Launch Site – “listen pesky alien”, just north of Henfield

At around 7:45 am on 19th June the majority of the Brighton, Hove and Shoreham based members  of the team all met in the car park next to Shoreham Harbour club close to the mouth of the River Adur. This was to be the end point of the paddle that we had planned for the day. We decided to leave a couple of cars there, and car share up to the start point so that once the paddle was over we could drive back up & retrieve our vehicles.

If you’re confused by the name of the launch site in the heading for this section, you can blame our illustrious leader Neil, who is clearly a fan of “what3words” (other location apps are available), but to be fair, it really does help pin point the location and even Mick can’t get lost using that app!

We arrived in the lay-by around 100yards NW of the Bull Inn, Henfield at around 8:30. It was Rob and Mel’s first training session and great to see all bar two of the team together. After around 15mins pumping the boards up and getting changed, we made our way across the road, climbed over a fence and down to the riverside.

The entry point in this location can be quite muddy which was evident as the first few made their way into the water. Neil showed those of us yet to go in a great technique where he placed his board on the ground with the nose facing up the bank, and the tail fin end in the water. He climbed onto the middle of the board on his knees and gently rocked the board which slipped gracefully back into the water leaving him without the slightest smudge of mud.

As we entered the water looking downstream, there was a really low bridge with a number of arches. You could either drop to your knees and paddle under it or crouch and use your hands on the ceiling to walk your way through. The river itself on this stretch was quite narrow in places with a number of trees, bushes and reeds lining the banks or reaching up out of the water. On occasion there was no choice but for us to go single file through the meandering waters.

Rob took the plunge… and I do mean literally ;-). Whilst navigating one of the trees his fin caught an underwater obstruction and whilst he thought he was stepping into shallow waters it was much deeper than he first imagined so it was an early bath for him, much to the amusement of us all (including him). There were howls of laughter and one or two of us wondered if his nick name when we reach the Amazon will be “piranha bait”.

The river meanders nicely down towards the South Downs and there’s some great countryside and wildlife to see. The odd hiker or dog walker passed by along the river bank with a cheery “hello” and we also passed a couple of kayaking schools. There were a couple of anglers, who’s lines you clearly need to avoid. Giles said they were wearing Camouflage gear… some of us never saw them, so it must have been good.

There were also a large number of swans though mainly in pairs, and many with Cygnets swimming behind them, one of which seemed to be on a kamikaze mission. To explain… as we paddled past a couple of adult swans with their young we took care to keep our distance sticking tightly to the opposite bank. One of the Cygnets dived under the water and the larger of the two adults began to hiss aggressively. the Cygnet came up under one of the boards and bashed into it, then came up to the side of it before diving under again and doing the same thing. Fortunately it was unhurt but it was an aggressive (or playful) little bugger.

We took a couple of breaks along the way and circled the boards whilst chatting, and taking on light refreshments, allowing ourselves to simply drift along, downstream in the current.

As we came down through Bramber a couple of excited passers-by called out to say  they’d just seen seal in the water. We never actually saw it ourselves but one thing we did notice at this point was that the water level was quite low and it was clear we were  already in the stretch of the river that’s really effected by the tides.

When we passed the cement works to the north of Shoreham the sand or silt banks were really noticeable and as we came round the corner and under the by-pass that stretches over the river you really had to pick your route carefully to avoid grounding or catching your fin on the river bed. In parts the channels here were quite fast flowing, almost like a mild rapid in a couple of places but it all just added to the fun.

The final stretch was now in sight though the wind as we neared the coast had swung onshore and was picking up. The tide also looked like it had turned which made the last 500yards or so a real workout.

All in all  it was a great way to spend a few hours. We’d made new friends, picked up some interesting techniques, and for some achieved a new distance record. Our next full team training session is planned for August… bring it on.

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