A Personal Best on the Barle

What follows may or may not be regarded as an accurate trip report (apologies to the Tony Blair sound-alike on R4's Dead Ringers)...

Nearly didn't get on at Tarr steps - it looked huge compared with anything I'd ever seen, let alone paddled. Spent a lot of time waiting for the shuttlers to get back (nervous grins, distracted small-talk), fiddling unnecessarily with boat, kit, etc.

Eventually, all ready. Into boat, deck on (dry mouth, wild eyes), launch. Paddle downstream, round bend, look (double-take! Yes, I really must be round the bend!). Paddle frantically but not quite like a Duracell bunny through "really big stuff". Make break-out (pant frantically, grab tuft of grass for "support").

Set off again (gulp). Gentle bibbly stuff (well, compared to the last lot). Cry: "Look out, there's a rock!" Me: "Oh, sh*t!" Too late! Bump! Up and over... and over! (Gulp air, under water, bang head on rock...swimming!) "Grab my boat!" shouts Neil. Makes sense. It cost me 450 so I try to grab /my/ boat! "Grab my boat!" shouts Neil again! I look up and get an earful of green Topo. I grab /his/ boat. He ferries me into the bank (look brave, feel stupid for 1st swim).

Meanwhile, other members of the group are rescuing my paddles and rescuing and emptying my boat.

I climb up the bank... neoprene is no defence against the affections of bramble round the nether regions (sharp pricking, eyes water).

Craig:" You OK to carry on?" (looks round, deserted landscape...) Yes.

Back in boat, gently lowered into water by Craig, paddle downstream.

"Break out there" says Paul. I go for it. Wrong tree!... Over!...rescued (again). Me: "How far did I get?" Craig: "Not far enough for me to get back in my boat!" (thinks..."that's why he's here to empty my boat again")

Craig:"You OK to go on?"

Me:(thinking stupidly*,"the trip's screwed if I say no") "Yes"

*There's a road/footpath where I'm sat!**

**same footpath as 100m before!

Off we go...

Another mile (ish) and I'm shivery. Paul rafts up with me and gives me a Mars bar (I don't carry Mars bars - I don't want to see my expenive dentures sinkin' in the river!)

I eat the Mars bars (keeping my mouth shut - Paul:"You OK?" Me: "MmmMmmmMMmmf")

We paddle a bit further and I'm totally phased! I can't feel anything below the waist* and I'm losing my balance - all stop! I get out of my boat and walk round, supping hot, sweet coffee.

*not my age!... I hope

After about 20 mins, we're off again. We paddle down to Dulverton Weir...at some points, I'm leading! (thinks: "Oh Sh**t")

We get to the weir... Paul's there at the top. I paddle over to him...totally knackered. He says, "do you want to follow mw?" YES!

He goes over... I follow... Yehaaaaa!!!!!!!!...

I hit the bottom, paddle for a bit... that's it... six miles... totally knackered... see break-out on left... go for it.... !Made it!... Paul paddles over, says, "You OK?... (me: "no")... Paul: Grab my boat".

We rafted down to 20m before the rest of the Club can see, then he thrusts my paddles into my hands and says, "You want to finish for yourself, don't you?"

Paddle (?) into the break-out at Dulverton. Dragged up slip-way. Man-handled out of boat! Held upright till legs acknowleged existence!

And that's how I achieved my "personal best".

My personal best was just that... but I couldn't have done it without Paul, Craig, Neil, Paul (Franklin), Jack, Chris, Nick and David!

On Sunday, I couldn't walk too effectively and I'm still aching in all sorts of places...

Wow! It was worth it!


By Keith Meredith.

Barle Guide