On Sunday 14th April six Nomads led by Ian traveled up the A1 to the River Ivel put-in near Sandy in Bedfordshire. Eight had booked for the trip, but David Hack & Robert Crowley had to pull out at short notice.
Though the weather was bright with not too much breeze, it was a bit nippy for mid-April, so we decided to stick with the standard trip to Tempsford where the Ivel joins the Great Ouse rather than continuing another 3km to the Anchor Inn near Great Barford. Maybe next time we’ll have a supper run to the Anchor.
The four vehicle shuttle all went well until Annette, having driven back to the put-in with all the others, realised she still had her and Sarah’s dry clothes for the get out in the car with her! So Sarah and her would be left wet at the end of trip till Charlotte could drive them back. Oh well!
The sun was still shining and it was agreed safe to start the paddle with a pre-launch chat and a one by one slide into the River. As it was spring a warning about nesting swans was advised as one of the hazards to be most careful of. Everyone except Martin H had paddled the River before, so we were fairly confident with the 6 mile paddle ahead.
After less than half a mile we came to the top of the first sloping weir and surprisingly there was little water flowing over it at all! Strange considering the River level was not that low. We decided all to take the mill stream river right before the weir instead, as Ian was aware the vegetation would be beneficially low at this time of year with more flow going that way – and besides it was much more fun going down the old mill race weir at the end.
At the top of the mill run 15 minutes later a wooden log boom caught Annette and others trying to get into the main weir run, but all managed the run down even with the water at the bottom pushing us into a brick wall on the right.
Some of us played here for short time and then it was on for another longish 30 minute paddle to the big drop weir. All of us managed the drop here fine with Ian getting pictures of most with a throwline at the side of the weir just in case.
Just after the weir we noticed a pair of nesting swans on the reed bed river right. All paddled past single file as far river left as we could, but still the large male swan came in fast pursuit of back marker Charlotte. Although the swan tried the ‘I’m going to land on you if you don’t move’ scare tactic with Charlotte we were all safely past the Swans now.
Next up was the lunch stop at the concrete weir near the village of Blunham, where we all lunched together at the nice wooden picnic table and chatted about the world and it’s ills.
After lunch Ian suggested a game of ‘Circle Catch Paddle’ to warm everyone up after the stop. The sun was still shining faintly, but there was a chill in the air. So a game ensued with Ian calling out clockwise/anti-clockwise moves to catch each other’s paddles. This was quite fun and at least we warmed up a bit before going back on the water again.
Some of us played in the weir after checking the tow-back wasn’t too strong and had a nice play with a few 360 turns in the stopper. With footballs we found in the river in the mix we paddled on to the next feature, the river right island run past the old mansion with an interesting small grade one rapids. But oh no! – today it was completely blocked with wood and rubble preventing navigation and seemed collapsed now beyond all future paddling.
So we took the river left run as the only option, which was all the more interesting, because even though Ian had paddled the Ivel at least ten times, he’d never been this way. We came across a nice grade 1 rapid run near a very nice house and lawn with eddies either side, which was a great spot to practice novice ferry gliding across the flow.
After rejoining the main river again a few minutes further on, we started the long paddle to the final two old mill weirs near Tempsford. Again we all ran this fairly easily and some of us played crossing into the bottom weir flow. Some final on the water photos were taken by Ian and then we carried on to the Great Ouse river junction and the get out point.
We got out of the river next to a big field of dairy cows, where Martin E tested out the electric fence by giving himself small electric shocks for fun! We also met John the old farmer in the field with his dog, whom Ian had rung earlier as a courtesy to let him know we’d be crossing his field to get to our cars. John was very friendly, knowing we were coming, and explained Richard is now the farmer as he himself had retired but still lived locally.
We all got changed and Martin E & Ian agreed to take Annette & Sarah’s club boats back to the Aquadrome for them in Martin’s big VW Transporter van, because they needed to get back to Annette’s car quickly to change and get warm. As we drove safely home later, tiredness hit us hard after another enjoyable trip on the Ivel.
Many thanks to Ian for the trip report and photos and leading this trip.