Monday 5th January 2009 ...
Happy New Year and Feliz Ano, all. I've just returned from a splendid holiday to Portugal, which turns out to be a truly beautiful paddling destination with paddling that bears more than a passing similarity to the UK's great rivers! Our thanks to the local paddlers who made us feel so welcome.
Before I departed, I sat down at the keyboard for several days straight (very sad, I know) and restructured the whole riverguide part of the site. I did the dog work of sticking about 10000 individual files into proper folders, something that I should have done a whole decade ago when the site was first set up. My original poor site structure meant that eventually the site simply got too big for me to manage!
What the work I've done means for you, is that getting the riverguides - the heart of the site - up to date, current and intregrated with the Community Pages will be much easier and hopefully you'll start to see progress in this area continuing faster and faster as the new regional editors get their areas sorted. It was an incredibly dull job, but it needed to be done.
Right: The Rio Paiva in Portugal.
Sunday 21st December 2008 ...
Merry blah blah blahs to all users of the site.
Just an update on where we are with things... all manner of changes are taking place behind the scenes to try and get the site up to date and functioning like a 'real' website. The backlogs for NE and NW England are cleared (many thanks to Jim Pullen) and I've nearly finishing bringing the SW England section up to date. Linked to this work is the tedium of sorting the thousands of files into regional directories so that regional editors can work on them, and setting up regional forums with individual river threads (yawn) to allow easy river updating. England is being done first, but we'll eventually get Wales and Scotland sorted. The Community Pages have also been updated and rebuilt, with work from Rob Tuley and Mark Gawler among others.
The idea is that eventually you'll see a much less creaky and much more integrated site ... but please be patient, we do the work in fits and starts in spare moments and frankly, when the chance arises we'd rather be paddling.
See you all in 2009.
Right: The Aire Wave working, photo from Nick Horwood
Monday 24th November 2008 ...
It's that time of year again, when we try to flog our dodgy wares to you, the site user. The 2008 UKRGB T-Shirt is the same design as last year, simply because I thought that last years' design (by Simon Westgarth, as always) was great. We're also flogging beanies (=woolly hats).
The profits from our annual T-shirt sale usually cover about half of the website server costs each year. To rephrase that, they recoup about half of my annual loss. So I'm very grateful to all who buy the t-shirts.
Many thanks to Simon and Gene17 for setting this all up.
Saturday 8th November 2008 ...
Andy Jackson was one of the pivotal characters of our sport. He crammed an incredible amount into his life; from exploring Scottish ditches, to kicking off 'World Tour' paddling trips, to working towards legal access to Scottish rivers, to making an awful lot of people laugh and smile.
His sudden death in 2004 at the age of 33 shocked and saddened British paddlers.
Andy's friend Ron Cameron has now written a biography of Andy, collating Andy's writings, some amazing photos and the memories of Andy's (numerous) friends and family. I've been totally gripped by my copy. It's an absolutely brilliant read and a fitting tribute to an amazing guy. Enjoy a sample of the book here.
You really do want to buy a copy of this book! Get one for yourself, then buy copies for all your friends for Christmas ...
The royalties from this book are to be divided equally between the Andy Jackson Fund for Access and the IcFEM (providing education, healthcare, agriculture and social support in Kenya). Incidentally, I get a small commission for book sales through these links, and will be making a donation to the above funds for each copy sold here.
Sunday 7th September 2008 ...
Hi all ... just an update on the state of play behind the scenes at UKRGB. Ive run out of excuses not to sit down and do some proper work on the site. My book is finished and in the shops, this years big paddlingtrips are out of the way and I have finally run out of work avoidance tactics.
I'm currently setting up a system for voluntary regional editors to help with the work through the truly immense backlog of river guide updates. Hopefully, you should start seeing some progress made in the coming months. When that (major) task is done, then we'll take a step back and look at the bigger picture; namely, how to modernise the 'back end' of the site somewhat ... but the content comes first!
Best wishes, Mark R.
Right: Paddling in India last Easter. One of my numerous lame excuses for not making progress on the website.
Saturday 5th January 2008...
A very Happy New Year to all visitors and members.
I am happy to admit that although I've kept editing the Community, I have done very little work towards editing the river guides on this site during 2007. Sorry about this! The reason was that I was busy researching, photographing and writing a book. This took up all of my spare time, to put it mildly. The majority of the work on that project is now out of the way. I am now looking at ways to work through the backlog, and maybe even make the site a bit slicker. Watch this space!
Right: My wife paddling the Etive on January 2nd ...
