The weekend of 15th-16th November saw Phil and I travel North for the NWSK end of season meet. We were based in Kirkby-in-Furness on the East bank of the Duddon Estuary. Accommodation was at the appropriately named Ship Inn which has a fantastic bunkhouse attached to it and serves some pretty good beer too. About 25 of us met for 2 days paddling in unusually sunny conditions…
Each day we divided into smaller, more manageable groups and dispersed around the local coastline. On Saturday Phil and I opted for what we thought would be an easy warm up on the Duddon Estuary.
When we arrived at Askam Pier the spring tide was still low with all the surrounding sandbanks exposed to view. This was around 2¼ hours before local high tide. As we unpacked gear and got changed the tide soon raced in across the flats. For someone who has never lived near the sea I’m always surprised at how fast the tide can change. Soon we were paddling off and up the estuary using the rising tide for a free lift.
We passed under the railway viaduct at the head of the estuary pausing for a while to play in the flow. Eventually we reached the weir on the river near Duddon Bridge where it was time to turn around and head for home.
Sunday saw a more challenging day. We launched next to the inshore lifeboat station at Roa Island and started what was to be around a 2Km ferry glide across the channel past Piel Island to Walney Island, the UK’s 8th largest Island. There were minor tidal overflows in the area which were enough to keep the mind focused. In places the incoming tide must have been around 2 Knots and paddling frantically seemed to be having only a minor affect. We slowly passed offshore around Walney taking care not to get too close to South Walney Nature Reserve. A few seals were seen in the water and a herd basking on-shore.
Rounding the South end of the island Island my eye was caught by the off-shore windfarm and I took great interest in the rows of towers projecting from the sea. It certainly looks an impressive feat of engineering. Eventually we landed through the surf and the group took some time out for lunch.
The trip back was technically interesting. For a while we were travelling with a following sea and I caught one really good wave. The rear of the kayak lifted and suddenly I was off surfing… I managed to stay in reasonable control, though Phil said later that my eyes were out "on stalks". The kayak started to turn as I lost height on the wave and my stern rudder turned into a brace which thankfully held. Unfortunately not more than 10 minutes had passed when another wave turned me over! I was too close in-shore to roll and almost kissed the seabed at the time. Standing waist deep it was no problem to wade to the shore and sort myself out without requiring any help.
We continued back retracing our steps (paddle strokes ?) . It was hard going at times. The ebbing tide was strong and at points it felt like we were hardly making any leeway. I’m sure there were times when I eased off that I actually started to go backwards! It’s fair to say I was getting pretty tired. Eventually we reassembled to cross back over the channel to Piel Island which boasts Piel Castle, built in the 14th century…
Again we took a ferry glide back and the castle looked magnificent in the setting sun. Natural light really is good at this time of year and you can get some terrific photo opportunities. We landed on Piel Island for a short while and look a short walk around the castle grounds. The sun was getting lower in the sky and soon it was time to take another ferry glide across Piel Channel and back to our starting point. We were just in time to make it into the Bosun’s Locker cafe where others in the group lingered for their evening meal and I looked on with envy at what looked like fantastic grub… Unfortunately I only had time to down a bowl of vegetable soup before the >200mile drive home.