Hertford Lea trip report

On 11th March 7 Nomads including Sam on his first trip with the club traveled to Hertford to explore the river Lea led by Peter Scott, himself a former member of Herts canoe club. It started out sunny and warm as we launched in front of the impressive Herts canoe club clubhouse and headed downriver. Not far below we found the first two step weir, where we stayed a while practicing ferry glides and approaching the stopper under Peter’s expert tutelage. No one was brave enough to go right in the stopper though, which looked a bit too munchy.

We then attempted to turn left up the river Bean, but soon encountered a fisherman and decided not to continue. Instead we carried on down the Lea through country opening out into fields for about a mile to the junction with the Lea navigation and a handful of tastefully rebuilt and expensive looking executive homes.

Turning up the Lea navigation, the canalised river back toward Hertford, we soon encountered our first portage at the lock marking the outskirts of town. Continuing upstream into Hertford we bumped into half a dozen Herts club canoeists above their clubhouse weir, exchanging greetings and tips. Starting to think of lunch now we continued into the basin in the centre of Hertford looking for a suitable place to stop only to see a very large rat on the bank making off with a big piece of bread, making us feel even more hungry.

Passing under the bridge we paused to inspect Castle weir, the biggest in town from below while Peter portaged above it and demonstrated to all how to run it and turn sharply to stay in the first pool using bow rudder. Making a mental note of the right technique we backtracked to portage onto the island by the weir and eat lunch in a slight drizzle, feeling a little colder.

Fane looking well recovered from his shoulder injury gave Castle weir a nonchalant final inspection and planned his line in anticipation of shooting it on the way back.

Suitably reinvigorated by the lunch, we put back in to the Lea in the nearby park and practiced our bow rudders before heading upstream in search of the ‘excellent play wave’ on Egyptian weir ‘about 20 minutes upstream’, as promised by the guys from Herts canoe club.

Following upstream under a couple of low bridges the Lea soon emerged into beautiful pastures through which we battled an increasing current and low trees till we met a solitary and grudgingly friendly fisherman who confirmed the left fork went to the weir. The countryside remained attractive and the current inexorably increased as we pushed upstream looking for the weir. A mysterious tall white bird on the bank turned out not to be an egret but a species of duck that stood on tiptoe and ran away from our approach. Finally after a long slog the water started to get foamy and we knew the weir couldn’t be far. Keen to find the promised play wave we eventually turned a corner to disappointedly find a 5 foot vertical weir in water fast flowing, but too shallow to paddle up and no sign of a wave. We’d been tricked!

Containing our disappointment and wondering if we’d really had a joke played on us, we let the current carry us back down past a field of stampeding horses and the upright duck toward the main arm of the river and Hertford town. Despite the lack of a play wave it had been an enjoyable and picturesque extension to the usual itinerary.

On reentering Hertford town we got a frontal view of the disappointingly small castle, looking as if it had been built quite recently by Barratt, before coming to Castle weir. The inspections already done, Matt dived straight down Castle weir followed by most of the group including Sam who all ran it really well. Sadly, Fane didn’t manage to get the icing on the cake, his bow rudder breakout this time round. Sarah accompanied by Peter took the easier left hand route¬† (video to follow) to meet us and continue downstream the half mile to the get out.

It was a lovely day exploring picturesque Hertford with the added bonus of being able to practice in some moving water. Thank you very much to Peter for organising and leading the trip.

Matt, Trips Officer