Brecon Reports

“Grazed knees, grazed knuckles” – report 1 from Ed. More to follow:

Additional comprehensive report from Jonathon now added.

So it seems a new club rule has been introduced, if you take up the sport of underwater fish spotting, then you have to write a report!

So here we go:
Friday evening, we slowly started to arrive at the bunkhouse in Brecon where rooms were sorted and the evening take-away meal was eaten. The fish and chips were as delicious as last year!

Saturday
The breakfast chefs cooked us a big full English breakfast. The weather was blustery and raining, it was decided the paddle would be Sennybridge to Aberbran.  The ferry was sorted.   A fast flowing river faced us. We all got on the river and did some warm up exercises, breaking in and out and ferry gliding. Then we got into paddle groups, soon we started down the river which was a little choppy to say the least.   Almost straight away we came to the first weir.  As standard club procedure we sent Graham down first then the other coaches. So after watching other members of the club go over the “edge” it was my turn. I took a big breath paddled down between the 2 Islands and disappeared over the edge, to my relief I was still upright.  What a confidence booster. We continued down the river making use of the river eddies and enjoying the wave trains. All went well as we approached horse shoe falls where we all got out to have a look. The next was a different obstacle, there was a visible cork screw stopper and a very large tow back. We watched a few other paddlers do various descents then it was our turn, again we sent Graham first then the others.

Jonah, asked if he could follow Fitz over. Jonah landed well but didn’t quite have the strength to paddle out of the tow back. He was soon upside down and bailed out of his boat safely so there was his boat well and truly pinned. Rita didn’t realise there was a problem in the bottom of the weir, so before she could be stopped she went over the edge but not on the perfect line. She got stuck in the stopper soon bailed out and her boat got stuck in the same place as Jonah’s. It was then decided that everyone else would portage this tricky weir. So the recovery of 2 submerged boats started. Fitz and Graham landed on the other side of the weir and with the help from 2 paddlers from Portsmouth University.  Graham started to edge his way to the submerged boats eventually they got a throw line attached to Jonah’s boat and back across the river so it could be pulled out from the other side and soon after Rita’s boat was pulled from the stopper as well. After a quick lunch and a regroup, we were back on the water.  As we progressed down river, making our way over small drops and wave trains we come to the last long wave train. I started to choose my route down but before I realised I was upside down looking at the fish.  As I bailed out I managed to keep hold of my paddle and boat, continuing down river I used my knees and knuckles to crash into underwater rocks. I eventually got myself to the bank. Fitz came to help me get sorted, my hand didn’t look pretty with blood running down it. Where’s a nurse when you need one? So I had to finish the last part of the river feeling battered.
Back at the bunk house a very welcoming and filling evening meal was served. Thanks to all our splendid cooks. While the wind blew and rain poured down during the evening, Pauline needed help in drinking her bottle of whisky (medicinal purposes) which many of us obliged with her request!

Sunday
I woke up bruised and in pain so I decided not to paddle so I helped with ferry waved them off on to the next fast flowing river trip.

Ed

Comprehensive report from Jonathon !!

Brecon Weekend 2013 by Jonathan C

River USK

This was the first Brecon trip that I have done, being a little ‘rusty’, I was a teeny weeny bit apprehensive about the weekend, with all the weather we had been having throughout that week and forecasts of tremendous winds, I suppose I was expecting something like Niagara Falls somewhere along the river… It didn’t disappoint!

The Held Bunkhouse was a really nice homely place, really well fitted out and very welcoming after a wet windy drive into Wales. Once we’d arrived we were introduced to our quarters by Ed, I chose my bunk and dumped my stuff, Rita and I braved the weather and went out on the fish and chip run, it was raining and windy, so fish and chips were just the ticket!  Everyone retired to the dining area for the remainder of the evening, talking, laughing and refreshed ourselves, (drinking responsibly)..

That night I thought our sleep might be interrupted due to the noise of the wind. Upon entering the room I noticed that everyone was in their bunks, Matt was reading and I later understood that Steve was attempting sleep. The noise was horrendous. I snuggled into my sleeping bag and tried to remember where I’d put my earplugs, Simon was fast asleep.

Saturday Morning, breakfast was cooked by Simon, Graham, Paul and Matt and was really nice, the guys not cooking cleared up afterwards. Once breakfast was cleared everyone got ready, donning their paddling gear, the clever ones remembering to pack a full complement of dry clothes too for when we came off the water.. (thanks to Simon for lending me his coat)!

Saturday – Sennybridge to Aberbran Bridge.

The get in point was from a small beach off a field. As we pulled in and parked up it was evident that this is a popular paddle, there were other groups already getting ready by their vehicles and others arriving.

Once ready, we all assembled near the beach and organised ourselves into paddling groups. Our group was headed by Paul and made up of Sue, Roy, Jenny and myself. I was a littttle nervous about now if I’m honest,  but you put those feelings to one side and get on with it, (all of a sudden you really need a nervous wee – that sort of thing). As our various groups got onto the water, everyone helped each other with boats and decks etc.

We spent, I suppose half an hour at the get area practising, warming up and getting acclimatised to the environment, this seemed a brilliant idea and soon even I was getting praise on my manoeuvres! After adjusting my footrest and getting used to breaking in and out again we all set off downstream.

