White Water Training, River Derwent, Matlock
Written by Clive Edwards
The day started chilly but with enough blue sky to make a pair of sailor’s trousers.
I arrived at LOPC about 8.20am to find it already bustling with kayaks and kit. Dean and Co arrived shortly afterwards - trailer hitched, kayaks loaded and off we set (promptly!!).
Out of Leicester on the Loughborough Road, into the first garage for fuel? No. Out of the garage, through Birstall to the next garage. Drove around said garage scattering the Birstall motorcycle stunt team who were practicing on the car park, back into the forecourt to put some air in the trailer tyres. Mystery solved.
We made good time to Matlock but the barrier prevented access to the Artists Corner car park. A bit of faffing as the self-drivers loaded gear back onto/into their own cars and we set off to the new launch point. This worked out for the best as I think the groups would have been on top of each other if we had launched there. A quick off load and a relatively short wait whilst cars were taken back to the finish.
A TYPED list of set groups was produced and we got onto the water. My group had Lynne, Elliott, Jamie, Alex and myself as paddlers with Anton, Mitchell, Richard and Michael as leaders. I was feeling a bit tense at this point wondering about what was to come. Richard got the group together and talked about keeping centred in the kayak. Anton led us on some warm-up paddling. I was thinking ‘Look, look, look’.
We set off down river until we came to a clear feature that hadn’t been bagged by one of the other groups. We had a demonstration of ferry gliding. I was still feeling stiff and anxious, putting too much nervous energy into my paddling. Gradually I relaxed, freeing my hips for edging and looking where I wanted to go. We moved onto ‘S’ turns, again with demonstrations. By now the group had got into the swing of moving around in a continuous circle of activity.
We travelled down to the next feature, eddying in and out as we went. Here again we practiced ferrying and ‘S’ turns but also surfing on a wave. This required some power-paddling up stream to drop back into the wave. Once in it you could sit there, applying some edge and a few paddle strokes. Good fun but a lot of puffing for me to get up stream.
Again we moved through features downstream, until we came to the car park access point at Artists Corner. More ferry gliding, ‘S’ turns but also surfing across the feature. Really into things now, knowing that my body was relaxed. We stopped for lunch and a rest here before moving down to the pole section at Matlock Bath.
Here we found ‘The Rock’ which added an interesting feature to paddling. By now we were all trying out our skills at will, with some guidance, happy in what we were doing. A chance to sit in an eddy and watch before moving out for more fun. I’m not sure if it was Anton or Mitchell who first paddled up stream to boof ‘The Rock’. That started something new, going up stream and paddling hard to come down over ‘The Rock’. I tried once but getting in and out of the kayak is more trouble than its worth. Missed ‘The Rock’ anyway. Played around for some time here before we were joined by another group where the danger of ‘The Rock’ became apparent.
Following a capsize and swim, the paddle became stuck below water against ‘The Rock’ and despite best efforts, it required a line to be attached to pull it out.
After this we dropped down to the egress point and got off the water. Well done to Dean who had managed to park the bus and trailer just across the road, clearly camouflaged as a bus and trailer! This meant that some poor old man, suffering from post-paddling dementia, and having escaped the attention of his carers, wandered off in the direction of Artists Corner, carrying his kayak for miles. Luckily some kind people gave him a cup of tea and a biscuit, asked him his name and where he lived and managed to re-unite him with friends.
I have asked myself what did I get out of the day? With respect to paddling moving water, what I wanted to be able to do was come down The Derwent without stupid capsizes and paddling with meaning, confidence and making the basic moves of ferrying and eddying in and out. Thanks to everyone involved, I think I achieved my aims, and more, with a vast increase in confidence.
Thanks to everyone in my group, both paddlers and leaders for the effort and time. What I would say to anyone wanting to move to white water is watch, listen, think and practice (practice, practice, practice) and of course "nipples and nose" (if you don’t understand this ask Mitchell).
On the way home we stopped off at a pub for drinks and food, sitting in the warm evening sunshine. Dean decided to ignore the almost empty car park so that he could demonstrate his reversing skills, which were excellent.
Thanks to all who organised and took part in a more than successful day.