Cold Turkey, River Derwent - December 2019

Wednesday, 1st January 2020

Darley Dale Bridge to Artists Corner

Written by Matt Dyer


For me my Cold Turkey trip started several weeks ago, writing lists of equipment and clothing I would need to complete my first moving water paddle. Having a few presents from Santa, I laid them all out and checked through them again. After a sleepless night 'D Day’ had arrived. I headed over to LOPC with a quick stop off for breakfast at those famous arches on the way.

After a bit of social chit chat in the car park, there was a flurry of activity to get the kit loaded onto the vans and head off. As I was boarding the van I was still questioning if I had enough stuff, too late now so off we go. With each mile that passed the anticipation grew. The booking form said it was suitable for all, but I had watched the footage of the recent River Tees Tour with torrents of fast flowing water - what would the Derwent be like after the recent high levels?

When we arrived at Darley Bridge the kit was unloaded and we had an excellent safety briefing from Fay, which I listened to intently as the nerves were still racing. I was teamed up with Kyle to guide me through and we took to the water.

Paddling down the Derwent the water was steady, which gave time for Kyle to teach me to eddy out and paddle back in before we met the slightly faster moving water further down.

During this gentler paddle, it gave us the chance to look at the aftermath of the recent flooding. There were several comments that the farmer would have problems retrieving bales from the embankment, until we came across a hay bale stuck in a tree 10 foot above the water level - the amazing power of mother nature. There was also hay strands hanging off the branches of the trees, exactly like the 1957 April Fool’s day hoax of spaghetti growing on trees.

As we turned the corner, we came across the first bridge which we all had to stop at, as at first glance it was blocked high with debris with no obvious way through. The leaders and coaches checked it out and defined a safe route for us. When it was my turn, I tried strong strokes through the S-turn of the debris and somehow managed to get turned around and come out backwards, then I continued to fumble my way to a safe eddy point.

After everyone had come through, it was time to peel-out and progress further. I watched those before me head across the eddy line, make their turn and carry on. I paddled out into the flow of water and set myself up for the turn, then BANG I capsized. Underneath the water I thought I would try for a roll, thrust my paddle beneath me to get into position and just hit the shallow river bed. Then, forgetting the part of the spray deck test of putting your arms up for T rescue, I just bailed. The coaches went into a well-rehearsed exercise of plucking the idiot from the water. I got to the side and thought, actually, that wasn't too bad, the water wasn't as cold as I thought it would be, and all my new equipment had worked as it should.

After everyone had given me 5 minutes to compose myself I got back in my boat and headed further down-stream. The river had changed to slightly more bumpier rapids which allowed me to learn the arts of ferrying and surfing. Whilst concentrating on these techniques I managed to miss Kyles valiant capsize in order to avoid one of his fellow paddlers.

We reached Artists Corner in no time, where a few carried on a couple of hundred yards through the slalom section and the end of the trip. Not wishing to push my luck any further, I opted to watch from the bank, although, having now seen it, I should have just completed the last section, it wasn't too bad.

I would like to thank all that attended the Cold Turkey paddle and making my first moving water experience so great. Coaches, seniors, juniors, all helped in different ways, even if it was just watching your styles and techniques from a distance. It has given me a lot to work on, with a few lessons learned:

1. You don't need 3 changes of clothes when you have a dry suit.
2. If you do put your lunch in the boat, make sure it's in a watertight bag.
3. Listen to your coach, watch your coach, then listen again.
4. If you happen to be floating upside down in your kayak, put your arms up to be rescued (location dependant).
5. Take one step out of your comfort zone - you might enjoy it, you will always remember it.

Hope you had a great Christmas and happy new year to all at PaddlePlus.

Matt Dyer

Posted in Coaching, Touring - Canoe & Kayak, Trip Reports, White water - Canoe & Kayak on Jan 01, 2020