Essex Ditches - Ditch Ninja Trip
22nd March 2002
With frantic emails of "It's raining anyone up for paddling" followed by last minute phone calls, a team of three assembled at Papermill lock on the river Chelmer. On the water for a warm up, after ten minutes of boredom on the weir a plan was hatched.
"Lets load the boats into your old Land Rover and drive to Hoe mill lock for the weir and surf wave there"
"Because we're wet and we don't want wet seats in our cars"
"OK, sounds like a giggle"
With that the Land Rover was loaded, the Zwo doesn't fit legally but our only concerns were low branches and cables as we set off with an additional Magic Bat and RPM.
Again after a short play and attempts to surf the top wave failing a cry of
"I'm bored, if the White Water Warriors can write about epics and descents of un-run river in far flung corners of the globe so can we"
- well, far flung ditches of Essex. Back to the Land Rover for an epic ditch descent of a lifetime. So with boats hastily loaded and still in wet kit we set off through the tranquillity of rural Essex to find the ideal get in of our dreams. The first epic occurred as we rounded a right hand bend at breakneck speed (well all right less than 30mph, the Land Rover is over 30 years old) the boats fell off. With them re-tied we were once again off inspecting the gargantuan ditch from bridges and re-tying the boats on again and again and again. What is it with paddlers? a. they can't tie boats on, b. they always want just a little look up stream to see if it goes, and that's just what
happened on that fateful Friday afternoon.
Eventually having traversed Essex following the course of our prey we parked in Terling Ford, no literally in Terling Ford, with water lapping at the doors we unloaded the boats, not the best idea as they floated off down stream, a seal launch was offered from the roof, but instantly declined. With the transport parked and the rotor arm removed for security (the doors don't lock) we were off on the ditch paddle of our dreams. So half way through our epic journey having finally started paddling, the Ditch Ninjas prepared to do battle with anything the Ter could throw at them, luckily the gathering crowd of local kids didn't throw anything and we were off on possibly the first recorded descent of this section.
The first Km was a manicured ditch with cut grass and flower beds down to the waters edge, probably because it runs through people's back gardens and the estate of Terling Place, then into open country side to battle the un-known. There were many hazards on the descent apart from my two comrades, low bridges were numerous, fine for lower volume boats with lower volume paddlers but for Magic Bats and Magic Bat sized paddlers, I'll leave you the reader to decide.
After 3Km of us, the Ditch Ninjas, battling with low bridges, the river choked in several places with branches and twigs (a bit like the log jam in the Durance Gorge, France, but on a much, much larger scale), not once did we portage (unlike on the Durance) and two barbed wire fences spanning across the river we reached the A12 road bridge at Hatfield Peverel and the awesome weir. With all three down safely, some spinning out of control on the face, we summoned up all our courage to continue the battle.
Time was now against us as well as the bramble bushes, trees and anything else sharp and pointy that nature could summon up to spear us with and with the light fading fast a decision needed to be made, do we battle on to the sanctuary of the river Chelmer or do we abort the descent and live to paddle again. We chose the latter, mainly because I was late for my tea, and found a suitable egress in the Ford at Nounsley. This now left us with the problem of two cars at Papermill lock some 2Km distant and one in Terling Ford, with myself left as a sacrificial boat guardian to fend off the natives the two cars were collected from Papermill and an hour later the third from Terling Ford then off home for tea, a happy ending to one of the last great wilderness ditch paddling epics in Essex by the Ditch Ninjas - until next time!
The names of the Ditch Ninjas have been withheld to protect their identity and against accusations of stupidity, for the same reasons there are no photographs to support the expedition (as well as the fact I forgot my camera) and the photos accompanying this report are only used for demonstration purposes, [The stupidity extends to not actually giving me the pictures. Ed.] but like all good epics a 999 Rescue re-construction will be staged later, using actors or fizzing out of the faces to protect the stupid.
Chairman Southend Canoe Club