On Sunday 10th of November nine Nomads led by Matt, assisted by Ian and Martin and including Elisabeth and Debbie on their first trip with the club drove to the bottom of Cassiobury park in Watford to explore the river Gade on it’s way to the aquadrome. The weather forecast for drizzle proved wrong and it was nice and sunny and not too cold as we put onto the Gade after the safety briefing.
We’d barely passed under the A412 before encountering the first of many argumentative trees that day, which yielded to Ian’s manual pruning to let us pass. As we passed along the side of Croxley business park we met a number of central European looking fishermen who greeted us politely, evidently keen to pull something out of the Gade and eat it. Rather them than us!
A short stretch of canal past a narrow boat ingeniously crafted out of a Volkswagen Sharan people carrier led us to the entrance to the next branch of the Gade, obstructed for now by various bits of wood and tree stumps, which we loosened and removed to gain entry. Facing us now was a shallow W shaped weir leading to a dual tunnel under Byewaters, which we were forced to negotiate by the new high security fence surrounding the business park. After a brief inspection we decided to climb down with our boats, wade across 2 inches of water and launch from the dry slipway on the opposite side. A little unconventional but effective.
We regrouped on the far side of the tunnel in a fast flow which was to carry us past the business park with a tree hazard half way down which was removed by Matt with a saw to allow everyone to pass with various degrees of elegance. Once past the tree it was plain paddling round the business park, except for Martin who was almost decapitated by a branch he chose to pull that brought half a tree down. The final stretch leaving the business park took us to the sharp left hand bend and limbo poles at the entrance to Croxley Moor, where another tree hazard and brambles needed sawing to allow us to pass safely. with the weir portaging and hazard negotiation we were ready to take a breather in the sun on Croxley Moor and eat our sandwiches.
Suitably refreshed and having, as usual, debated the relative merits of kayaking gear, everyone shot the next sloping weir with no problem at all and Matt, Ian and Martin had a little play in the stopper before carrying on across Croxley Moor. Bullrushes were out in the reed beds on the Moor and despite the previous days rain there was still some scraping and walking on a short shallow section.
At the end of the Moor the Metropolitan Line railway bridge’s river wide steel cow fence was the next hazard, which everyone managed to climb across and end up back in their boat with the exception of Martin in his playboat, who somehow managed to duck under it without even getting his head wet. Respect! The following section down to the Grand Union canal was the slowest of the trip with two enforced portages around various fallen trees and even our final exit to the canal was blocked by a newly fallen tree requiring yet more sawing.
Once out on the canal, later than planned, we enjoyed an unobstructed paddle in the fading sunshine back to Batchworth lock and everyone took the chute by the side of the lock with no swimmers or problems apart from Annette’s unwanted embrace from a bramble. Well done to everyone for a trip with no swimmers and especially Elisabeth and Debbie who survived their first club trip.
Thanks to Martin for his photos.