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The Barle : Chilly but bright and bouncy

Sunday dawned, far too early for my liking the chirpy alarm blaring in my ear. Once silenced, phone in hand, I checked the WhatsApp group feed and found the message we wanted: “It's a go”. So a little under an hour later we found ourselves in the boat laden car for the trip from Bristol to Dulverton. The temperature gauge was hovering around the 4C mark, but there were bits of blue in the sky and promise in the day.

An hour and a bit later as nearing Dulverton we saw and then caught up with another car, nearly the only one we'd seen that day, that also had a canoe and kayak on the roof. Aha! we knew who that was. Then just as we came to the village our mini convoy encountered another of our group just about to cross over the Barle, the carpark entrance being on the other side of the bridge on the left. She duly turned left into the carpark and looked perplexed as we continued on up into the main street away from the meeting point. We knew something she didnt, where the public loos were, and that they were easier to drive to :-)

A few minutes later feeling “refreshed” all 5 cars and paddlers had convened in the car park and began the morning dance, left foot in, right leg out, tug the drysuit zip and shake it all about.. followed by a bit of minor planning that lead to one car being left at the bottom, we drove up to Tar Steps, dropped the boats, parked the cars at the top of the hill, faffed a bit more and finally 4 open boats and 6 kayakers were ready.

The temperature was a steady on 2 above freezing, colder here than Bristol, but the sun was teasing us with light if not heat as the group set off. Anyone who's paddled the Barle from Tarr Steps down knows that from putting on the 1st half mile is full on, no chance to warm up. Straight into the flow careen and bounce around a corner to the first big eddy and regroup, and count heads. Everyone made it the right way up. Excellent.

After this we split into two, natural, groups majestic Canoes and pesky kayakers, but we largely kept tabs on each other, not that either group needed it as there weren't any dramas, swims, tantrums or dilemmas of any kind. We had a ball. The Barle lived up to its reputation of being a lovely fun river, not too taxing, but nicely bouncy, lively with a good collection of holes, waves, little stoppers and ooodles of eddies to zip in and out of as we progressed down the river.

Lunchtime, as it has many times in the past, found us hauled out just below the play wave before the footbridge. Soup, hot tea and chocky biscuits were in high demand as even thought he sun was doing its best to blind us reflecting off the water it was cold. Bitter cold.

With sustenance onboard we were fuelled up for the 2nd half of the trip the run down towards the weir, once again the Barle delighted, and we shot down the section with less eddy hopping antics, and somewhat more speed through the near constant grade 1+ rapids. Down at the weir the kaykers and the Occoee passenger shot down the chute river centre whilst the remaining 3 canoeists took the sensible, Rolalex friendly route, acrosss the field and back into the river at the other side.

After that all that remained was the final section down to the carpark through the slalom course, past a crowd of Fire Brigade people practising rescues (sooner them than me .. even if they were in excellent kit it was a bit nippy for swimming) and into the carpark.

One car-shuffle later, the day was topped off with a visit to the Tantivy Cafe, for refreshment; tea, cake and a pie before shuffling off home.

An excellent day, done well.

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