On Sunday 23rd of February seven Nomads led by Matt converged on the Grand Union canal at the Grove in Watford to paddle the canal and river Gade back to the aquadrome. The scheduled trip to the Abbey Stream had been cancelled due to very high water in the Thames and all other local rivers were in flood, so the plan was to take advantage of the high water to explore the Gade through Cassiobury Park, which is usually too low to paddle.
Despite a poor weather forecast, we set off in pleasant sunshine with only a moderate and slightly gusty wind portaging the first two locks past the golf course and into the park. The turn off into the river Gade was a little overgrown and Matt scouted out the choice of possible weirs to run before settling on the left hand slipway. We kept river right to avoid the tree below and all managed the drop without incident.
The next obstacle was a big tree down across the river, which we’d fought and cut our way through the last time we paddled this way and this time it was much more straightforward following our previously blazed trail. A short narrow section with more low branches brought us out into the pool below the weirs and above the main Cassiobury Park footbridge, where we stopped for a photo opportunity and to check out the weirs from below.
We portaged the footbridge to rejoin the Gade for the rest of it’s course through the park and meandered on a very full river past the childrens play area to the first weir. Despite them looking very narrow, we all managed to pass through the iron hoops on the weir holding our paddles in line and Ian and Matt played a little in the stopper before moving on.
A brief but dark and heavy rain shower wetted us as we headed downstream through the reeds to the second weir, where the water was so high we could shoot it anywhere across its width. The rest of the run through the park was uneventful but pretty and an easy paddle, not the normal scrape, till we got to Cassio farm bridge, which was too low to limbo – or so we thought. After having his leg pulled about rolling under it, Ian decided to try a skulling support stroke to fit his boat under sideways, but halfway through discovered his upper blade fouled the bridge, so he did properly capsize and roll up the other side. Well done!
Lunch was now on the agenda and we limboed again under Rickmansworth Road and found a pleasant grassy lawn near Croxley business park to stop on. Before eating Ian very conscientiously washed his hands with alcohol rub so he wouldn’t pick up any germs from the river. A shame he didn’t think of this ten minutes earlier when he was rolling in it! The sun came out properly to warm us up as we ate our sandwiches, chatted and played a little football.
Time was getting on now so we followed the Gade back to the Grand Union canal for a bit of a slog against the headwind back towards Rickmansworth. The last portage at Batchworth lock was a relief, as it meant we were on the home stretch and all of felt we’d had a good paddle by the time we arrived back at the clubhouse.
Thank you everyone who came for a very enjoyable paddle and to the high water for making this seldom paddled section easy and very pleasant. Thanks to Ian for the photos.
Matt, trip leader