On Sunday 11th of November six Nomads, one on his first trip with the club set off from the western end of Cassiobury park in Watford to explore the backwaters of the Gade before joining the Grand Union canal to continue back to the aquadrome. After a quick risk assessment during which nearly everyone found a cut on their hand and eagerly applied sticking plasters after hearing of the risks of Weil’s disease, we put in to the newly rain filled Gade by the Met line bridge and set off.
The atmosphere of the trip was set quite soon by the narrow river, crowding trees, weak winter light and the many branches to be avoided, snapped or sawn – a cross between Apocalypse Now and The African Queen – but the enthusiasm of the group was undimmed. As we continued round Croxley business park, Dave was the first swimmer, unluckily hitting a fallen tree at the wrong angle. Thankfully he was suitably dressed with a wet suit and was soon warm and dryish back in his boat. Round the corner we discovered the first of many really low bridges and warmed up our limbo skills, to be much used that day, admonished by Simon to take things slowly and keep calm, which we did.
After about half a mile we and the river joined the canal, avoiding nesting swans, for a short stretch till we reached the low weir and tunnel where the Gade separated again. With a little acrobatics we managed to climb down the weir with our boats and walk carefully across the slipway to the further bridge tunnel allowing us to pass under the road without any drama. Once there the trees, or rather bushes in the river continued and Tony was the next to swim because of passing a little too close to one in the fast flowing stream. A good lesson was learned and we had no more swimmers!
Carrying on round the (out of sight) housing estate in the direction of Croxley Moor the river had fewer obstructions than of late and we enjoyed a scenic paddle chasing a kingfisher along. A little excitement followed limboing a couple of pipes before we emerged onto Croxley Moor into sunshine for our lunch, chat and photo stop just above the sloping weir.
Suitably refreshed by lunch everyone shot the weir cleanly after another limbo with quite a bit of frantic rocking on the lip before sliding down. The river then followed across the moor past a friendly angler, some dog walkers, shallows and another limbo before paralleling some reed beds on the right, where we commented how surprising it was to find such natural beauty just a stone’s throw from the familiar canal.
Access under the Met line bridge was restricted by a new bolted on double barrier across the full width of the river, which we managed to pass variously underneath or between the bars. From then on it was truly African Queen territory, continually pushing through vegetation, round trees and portaging for the quarter mile back to the canal.
Back on familiar territory we followed the waning sunshine down to Batchworth lock, where all except Matt and Tyler shot the well running slipway down the side of the Water Board before meeting up again by Tesco. Just a short haul then back to the new take out for the Nomad clubhouse and dry clothes. From start to finish we’d taken three and a half hours, a bit more than expected, but had all enjoyed a pleasant day out exploring a river new to all but Matt.
Well done to everyone, especially Tyler for paddling so far and so well without any problems and showing the adults how not to swim.
Thanks to Simon for the photograph and the practical and moral support.