Not sure which was more scary...
Anyways, here's the unedited excerpt from my CKUK article, along with photos to go with it...
Time worries were utterly forgotten about and we all hopped out to inspect.
The three falls are ~6, ~8, and ~10m respectively, all in a steep-sided and pretty inaccessible gorge. A (rather long) while later we regrouped at the top of the first fall to discuss tactics.
Everyone was happy with the lines on the first two falls, but as I’d inspected from river right, I’d not been able to see the landing of the third fall, which apparently fed into a nasty recirculating pot if you went too far right. This was easily visible from river left, so my friends said that they’d run all three if I took on photo duty from the left bank. This would allow me to inspect the last fall, before running (or portaging?) all three by myself.
In my search for a perfect photo, the time was once again being ignored. Many would call this faff, but faff isn’t faff if it’s for an awesome photo. A long while later I’d scrambled to a vantage point high above the river where I thought all three falls would be easily visible. They weren’t. However now I could see a great spot where they would be. The sun was out too. This really would be an awesome photo. Unfortunately this spot was the other side of a large (no really, really large) patch of brambles on the steep sided slope. With scant regard for my lovely dry trousers I launched myself into them thinking only of the awesome photo. Twenty minutes later I stood scratched and sweating on the far side of the brambles, with an utterly stunning view of the falls. Then the sun went in. A&$3, b#]
A quick chat with one of them on my lonely trudge back (around the brambles – yes there was a path) to the top of the falls confirmed that between #1 and #2 you could get out to inspect fall #2, but there was no chance to get out of your boat between #2 and 3#. His parting words to me were something along the lines of “Don’t ‘mess’ up ‘cos you’re by yourself”.
Anyways, there I was sitting at the top of a total of 25m of freefall feeling a little nervous. The first drop went OK, not a super-clean line, but OK. I got out on the lip of the 2nd for a brief inspection. Super-straightforward line down the middle, don't land too flat as it looks a bit hard. As I cruised over the lip, I put in the lightest of strokes so that I'd pencil it nicely. Unfortunately I began to pencil it a little too nicely and began to over-rotate. Seeing the water rushing rapidly face-wards, my view obscured only by the thin dark strip of my paddle-shaft, something in my head clicked and I instinctively lobbed my blades.
Landing upside-down, face still happily intact, I 'breathed' a sigh of relief. Then I took in my situation. I was paddleless, upside-down, and rapidly approaching the lip of a not-so-straightforward 10m fall. Sh!t! I then attempted to hand-roll.
I then thought back to the last time I'd tried to hand-roll – I'd thrown away my blades and failed to complete a kickflip on a grade 2 rapid.
What happened then?
I, err, swam.
That was embarrassing.
Very aware of the rapidly approaching lip of fall #3 and the room of doom below, I gathered all my strength I went for one last almighty attempt to right my kayak. Noop.
“Right, sod this for a game of sailors, I'm outta here”.
Knees through the deck, pop up for some air and take in my surroundings. Spot the eddy, grab the boat, and swim for it.
Making the eddy, my friends voices went echoed in my mind “Nowhere to get out between #2 and #3”. However, in times of necessity one becomes extremely resourceful. Courtesy of a small underwater ledge, I managed to empty my boat and attach it to a small twig growing from a crack in smooth granite bedrock.
Now, what about my blades.
Cursing the fact I didn’t have the splits in my boat I peered up to where my friend had been taking photos of me. He still was. Cheers, buddy! He signalled to me that the guy waiting for me in his boat at the bottom of the third drop had collected my blades (and was no doubt rather confused/worried as to my paddle-less predicament). Faff ensued, and after lots of climbing and throwline work on their behalf I was reunited with my paddles, on my little ledge.
Sitting there as they clambered around gave me ample time to consider the final fall. It was a much harder line than the first, with a grabby hole on the lip, and the current pushing towards the room of doom on river right at the bottom. Having rattled down the first drop with not much style, and utterly spooned the second, the confidence was not running high. However you look at it, 10m is a long way to fall.
Eventually, no doubt to some distant shouts of ‘man up’ and ‘you’ve got to run it anyway’, I took a deep breath and went for it. Start right, with some speed to the left to counter the cross-current, overshoot the line a bit, correct it, oops, too much correction, off the lip, tuck up and hope.
All this was in the middle of a bit of an epic mission to catch my flight home...
Aah, fun fun fun...
Thought it was going to be published in one of their later issues..
Having recently re-subscribed (I think) to CKUK I'm look forward to seeing photos of me swimming gracing their pages for the second time...