Bigger. Better. Wetter. River Lyn.

River East Lyn Trip Report (Dec '01)

A good day on the river equates to approximately 107 good days at work. Which is why I wrote this at work.

Having enduring the slings and arrows of outrageous foot n mouth only to be followed by riverbed cracking drought, it was a unique novelty to see drops of liquid fallingas if from the sky. Paddlers across the south of England staggered blinking into the street in open mouthed wonderment, trying to place just where and when they'd seen this stuff before.

'Oops, if it's like this in town, wot's it going to be like in the gorge??'

A mixed bag of the usual suspects converged on Lynmouth at a rather late mid-day, gawping uneasily at the chuntering water level in the East Lyn. Some of the group backtracked to the cars for a relaxing float on the River Barle. The leftovers deferred any decision with a retreat to the cafe. Plans were laboriously bashed out over an extended cream scone, and we were ready to set off. Chris Wheeler breezed in at this point, and we all stood down to Amber Alert whilst he lunched leisurely and the whole planning process began again. Fast forward: we were finally changed and ready for the off. Frank and Alex arrived then, and we all sat down and faffed about again. Paddling in the fast lane, you have to be there to grasp just how exhausting it is.

Way too much wet stuff in the river. It seemed to be dropping (if you stared long enough optimistically) so our group bobbed off downstream from the put in, enjoying deep bouncy water where rock dodging is the norm. The grim realisation dawned upon me that I was the 'Weakest Link' in a rather strong group. Uh oh! My sole advantage of 'knowing' the river proved useless; rapids and falls, which were familiar friends, proved mysteriously reconfigured. To achieve mental focus, I tried admiring the Lyn's fabulous green gorges. No use! The admittedly stunning vista kept losing signal without warning, to be replaced by a Test Card of green murk and bubbles.

The volume and gradient were turned up. A 'warm-up' rapid before the main gorge had somehow become full-on grade 5...things were going to get lively! I broadened the group's river-running techniques by introducing them to the bewildering concept of 'inspecting'. Squinting down from the tourist path, we tried to adjust what we saw to compensate for 'Shrinkavision'. From on high, the team nonchalantly selected lines and predicted successful outcomes I had a sudden 25-year flashback to debating with other grubby kids whether our Matchbox cars would clear a death-defying leap around a section of looped track.

Before I could say, 'reality check' we were up to our chinstraps. The amount of Star Test badges sewn to one's cag counted for diddly squat as we missed eddies, made heroic failures of crucial boofs and demonstrated amateurishly out of control lines. Crux section #X saw all and sundry stuffed into a rock infested hole, smeared along the riverbed, and swiped into an eddy - which gave the perfect viewing spot to enjoy the next victim's identical fate. The river was nothing if not democratic.

'Ooh dear, it's rather big in here...'

Crux section #Y was the biggie. Safe in the eddy, conjure up an imaginary line. Fluff it abysmally. Alton Towers minus the safety belt, a random ride through stomping stoppers. Left. Right. Up. Down. Backwards. Upside down. Flobbing over the final waterfall was almost anticlimactic. Except it was an evil closed-in pourover. Last cannon fodder to drop in, I backlooped predictably into the maw and a prolonged multi-dimensional caning commenced. Betwixt mouthfuls of East Lyn, I reasoned, a dead cert swim but "best put on a show for the crowd". Once I'd done the minimum to maintain dignity, I fumbled for the grabloopbut the water stopped bubbling! An opportunistic roll and I found I'd been flushed clearexactly as planned of course.

'Just another 30 seconds and it'll let me go...'

Noting the wide glazed eyes of the others, it became clear all had suffered the same rinse cycle, with Chris W enjoying an oh-so-rare visit to the fish. Cue the bit where we mercilessly take the whiz. Funny thing was, for once nobody did. Chris simply picked the unlucky lot that we all came close to plucking. Anyhow, we made up for it in the pub later

How are the mighty fallen...Chris Wheeler retrieves his kit.

Bouncing down into Lynmouth, the wide canalized banks gave testimony to a not so remote time when the East and West Lyn combined to swat the town into the sea. We were accelerated out into the Bristol Channel where the warmth of the sea was a boost to the system. The sun had dipped from sight but left us a glorious colour and light show, a revelation after the gloomy gorge interior. Last time I paddled through these harbour gates, I duracell-bunnied right to South Wales (imagine the computer game 'Frogger' played with Oil Tankers). This time I humbly accepted the limitations of my Method Air, and about turned. Joining the rabble on a clean steep wave face, we surged back towards Devon with some distinctly uncool whoops and paddle spins.

A nice warm-down into town.

The facts have been changed to protect the indifferent.

Mark Rainsley.

PS Chris Wheeler adds his own biased perspective to the story...

'You haven't mentioned...

*The island in town was almost entirely submerged when we arrived.

*The group was an indecisive shambles before I arrived, when I carefully considered the water levels for er....precisely 0.024 secs and said, complacently, 'sure, it looks fine', whilst I headed straight for the cafe without looking at the river.

*How I'd somehow ended up at the front, in the gorge, with no bank support ('Oh, I insist, after you good Sir')'