14-16 DEC 2012

Once more, the club scheduled the end-of-year picnic at the Ashley Gorge domain. To complement the picnic on Sunday 16th, this year we listed the river trip in the Ashley from Middle Bridge down to the domain as the Saturday day trip.

For Glenda and I, our weekend started with our arrival at the camping ground mid-afternoon on the Friday. It was hot and we were careful to set up at the far end where we would have maximum shelter from the nor’wester. With the recent weather, the whole area was green and the camping ground looking particularly picturesque. Once set up, we checked out the river from the domain. Flow appeared normal and was warm—definitely a pleasant first swim for the year. Later that evening Marion and Keith arrived and were quickly set up.

For Saturday’s river trip our group of four waited at the Lees Valley turn-off from 8.45 till 9.20am but no one arrived from town which was disappointing. We drove up to Middle Bridge thinking we might see someone who’d come directly but the car park before the bridge was empty. We were walking by 10am with the river in moderate flow (3.84m3.sec-1), so progress was slower than on previous occasions, as we spent time picking crossings and then doing so mostly in a four over the first three hours. The fresh footprints we saw also going down-stream rang no bells. But all was revealed about lunch time when we meet Gary, Margot, Mary and Stan, returning upstream after their lunch. The reason we had not seen their vehicle was because they had driven across Middle Bridge and parked out of view on the far side. They decided to continue walking back to the bridge which was good for us as Stan was able to drive our car back to the camping ground. Earlier when we were discussing our logistics, I had briefly considered retracing our steps back to the car but fortunately for me dismissed the suggestion quickly as Keith said, “over my dead body. I haven’t done this trip before and I’m not going back now.”

After lunch we continued and eventually came to the main gorgy part. As promised, it was a bit of a float down. By now, the water was warmer and the river wider, making crossings easier. Here we could cross in pairs. Easier it might have been, but we were all pleased to arrive at the domain and back to our camp site a little after 6pm—eight enjoyable hours in total on a fine, warm day. Lesley Ward had arrived in her house bus during the day, and an enjoyable evening followed in lovely weather.

CLUB PICNIC SUNDAY was another warm day. I biked to Oxford in the morning to check out the farmers’ market. Back at the camping ground, it was time to move down to the river frontage in the domain. It was getting decidedly hot and the number of people in and around the river progressively increased. Marion did eventually come out of the water. We only had ten club members turn up on the day, but what an enjoyable day! We could have had twelve if Dan had been able to find the group in the domain. Maybe they count anyway because they were actually in the domain. And so home after a great weekend. (Glenda & Merv M)