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  • Writer's pictureAnneka Jones

There is light at the end of Saddington Tunnel!

Updated: Mar 15, 2022

At a very leisurely Sunday morning hour, we met up at Kilby Bridge and were chauffeured to the launch point where the Grand Union crosses Gumley road, near Smeeton Westerby.

Having unloaded our boats and got ready to get on to the water, I was remarkably impressed at Clint’s chivalrous move of stepping waist deep into the canal to stabilise a boat (or at least it was totally styled out to appear that way!). Good start.

It was a downwind leisurely paddle past the reservoir feeder and over the Smeeton Aqueduct. The aqueduct very small and goes over farm access, with a footpath off the canal that takes you underneath it and across the fields to Saddington reservoir. There are often heron and kingfishers hanging around this rather lovely area.

From just before the Saddington Hill road bridge, you can see straight through the tunnel. We gathered not too far from the start and once we got the “good to go” from our biking spotter Robert, we were off, into the dark.

Our torches picked up the brick work, a board along the right-hand side and grab chains. There were also black boxes in places – were they bat boxes?

The tunnel is 800 metres long and you could tell where the road crossed over above us by the lime build-up on the bricks and water dripping down like rain onto us. For a while it felt like it was a never-ending tunnel but suddenly the hole of light grew fast, and we were out.

We carried on a little further to the Millennium Wood bridge at Fleckney, where we stopped for our picnic. Two narrowboats came and went, so we had got the timing just right to miss them in the tunnel.

The way back through was (mostly) done without torches, it was slightly disorientating, rather cold and interestingly, the motion of the boat felt stronger – either that or Clint was having a tap dance at the back!

After the tunnel return leg, Mary and Simon decided to walk along beside us – Simon did not like the tunnel but also really wants to do it again – so I go to paddle Mary’s lovely boat back to the start point, into the head wind. Best not to mention the walking on water manoeuvre that left me slightly wet footed in the boat swap!!

Our two youngest paddlers were amazing, and the very smallest, only her second time out, was standing up in the boat like a pro. Brilliant.

I love how friendly, kind, and supportive PaddlePlus are and the opportunities being a member has given me, that I could never otherwise have had. Thank you so much to the trip leaders, the organisers and committee members for the work they do to make it all possible.

Thanks again - Sarah

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