- Naomi Mitchell
Evans Loop to Bitsy’s The Grand Union Canal & River Soar
Updated: Jun 8, 2022
I was a little nervous to set out on the first trip I have organised, but all of the friendly faces gathered at LOPC definitely helped me to feel at ease. Neil had arranged for some sunny weather, so spirits were high and after a short safety briefing, we set off as a group of 17.
We paddled up the canal and through the first of the locks – also a first for several of the paddlers who have never experienced this before. I learned that the second lock on this paddle is called Lime Kiln (thanks to Clive for educating me). Once we had navigated this one, we encountered another new experience for most – paddling through ice! It was very satisfying to hear the crunch of the boats and paddles but luckily it was just a short stretch.
Powered on by the promise of cake, we quickly made it to Frog Island where the group stopped for lunch and optional cake and hot drinks from Bitsy’s Emporium (of Awesome). We were pleased to see that there was no long queue on this occasion, so we were able to get served without a hitch. We were also met by a group of PaddlePlus members who had taken the ‘plus’ options to get to the cafe – by foot, bike, skateboard, and pram! This included PaddlePlus’ youngest member, baby Frances, and canine members Carlos, Rex and Whistler.
Fuelled by cake and coffee, we set off again and quickly arrived at Evans weir. A number of canoes and kayaks took the portage around this one, while the rest of us dropped down the weir. Neil then demonstrated the kayak slide at the end of the portage – and Azhar also bravely took up the challenge. Which he did in spectacular style but remaining safe and dry in his boat!
With everyone back on the water we headed towards our second weir at Abbey Park and with no drama, embarked on the final stretch of our journey.
At the final weir, Swans Nest, all of our paddlers put their helmets on and committed to going down the weir. With all kayaks safely down, Sean gave instructions to the final two canoes. When they got a bit stuck at the top, he rushed to their aid to help them over... and over they went! With some swift rescue assistance from Neil and Sean for the two now upside down canoes, everyone was back in their boats – albeit a little soggier than they had probably planned when we set out in the morning!
We were soon back at LOPC where everyone could get into their dry clothes and warm up. Thanks to everyone helping, all of the boats and equipment were quickly put away.
I may have been worried about organising the trip, but I need not have been – everything came together easily, and we had a great day on the water. For some of the group this was their first time paddling this trip and sections of the river, and I hope that they all had an enjoyable time, as I certainly did.
A huge thank you to Neil and Sean for the hard work they put in... especially operating the locks, rescuing boats and just being there to support me.