The river was flowing fairly fast and was quite choppy – like paddling on the sea, except with much narrower waves, concentration was everything, reading the river was key – constantly plotting ahead, looking where I should aim to get my boat next, looking for things that I should avoid.

Generally I was putting in paddling strokes, which were both support and steering, flow was strong, however sometimes I was being pushed / pulled along by the current and then there were odd moments when I really had to paddle hard to move the boat as it was gripped by slower moving water currents.

We paddled on, stopping often to break in and out of eddied, it really was great fun!

There are three rock ledges on the way down to Aberbran Bridge, we all did the first ledge in our various groups and then all stopped to get out and evaluate the second. Fitz went over it first, making it look soooo easy, (as he does most things). So, we set off one at a time, initially across from the river bank to Emma on the other side – after which it was no turning back, paddle – align yourself with the person in the water below the ledge and paddle some more, over the ledge and a sense of achievement, brilliant.

We assembled into our groups continued down to the next ledge. This ledge was a cracker! Again made to look easy by Fitz, but even had already decided to go down the other side of the river, the same route as had been taken by three or four bearded gentlemen earlier, (I really would have done it too, if we hadn’t been advised not to) – honestly.

The flow over the ledge was fairly fierce and when standing on an exposed portion of the edge looking down, it looked as though the water was boiling, massively swirling – tremendously powerful, quite amazing. A few of the club went over the ledge, speed seemed everything – with the aim of putting as much distance between the paddler and the ledge once cleared seemed key.

Two of the main group were not so lucky and ended up in the water, I have tremendous respect for both of these guys, they really had bottle! We had a good few other clubs arrive at the third ledge to see what was going on, one club assisted with the recovery our two boats and in general most of the other paddlers decided to portage. However as we were leaving the ledge to paddle on downstream other groups did attempt the ledge, with more swims resulting.

The effects of the wind blowing on the fast flowing water made for extremely choppy water, it was here that whilst navigating a good route past a submerged rock, I misplaced a support stroke and joined the rock in the water! It was one of those stupid mistakes that really narked me off, I remember the slow motion thought of ‘noooooooooo’, then realizing pretty quickly that there were more submerged rocks which couldn’t be seen from the boat as my thigh collided with one, (I have photo’s of a huge red purple bruise – but it’d put you off your tea!

Back in my boat, (the water was quite warm really) and on to the bridge. The last portion up to the bridge was really scenic.

At the bridge we exited the river and car ferried the drivers to their cars, prior to this everyone changed into their dry kit – thanks to Simon for the loan of your coat about this time, as I was a shivering thing without it.

Once back at the bunkhouse, we hung up our wet stuff in the drying room, (it worked well) and retired to the communal dining room for the evening, while the wind and rain did their stuff outside, it was hammering down! Food was provided by Liz, Claire, Sue and Ed and was delicious, wine and merriment ensued. It was about this time that I was introduced to spoons by Jonah, great game – will introduce it to the family at Christmas!

Sunday

Aberbran Bridge to Brecon

I have just watched a video clip of this stretch by a different club on YouTube – it was nothing like their clip!

We started from the beach area just upstream of Aberbran Bridge. Unlike Saturdays paddle, there wasn’t really the space to do an acclimatise paddle for a short while before setting off from here, the flow was such that once you’d left the beach – you were off!

Just like Saturday, the river was flowing fast, I could see some white water just past the bridge and some more downstream after that, (I’d first noticed the large wave when leaving the river on Saturday).

Unlike at the get in on Saturday where we’d been able to practice a little prior to setting off, the distance from the get in to the bridge and the speed of the flow was such that a quick paddle about wasn’t really possible.

One by one, we left the beach and ferry glided across, (well some of us did) to the other side of the river. From here we set off towards the bridge.

A number of river leaders had experimented with the best route through the bridge, literally at or just past the bridge were waves, to me they looked fairly scary. I followed the route set by Paul, well I aimed to go to through the centre arch, slightly to the left – as there was a WAVE in the middle of it. As I was approaching the arch it was as though a tractor beam had locked onto my boat and was drawing me towards the stonework of the bridge, in fact I came so close to it that I was unable to put a stroke in on my left side as I was going under the bridge, to the left of the WAVE…

Once through the bridge and in busy water I paddled like fury, to control my boat through and onward to the safety of an eddy. I remember being rather vocal with myself, willing myself on not to swim – it worked!

From here downstream the river seemed to visibly drop fairly steeply in places, so flow in some parts was quite fierce. In places the wind was strong and much like Saturday, in stretches was extremely choppy. I remember trying out draw strokes and whilst applying the stroke, merging it into a paddle stroke, it worked and I happily avoided many potential obstacles, (islands, trees, rocks and other boats).

In comparison to Saturdays paddle it was shorter, however was just as fun, (I felt as though I could have done that stretch again).

We arrived at Brecon and exited the river in an orderly fashion, loaded up and returned to the bunkhouse for a drink, (cup of tea) and a tidy up prior to the drive home.

Biggest thanks to all those that made the weekend possible, the coaches, the coordinators, the cooks, the paddlers, thanks to everyone – I had a great weekend!