Thursday, 3 March 2011

Day Tripping, Floating the Boat

There's been a real change in the weather this week, although I was working at the start of the week the presence of sunshine and blue skies had me looking forward to finishing my shift even more than usual. Spring has sprung and flowers are beginning to appear, I noticed Snowdrops well and truly emerged last weekend when I had the canoe out and it's actually quite warm.

I'd planned to have another day out in the canoe and sorted my kit on Wednesday night so that I could head out as soon as possible after attending to a few other tasks. I really wanted to check out some potential wild camp spots and get a bit more practice handling the canoe before the summer when I hope to make some longer trips.

I decided to take my old Trangia 27k this time, they're a great design and they've stood the test of time and while the weight might be too much for solo backpacking in a canoe it's pretty irrelevant. I packed everything into an Alpkit Goudron 20, including my well worn Montane Flux and with the canoe loaded up set off in bright sunshine.

While it's great having the river at the bottom of the yard, well my Mum's yard to be exact the downside is that if you have an out and back trip you go with the flow and come back against it. Although the river isn't very fast flowing there's one section where it's really shallow, less than a foot (30cm) deep in places and as a result it's too fast to paddle as the paddle bottoms out, there are also a few places where large rocks were placed across the river after it was deepened and straightened some years ago. Getting downstream over or between the rocks isn't a problem apart from the risk of a few scrapes as the drop is less than a foot but getting back means lining the canoe from the river bank or trying to pole back over them.

When I was out on Saturday I simply waded up the shallow section, I was wearing the Uniqlo Easy Windproof trousers and to be honest was amazed at how well the DWR worked and how dry and warm the tricot type lining felt after having been in knee deep plus water for a good few minutes. They worked so well that I didn't need to change into dry trousers when I got back home.

When I set off I was wearing a pair of Easy Windproof trousers, a zip neck fleece over a HeatTech L/S T-Shirt and a acrylic beanie cap but soon stopped to remove the fleece and beanie cap. I set off again wearing only the HeatTech T and a bandanna made from a Buff. The air was still and the warmth surprising for the 1st week in March and to be honest I really should have worn a pair of sunglasses to cut the glare from the water.

Every now and then a few waterbirds would take flight only to land again a few hundred meters ahead. At 1st only 2 or 3 would take flight but they must have landed again where there were others as each time I surprised them the numbers had increased until finally there was quite a sizable flock.

I stopped a few times to check out some potential pitches, a fence runs along both sides of the river bank marking the boundary of the farmland which is really just rough pasture. While the river bank is generally quite narrow and covered in weeds and tall grass on the river side of the fence there are a few places where it's wide and reasonably flat with short grass, there's certainly enough room for a tarp/bivvy bag.

Further downstream the farmland gives way to bog/moorland and here I found a nice spot. Out of sight of houses and with the bog as a barrier there was a nice flat grassy area backed by a stand of Whin bushes although it was on the farmland side of the fence. I decided that I'd stop here for lunch on my way back.

Just beyond I passed the small fir tree plantation I'd stopped at at the end of last year on my 1st outing on the canoe, again this would be an ideal spot, especially for using a hammock.

I'd already passed 2 of the rocky steps but on rounding the corner I spotted another two only about 30 meters apart, rather than shoot for it I stopped and walked down for a look 1st, I decided that I could make a clean run without too many scrapes and in the end managed both without scraping at all. It was now about 2.30pm and I was starting to get a bit hungry so decided to turn around and make my way back. I didn't manage to pole my way past the 1st rock step, I almost managed but further attempts were less successful so I walked along the river bank and lined the canoe through. I decided to try poling on the next step and this time managed it before once again swapping pole for paddle and making for the place I'd spotted previously to have lunch.

I picked a reasonably flat spot and got the Trangia set-up to boil some water for coffee before making some pasta but found that I'd forgotten to bring a mug. Fortunately I hadn't stripped the Trangia down so with the full set I simply used one of the pans as a giant mug.

Although I'd taken an instant pasta meal I decided to cook it in the pot rather than in a freezer bag, I'd already sliced a Pepperami so added it to the pasta and sauce and let it simmer while I ate some smoked cheese and drank my coffee.

I re-discovered 2 things,

1. a Trangia is a really nice system if the weight isn't an issue, it's tough, works well and doesn't need attended which allows you to relax or carry out other tasks.

2. eating from a freezer bag is okay, eating from a bowl or in this case pot is much, much nicer, no need for an extra long spoon or sauce covered fingers trying to get the last remaining pasta twists or strands of spaghetti out of the corner of a bag.

I was in no hurry to leave as it was so nice to just sit around relaxing and enjoying the peace and quiet, the ducks I'd seen earlier would probably have agreed!! I boiled some more water for another coffee before packing up and getting going again.

I soon reached the final 2 rock steps, again I tried to pole it and again ended up lining the 1st and poling the second. I need a lot more practice poling, I've watched people doing it on Youtube and they make it look easy but I don't find it easy at all. A short paddle and I reached the shallow faster flowing section that I'd waded on Saturday but this time I managed to pole it, it took some time to be honest and I did end up going backwards, sideways every way except forwards at times but eventually I made it. With only a few hundred meters to go I stopped one last time, just a few moments to enjoy the surroundings even if it only was rough pasture.

Although it wouldn't be on any dream list of trips to take it was still enjoyable even if my arms and shoulders were feeling the effects by the end. It's easy to sit at the computer and plan grand trips but in the end any break from the daily grind is worthwhile.


  1. I agree on the Trangia! I also have the 27-series version, it's really nice. It is a realiable companion, fool-proof. Some say it is old-fashioned, heavy and clumsy (and they may be right), but it is a no-fiddle option.

    It seems you had a nice trip. Like you said, even the short outings are enjoyable.

  2. What a nice relaking time in the outdoors. Trangia is fool proof and works every time. Just for backpacking these days it is a bit on the heavy side. Very reliable is the upside.

  3. @ Maria, I hadn't used the Trangia for years but I'd been checking my kit recently and made a note to take it out again.

    @ Martin, it was relaxing as I had no real destination to reach, just go with the flow if you'll excuse the pun, of course the weather made it. The Trangia is on the heavy side for solo backpacking, so much of the weight is in the stand/windshield that's it's hardly worth sacrificing a pot or kettle to save weight.

  4. Hi Richard,
    That reads a nice relaxing time. Yes the weather makes a big difference doesn’t it. The canoe looks great and i bet your dying to get on an extended trip.

    The Trangia works a treat. I use it if i am base camping with the car as the windshield is terrific. But its just too bulky for the rucksack and a little too heavy.
    I don’t think its too old fashioned though, just never kept up with changing markets.

  5. The weather makes a difference for sure, when it's nice and warm it's easier to slow down and take it easy.

    The Trangia is a strange one isn't it, ok they have versions with teflon and so on but it's the sort of product you buy once and expect a lifetimes service, it isn't fashionable and is rarely if ever featured in magazine reviews yet it continues to sell in sufficient numbers that they don't seem to see the need to change for change's sake. Who is the typical Trangia buyer? it can't all be group sales to Scouts etc.

    What I like about it (when weight isn't an issue) is that it's a nice solid reliable all in one solution with classic style, if I had to choose one word to describe it I'd say 'Honest'