Lea at Hoddesden trip report

On Sunday 13th September eight Nomads led by Matt met by Dobb’s weir on the Lea for a circular tour down the Lea to Broxbourne and back via the Lea navigation. It was a beautiful sunny day so sun hats rather than helmets were the order of the day as we put in to the rather duckweedy pool below Dobbs weir and formed into two COVID friendly (or should that be unfriendly?) pods as per BCU guidance. Martyn achieved a tiny bit of side surfing on the weir’s miniscule wave, watched intently by two fishermen on whose fishing spot he was surfing.

Once assembled we headed off south under the road bridge and along the edge of the campsite where we were greeted by a member of the public exclaiming “How good is that!” as we paddled on the beautiful cool water in the sunshine. Very soon we turned off right down the narrow river Lea channel to avoid joining the navigation and things started to get interesting as the river twisted and turned and we had to avoid low tree branches and the occasional nettle. Still skirting the campsite for a couple of hundred yards we then turned left down a nearly hidden channel, actually the river’s main course and encountered our first reed bed of the day. Matt led pushing on straight through the reeds which parted pretty easily to reveal the beautiful course of the river with trees set back a little on either side, wild flowers lining the banks and variegated green water weed and plants beneath us.

Many and varied tree hazards were navigated including one large freshly fallen tree across the whole width which thankfully had branches dry and rotten enough to break to let us through. More glorious backwater followed past an (almost) wild campsite on the left with smoke rising from a campfire and various wildlife including many dragonflies, a heron and a kingfisher for those quick or lucky enough to see them.

Toward the end of the Lea backwater we passed under the London to Cambridge railway line and started to reenter civilisation as we approached the remains of the 16th century Broxbourne mill, now destroyed and our first portage and ice cream stop. Everyone managed the high bank get out admirably and we carried out boats a hundred yards or so to a patch of grass next to the mill car park and ice cream kiosk for a rest and a natter (still in our COVID pods).

Apparently the butterscotch ice cream was very good, partaken of by Martyn and Sarah only, but the rest of us were quite content talking about other upcoming trips and the club’s recent good polo session numbers. Suitably reinvigorated we put in to the Lea navigation and reformed our groups to head north back to the put in again. While waiting for the second pod to put in Simon was severely unimpressed by a pair of amateurs on a rented pedalo who asked him to get out of their way rather than steering round him – possibly something not in their competence!

Though more open than the river, the navigation on the way back was nevertheless very attractive and tree lined with very clear water and people enjoying themselves walking on the towpath. A couple of locks were portaged with the first being again a challenging high get out, but no one got wet. Unlike a woman in the group coming the other way who seal launched off the high lock side “helped” by her partner who flipped her completely upside down, to which she responded by gracefully rolling herself upright. Tony however declined this perfect opportunity to practice his roll (again).

More gentle but delightful paddling took us the mile or so back to our car park, where we commented on the attractiveness of this part of Hertfordshire/Essex unknown to nearly all of us.

Thanks to everyone for coming and to Mike for co-leading the trip.

Matt, trip leader.

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