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  • Writer's pictureDean Macken

Soar Valley Canoe Rally

April 1999

Written By Gary Newey And Jamie Oughton

Day 1:

On Saturday 19th April me, Jamie, Jes, Jessica, Anneka & Adam all met down the LOPC at 10 o’clock in the morning to set off on the rally. When I arrived, there seemed to be hundreds of open canoes on trailers and spread about the car park. I then met up with Jamie and we sorted out our open canoe for the weekend. While I was doing that I saw an inflatable canoe drift down which had just enough room for a small child and an adult.

When we eventually left the Centre we started making our way downstream towards Birstall. When we arrived at Birstall weir everyone chickened out except for me and Jamie. At the bottom we had to bail out our canoe as we had filled it with water.

When we got to Thurmaston we decided to portage the weir as it was too shallow and we were using Centre boats too. After that we headed down the backwater instead of the navigation as we thought it would be slightly quicker but in the end it wasn’t. First we got our boat stuck under a bridge, second, Anneka got her boat stuck on a weir so I kindly got out to help her off it and I got stranded there until Jamie arrived with the canoe and then it filled with water so that meant more bailing out! And last but not least we were chased along the bank by two dogs until Adam splashed them.

We then all went down Cossington weir fine and then headed for Sileby Mill. When we got there, we went down the biggest weir which Anneka chickened out on so she walked around leaving Adam to go down on his own. We all dropped perfectly down the weir, but Adam tried to go down on the corner which went wrong and he got stuck. We then headed on to Mountsorrel for lunch.

After lunch we had to cross a road with the canoes as there was nowhere else suitable to launch. After about another 30 minutes, we found a place at the side of the river to get an ice-cream. We then headed towards Barrow and portaged a lock there as the weir was too shallow at the bottom. We had to cross a road with the canoes at Barrow as well and before we got on the water, Jamie attempted to nick Adam’s paddle, but he caught him and through him in the river.

We got to a junction which separated the navigation and the river. There was a long steep weir there which we had no choice to go around because if we went down the navigation, it would bring us out about five miles after the camp site. While portaging the weir, we had to drop our canoes into the river and climb down a 20ft ladder to get in our boats. From there on we were chased by Adam all the way to Coates Mill (the campsite) for successfully stealing his paddle.

At about 8:00pm, Keith Hampton started the BBQ, so we pitched our tents while our food was being cooked and then we sat down to eat. After that me, Anneka, Jamie and Marie went to the pub with the Soar Valley crew and in the end John, Adam and Keith joined us. We then went with Jimbob, Keith, Matt Bindley to go and pull moonies in front of the pub security cameras in the car park so everybody could see. John tried to join us but Ryan wouldn’t let John pull his trousers down. After that Jamie and Marie got sent to bed but me and Anneka escaped from the adults and went for a walk around the local village with Jimbob and Sam and we didn’t get back until about 3:00am, me and Anneka went to back to our tents while Jimbob and Sam went back to the pub.

Day 2:

We woke up with the warm sun on us, but it was very windy. We had a new member of our crew because Marie Liquorish had joined us. When we decided to get on the water for some reason we had decided to seal launch, so we pulled the boat up and over this 8-metre bank and launched. When we hit the water we just completely filled up the boat, then Marie decided to look over the edge of the boat and we capsized. The water was pretty fast so the upturned boat started to float down-stream. Me and Gary jumped on to the boat to try and bring it back up since nobody else was on the water yet. Marie stood in a shallow part of the river just watching us, and the boat float down the river. Soon we found a shallow part and emptied the boat. This made us quite cold so we ended up wearing cags for the rest of the day.

We stopped somewhere near Normanton for crisps because we were all hungry, then we continued paddling. At Zouch there was a fork in the river so we went the way which we thought was the right way and it was the wrong way. Adam, Ryan and Anneka went the other way and the other group followed us, we had actually gone down some back water which was shallow and weedy, we re-joined the canal where Adam had been waiting for some time.

We had lunch at a pub called the Otter, just outside of Kegworth, which had a lot of canoes parked outside so I think the owners are getting sick of canoeists because we were occupying all the outside seats. Soon afterwards we came to a big steep weir that had some nasty rocks at the bottom, so we decided to attach a throw line to the open boats and launch them down the weir to Jes who was waiting at the bottom to catch the boats to lift them over the rocks. Adam tied the throw line to the end of a boat and pushed it slowly down the weir but... Adam had not tied the knot very well and when he tried to slow the boat down the line just came loose and the canoe went crashing into the rocks at the bottom making Jes jump out the way of the speeding boat. If you look on one of the centres red open boats you will now find a very big dent on the bow.

A long while later we came to another part of the river that divided so all of us went down the back water. After a small smooth weir we shot down trying to make the best of this little bit of moving water and near the end we came across this power station that no matter how far we paddled just seemed to stay right next to us for about 5-miles, all the way to Trent Lock. We were going to capsize over the finishing line but we decided not to because there were more opens behind us and we did not want to slow everything down so we decided not to.

We all had a great weekend and can’t wait to do it again next year.

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