Phil and I managed to miss the NWSK pre-season meet as (luckily!) it looked like we would both be ice climbing in Norway at the time. With open plans for some extended paddling trips this Summer Phil decided that we should do a "dry" run with laden kayaks and made plans for a paddle on Windermere over the weekend of 5th-6th April; which happened to coincide with my birthday. Our own mini-preseason meet was to start at Fell Foot National Trust car park at the South end of Windermere, paddle the length of the lake on Saturday, self contained to camp at Low Wray campsite at the North end of the Lake and then do the return paddle on the following day. The round trip turned out to be 33.7km
After a hearty fry up at Wilf’s cafe in Stavely myself, Phil and Rod from B’ham CC drove over to Fell Foot and spent some time ferrying all the kayaks and gear down to the launch point about 200m from the car park.
The wind was blowing a right hoolie from the North with a reasonable chop on the lake and "white horses" visible everywhere. It was obvious that it was going to be hard work paddling into the headwind.
An open canoe and playboat crawled past us, both the headwind and Windermere’s outflow against them and they hardly seemed to be making any progress at all. There was some discussion between the 3 of us as to modify plans for the day and paddle elsewhere. As we were already packed and ready to go I persuaded Phil and Rod to give it a go, we could always turn back if the headwind was too strong.
Paddling past the sailing club we met Simon Everett who had been out for 20 minutes in a double with his son. They’d bailed out as his son was on the verge of hypothermia! Four seasons in one day, we had sunshine, snow, hail, rain and it just added to the atmosphere for the day and actually made for a more interesting paddle.
We pulled in at Windermere Canoe & Kayak for a lunch stop and staff member Joe put the kettle on and made us a brew.
There are some really exclusive waterfront properties along this stretch of the lake and we had a nosey time admiring the elegance of some of the boathouses.
Paddling past Belle Isle we headed up for Low Wray in pleasant conditions with the sun beating down. However the last two Kilometres were really hard work as the wind howled in our faces once more and the chop picked up. It took us 6 hours in total with 4 hours of actual paddling to make the campsite.
Sunday was my birthday; the numbers seem to be clocking up now, even though the heart and mind feel still feel 20 years younger. We set up camp and I cooked soup and masses of pasta. A couple of bottles of wine later Phil produced a card and birthday cake. The balloons got forgotten about in the bottom of a drysack and as the snow came down around us I cut it into thirds and shared it around.
The snow came down quite heavy for a while, but turned to rain and then froze to ice pellets on the tent. In the luxurious comfort of a 4 season down bag I slept nice and toasty.
Phil and Rod seemed eager to rise. 7am on a Sunday birthday morning… I refused to get out of my pit and managed to cook breakfast while still in my sleeping bag. It was some hours before we were packed away and back on the water overlooking the Fairfield hills sprinkled with snow.
It seemed an eternity to get any kind of rhythm and as the ferry travelled down the lake I wondered about an alternative option back home. Eventually muscles slackened up and the paddling became easier, we now had the benefit of the wind on our backs and good progress was made.
We made a long stop in the woods near Storrs Temple for lunch, pulling in just as a heavy snow shower hit; the welcome shelter of the trees being timed to perfection. Eventually the sun came out and we caught the waves and surfed our way down the lake pulling out from the lake at the sailing club. With the wind on our backs we had made the return leg 01:25 quicker.