Dittons Paddle Boarding

Brett Scillitoe – 27 June 2022

How quickly a year passes. High Summer is the time to visit the Avon and Kennet Canal. We are making our way west towards Bath and Bristol. This year’s section was from The Rowbarge at Woolhampton to Newbury, The County Town of Berkshire.

The weather was a little challenging with a strong South Westerly breeze blowing. This meant that the number of paddlers was down not a normal Safari. However Paul wasn’t going to let the wind stop him getting a good supply of Vitamin D!

Most of the canal is in fact sheltered from the worst effects of the wind with trees giving protect. Just occasionally we had to paddle efficiently and make sure every paddle counted.

Paddling into the wind

The sun shone and it was fun going. We occasionally to a break to rest and enjoy the conditions.

After about 3 hours, having passes Thatcham we arrived in Newbury and had a look around some of the little backwaters. We got chased out of one private back water by a please lady asking us politely and her 3 big dogs, who made it clear, we shouldn’t be there 😂

After exploring the central area of Newbury, we stopped at the lovely Teashop By The Canal for amazing sandwiches and cakes.

After lunch it was time to head back and this time with the wind and stream in our favour. We saw a Terrapene by a lock and met Di who had come for a paddle in the afternoon. Then Emma Lost her fin as she lowered her board into the canal at a portage point. Time to improvise and we lashed her Quroc board to Di’s and then the fun just increased and they tried to sail the raft home or splash others. So many laughs. Hopefully Quroc will return her repaired board very soon.

Ewa and Di trying to sail the 2 Quroc boards. Di’s face tells how much luck they had.

We cover 14 mile in 8 hours, had hundreds of laughs and got chased by 3 dogs. Not forgetting the 5 beers and food we had at the Rowbarge on our return.

If you want to join in some of our Adventures, why not become a member.

By Brett Scillitoe 21 Nov 21
Photos: Diana Thorne, Glenn Clifford & Brett

It’s been a long time since our last Hot Tub Session. The world is a very different place in many respects. But one thing is still the same, having fun whilst training on a warm swimming pool, that hasn’t changed. Just as good as it used to be back in early 2020.

We are back for a series of winter training. We will be running various sessions, including Taster Session for those who can’t wait for the summer to try the wonderful sport of Paddle Boarding.

Pron paddling
Warm-up race – Charge of the Paddle Brigade

Saturday’s session started with an advanced class of Step-back Turn tuition. After a quite warm-up, I took the beginners and Tim Scott, the coach that walks around his board like it’s his living room, took the group that had managed it a couple of times, but wanted to build their confidence.

The first thing on the agenda was jump into the lovely warm water. After that it was getting the students to start spinning. In the end we all were jumping up and down the boards, doing pirouettes and generally walking about the boards without a care. We did fall in a lot!

Falling in
Falling in

After the spins came the race paddling that some of us had been taught by Emily King and we were now passing on the others. We were racing up and down the pool.

After the Advanced Training, it was time for the Dittons Dolphins to practice their SUP Polo skills and drills. We aim to beat BlueChip one day. It is a fantastic sport and very fast paced. Some of the Student from the earlier session stayed on to have a go. All loved it.

Moon lit SUP Polo Training
Moon lit SUP Polo Training

Finally, it was off to The Prince of Wales for one of our Winter Social Socials where regardless of whether you have paddle or not, we meet up for a drink and a chat. All Paddle Boarders are welcome to these Socials. Look out in the calendar for the next Hot Tub and Socials we have over the Winter.

Some of the gang
Pub Fun

If you would like to come and have a go in the Hot Tub and Support the club, why not Become a Member.

1 Nov 21 By Brett Scillitoe

We have been having Halloween Paddles since our first year 2017 and they have been fun, select groups. This year was something else. With a lot more new friends (that’s what we are at Dittons Paddle Boarding – Friends), it was time to Party.

I arrived in The Albany car park to be met with all sorts of creatures and ghouls. Some quite hideous! And it was half an hour to pump up time. To say they were keen is something of an understatement.

Very soon we were ready to go, the early arrivers were out on the water and scaring the birds and amusing the pub customers. Especially when they walked through the dinning area. There were Witches, skeletons, ghosts, Frankenstein, a shark, a Dead Mexican Mariachi Band member, the Joker or 2, a Pink Flamingo, to name but a few. It was hard at times to workout who was who. Some I didn’t recognise until I got back to the pub!!!

There were lights of all descriptions lot make sure that we adhered to the river rules of showing a light. Well, there were loads of lights!!

First, we headed up to Hampton Court Palace to say hello to Henry’s ghosts. He created a few! And then under the bridge to scare the drivers and pedestrians.

We then headed downstream and round Thames Ditton Island to The Olde Swan to scare their punters. