The middle of July a short-notice plan was hatched, a plan to paddle a part of the River Nene near Peterborough. Having missed out making the trip earlier in the year I was more than eager to make it this time, and it would be an excellent chance to paddle with my eldest son. Since Luke had returned from university for his summer break I had been looking for a chance to get him back in a canoe!
Paddling friend Alick secured a suitable field for camping, and joined by another good friend Alex, the plan was complete, and we headed down the A1 to Stibbington, our base for the weekend. The journey there was pretty straight forward, and finding the field presented little drama for a change. However, on getting out of the car I was instantly attacked by the horse-fly from hell which promptly drew blood. This was to be the pattern for the next couple of days. All sorts of critters feeding on me!
It was also incredibly hot, temperatures way into the 30`s. With no trees handy we strung a tarp up to afford a little shade as it was unbearable, sweating like mad while were pitching up camp! Once the tents were up and camp was set, we simply waited impatiently for the evening and hopefully for it to cool down a little. Well fortunately it did and the evening was spent chilling, chatting and watching a distant display of lightning, while Luke picked off a few tunes on the guitar.
The following morning things had cooled somewhat, so it was on with a brew and wait for others to rise while enjoying the surroundings, the close proximity of the A1 not detracting from my enjoyment either!
For the day the weather forecast showed overcast with showers, one or two probably heavy, in fact it started spitting as we set off for the day paddle, the temperature in the mid 20’s was certainly more bearable though!
The stretch we were paddling is between Peterborough and Stamford and proved to be a very delightful part of the river, though I am sure this could be said for most of it as well. We only had two locks to negotiate, and with Alick’s local knowledge these were a breeze! Small portages onto quiet back-waters to by-pass the locks proved to be an excellent opportunity to get up close to the wildlife, particularly birds flitting across the narrow channel from reedbed to reedbed, reed warblers and reed buntings you could almost touch. I was willing for one to land on the boat!
As the day warmed (yes it got hotter) plagues of banded damsel flys, along with other varieties of damsels and dragon-fly, some of the very large, were particularly busy the whole day. Never seen so many while out paddling!
Stopping for a bit of a snack and leg stretch break, I took stock of a few bites which were starting to give me a little grief. Don’t scratch them is the usual advice often given, but it is so nice, momentarily offering some relief. Often accompanied by “oohs and Ahhhs, this relief soon turns into bloody painful expletives!
It does not happen often on canoe trips we plan, this time though the weather forecast was wrong, the rain held off and it warmed up once again, and the sun coming out brought out plenty of folk enjoying time by the river, some taking to swimming and diving from a bridge. The temperature rose to the point where I would have been willing to have taken a dip. Not off the bridge though!
The promise of a pub stop for lunch kept us going till sometime after. Leaving the canoes in a secluded back water allowed to walk the half mile or so to the beckoning hostelry! The sun was blazing as we sat and supped pints of wild berry cider filled with ice, and scoffed down the most delicious of chicken burgers and chips. Time marches on though and we were soon back in the boats, and heading back to camp. As the sun got lower in the sky, the river took on a magical stillness that really made for a fantastic end of day experience!
A really great time spent with friends and awesome to have paddled with Luke again, and always a pleasure to paddle with Alick and Alex, thanks for the invite guys.
We will most certainly be back to explore more of this very delightful of english rivers!