may seem like a cryptic message to most, but to those of us on the receiving end of Neil’s WhatsApp message, we all knew RV meant rendezvous.
Our first training session of the New Year was set for 16th Jan. It was planned to be shorter than the last few we’d done, but the aim was simple… get the team together, blow some of the Xmas lockdown cobwebs off and get paddling again.
We arranged to meet at the Luna Rossa Cafe on the west bank of the river Ouse in Newhaven, opposite the ferry port. There’s plenty of parking in the surrounding area and a number of places to grab an early morning breakfast or coffee.
As with previous training sessions where we’d planned to paddle a tidal river, our meeting point was the place we’d intended to finish. The idea being we leave some of the cars there, car share up to our start point, paddle downstream with the current, and use the remaining cars we’d left behind to go back and pick up the vehicles we’d used to get to the start.
It was great to see so many of the team turn out, Neil, Jeff, Giles, Mick, Mark, Mel, and Ant all made it along and we were joined by Chris Oakley and Richard Brown. Chris had joined us with a view to becoming part of the team heading to the Amazon. Rich (Ant’s brother) was just along for the fun of it, as he too likes to SUP.
Although into deep winter, fair weather was predicted, and the forecasters were spot on as the early morning cloud broke and the sun came shining through.
The Luna Rossa was shut as we pulled into the car park just before 10am but Neil had already sent a message letting us know he was in the West Quay Cafe, just next door. He was fuelling up on a full English as the rest of the group trickled in one by one.
Over a coffee/tea, the vehicle share was sorted though it soon became apparent no plan had really been made for the launch site. Fortunately newcomer Chris heralds from Lewes and he knows the area well. It didn’t take long for him to come up with a decent suggestion for us to set out from.
The car parks where the cafe’s were had an hour or two time limit on them so the drivers of the cars that were staying behind moved them to the roadside parking areas that exist alongside the playing fields near Newhaven football club either on Court Farm Road or Fort Road.
The drive up to Lewes took around 20-25mins and the nearest place to our launch site for us to park up was tucked around the back of the Pell’s swimming pool next to a fenced off bit of waste ground (or an area under development) just off the end of North Street.
After inflating the boards and securing the vehicles we made our way down a small alley from the carpark, turned right towards a footbridge, and after about 100yards (no more) we were on the river bank with a relatively easy step off the bank and onto the boards.
The high tide had already passed and whilst the river was still very full the outflowing current was starting to flow. Once all in the water, we headed down through the main part of town, past the Harvey’s Brewery and under the bridge at Cliffe High Street.
As we came out of Lewes on the left of the river bank near where the A26 comes out of the Cuilfail tunnel towards the A27, there’s a unique house. It looks rusty on the top floor, with floor to ceiling windows on the lower floor. This house apparently featured on grand designs.
With the sun on our faces and the temperature unseasonably mild it was great to be back out on the water again. The team were all chatting and getting to know each other a little more and the conversation flowed as we paddled along.
Ant was trying out some new camera equipment which he’d recently upgraded ahead of the expedition. It was a GoPro Hero 10 with a number of different mounts and lens mods. He was experimenting with stills, video, and timewarp videos with a combination of camera mounts. The “chesty”, which was basically an overhead harness with a plastic mount on the chest, gave Ant his first hands free option to date… though he soon learnt you get plenty of oar shots whilst in motion, perhaps the head mount will be better.
The River Ouse meanders down through Southerham, and Southease and whilst the countryside is pleasant enough it’s fairly featureless until you get into Piddinghoe where there are a number of moorings and some great riverside properties to see, along with a lovely old flint-walled church.
With the current pulling us along the pace was quick with very few (if any) obstacles to worry about on the journey. We took a break half way, pulled some of the boards together almost in a raft like formation, and took on some refreshment.
During the second half of the paddle we momentarily lost the sun, and for those of us not wearing full wetsuits or other thick layers the dip in temperature was really noticeable. Mel was one of those that felt it drop so in order to bring her core temperature back up she and Mark fixed a landmark ahead and decided to race towards it going double the speed of the rest of us.
In no time at all, we’d reached Newhaven, and whilst the waters had been calm as we came under the final bridge a swell was running in towards us up the river from the sea. You need to have your wits about you and pay attention to the sudden change in condition otherwise (as one of us found out) it’s all too easy to lose your balance and take an early bath.
This wasn’t an arduous paddle, and to be honest, we never intended it to be. It had been a great get together and after meeting Chris, and he us with a chance to chat about the adventure ahead… it was clear we were going to get along, and we’re pleased to say that he too has now become Piranha bait ;-).
You can learn a bit more about what made Chris want to join this adventure on the about us page.
Welcome aboard Chris.