opportunity which allowed me to put my newly learnt skills to the test. Tom stopped us occasionally along the river to talk through and demonstrate certain kayaking techniques as well as chatting about different aspects of the river. Normally, without the floods, the river didn’t have that much flow, but we all really enjoyed the challenge and found it a rewarding experience. It felt great to eventually get to the Weir and take some time out to enjoy the view, pat ourselves on the back, have a quick power snack and take a few snaps before heading back.
The way back was great fun and was less about the power (because we paddled with the current) and more about practicing navigating and movement. We made it back to the Anchor in record time and picked up the rest of the group before the last leg of our journey back to Barcombe. We took a slightly different route back and paddled a narrower section of the river with a few obstacles to navigate and a very small rapid. Was great fun!
We paddled at a slower pace back and enjoyed a leisurely time chatting and taking in the lovely surroundings. It was great to see how everybody really improved and gained confidence in such a short space of time.
Thoughts: Overall the trip was brilliant! I will definitely be going kayaking again. The River Ouse was great to paddle on and provided some great scenery and a few challenges here and there. It really felt like and adventure and it was great fun paddling as a group and meeting some lovely people. Would recommend it to everyone!
By Clare Hulme