Wednesday, 2 October 2013
The Arun valley is fabulously beautiful, partly because the river floods every springwhich deters developers but also because it is almost all the personal property of the Duke of Norfolk, who lives in Arundel Castle.
The only defect is that every year the reeds grow from the banks towards the centre, almost meeting in the middle in the upper reaches.
Last time I rowed from Pullborough to Pallingham, where further progress on the old Wey and Arun Canal is impossible, it was spring and the reeds had died back over the winter leaving a relatively free channel. And I was in a tiny boat, the single-sheet mini-punt Simbo.
Grum of Port-na-Storm had no trouble in his kayak. And Chris Waite, boat designer supreme, could stand up in Octavia and paddle - though he still had trouble when the channel narrowed to under a yard or so.
In the really narrow stretches, both of us turned round and went in reverse, meaning of course that we were facing the right way and could see where we were going.
It was hard going, though, especially at the places where it was so narrow the only way to propel the boat was to use an oar like a huge, unwieldy paddle.
The outriggers were continually catching on the reeds and low-hanging branches. At one place where long stringy weeds had taken hold, because I was backing down the sharp stern caught the weeds and the boat was dragged back horribly. On the way back I turned round and went forwards, the curved bow slipping over the reeds as god intended.
Lesson learned: Snarleyow wins all the prizes on unobstructed waters, but a canoe is the thing in streams like this.
Finally, at long last we made it back to the delightful White Hart at Stopham Bridge, where a bunch of Germans took this picture. A bit Last of the Summer Wine, but what the hell.
More on this event at Port-na-Storm.