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River Wey Expedition 2016

posted 14 May 2016, 12:54 by Zak Warren   [ updated 10 Dec 2016, 06:11 ]
Flowing downstreamIt was a bright and sunny Friday evening when we all assembled in the car park at Sainsbury's in Godalming. We drew lots of interest from the shoppers picking up food as they rushed home from work. Nearly twenty Scouts, plus us Leaders, and a fleet of kayaks and canoes must make an unusual sight in that small market town. 

We'd chosen that meeting point as it was conveniently placed on the bank at the top of the River Wey navigation. It made for an excellent starting point for Ellen MacArthur Troop's expedition. Always up for a challenge, we planned to paddle the twenty-two miles to 1st Walton Sea Scout HQ. This takes in the entire River Wey navigation and part of the River Thames. 

After unloading the kayaks from the van and the canoes from car roof bars, and then rearranging our vehicles for the shuttle, we were away. We paddled gently around the first few bends in the river and used this time to practice old skills and learn some new ones. Soon we reached Catteshall Lock, the first of the fifteen locks used to control the levels of the River Wey and separating us from the River Thames. It took us longer than we'd have liked to portage the lock, so we decided to go through the rest. Fortunately, Richard, the lock keeper at Stoke Lock who'd been a Scout in Guildford, had lent us a pair of lock keys. 

Enjoying the journey
Darkness set in as we approached Guildford a couple of hours later. The lights from the town gave us plenty to see by, so no one was worried about getting the torches out. We did, however, attract numerous waves and greetings from the public walking along the riverside. 

Six miles from our starting point, we reached the day's final stop. We hauled out our boats and walked to 2nd Guildford HQ where we stayed the night. It was only a brief sleep as we had an early start. A couple of Scouts from 2nd Guildford joined us for a couple of miles. They were Land Scouts, so hadn't been in boats before and were eager to take up the opportunity. Our Scouts were very welcoming and gave them plenty of instruction and support. 

At Stoke Lock we met Richard, who gave us an interesting talk about his job, the river and its wildlife. We then said goodbye to the Scouts and Leaders of 2nd Guildford and set off on the rest of our journey. It was six miles and several locks before we reached our lunch stop. During this time a couple of Scouts managed to fall in, despite the placid nature of the water! 

At Stoke Lock
We stopped at 1st Send Scout HQ for our lunch where we were given free reign of their facilities. We took the chance to stretch our legs and cook up some delicious ration packs for lunch, both of which were very welcome after our long morning! 

All too soon we were back on the water and paddling 
downriver. A couple of the locks were popular with families having picnics, so our arrival caused a lot of interest. They were clearly impressed with how the Scouts operated the locks and managed the boats in their teams, and then led us onward. When asked where we were going, the Scouts proudly announced what we were doing and told them how much fun they were having. A few of the parents told us that it had persuaded them to find their local Scout Group to give their children similar adventures. 

Twenty miles from our starting point in Godalming and we reached Thames Lock. This is the point where the River Wey joins the River Thames. This lock is controlled by a keeper and can't be operated manually. Unfortunately, we'd arrived just too late and the lock was closed. However, two Leaders from 1st Walton (Viking) Sea Scout Group were waiting for us. They helped us portage all our boats and equipment to the Thames and showed us the way to their landing stage. 

Once on shore we were met by more Leaders, Young Leaders and Scouts from 1st Walton, who kindly carried all our stuff up to their HQ. We received a very warm welcome including a camp fire and food ready and waiting for us. As the revelries subsided and exhaustion took over, we were left to get some much-needed sleep. 

The next day 1st Walton returned and together we spent the morning building and paddling rafts. The two Groups exchanged top tips and stories of their adventures with several new friendships being made. It was then to the important matter of making lunch. As 1st Walton had kindly cooked for us for our arrival, Ellen MacArthur Troop decided to cook for our hosts to say thank you before heading home. Hopefully, we'll join forces again soon! 

By the sounds of it, the Scouts are eager to take part in another expedition like this. But not until they've spent a few weeks recovering!