I’m going out on Friday to scout a possible new canoe trail, and could do with some-one else coming along”. That’s how I came to be meeting Phil Scowcroft from Canoe England at Friday lunchtime in Dewsbury canal basin.
What are canoe trails? This is an initiative from Canoe England to help increase participation in canoeing by providing better information on places people can paddle. These are on easy water to appeal to the many recreational paddlers out there who have boats, but aren’t sure where they can go, and may not be in a club. For more information see the www.gocanoeing.org.uk website.
Now Dewsbury may not strike you as a scenic place to go for a nice paddle – then many people would say the same about Sowerby Bridge, so bare with it.
So after a quick coffee – important part of canoe trials is to try to start and finish then where there are other facilities – we kitted up and slid our open boats onto the canal basin. A short paddle brought us to a short portage round a pair of locks and onto the much broader channel of the Aire & Calder Navigation.
An immediate problem was the drop from the towpath down in to the canal – one of the reasons for looking at the trails, is to identify these problems and see what can be done to improve things, in this case possibly a jetty to make access easier.
Continuing on, an impromptu portage was required to bypass a psychotic swan, before paddling out through the flood lock to the river Calder. Here the river is much bigger than 15 miles upstream at the club, but a tiny side channel begged to be explored. Soon after, a 3m weir and short rocky channel was easily shot, with the option of short portage to by pass it also.
As the river wound into and through the town there were a couple of small rubble weirs to be shot, plus waving families up on the bridges – I suppose it’s not that often that you see canoes passing through town?
The only downside of the trail is that to make a circuit, there is a long (700m) portage back to the canal good job we’d brought the trollies! However the portage was a well surfaced cycle path which made it much easier. For the final trail there are options for a longer route further along the river to a much shorter crossing back the canal.
In total the tour was a couple of hours of pleasant touring, and not somewhere I’d have thought to have gone for a paddle without the invite for Phil, perhaps we should look at club trip here?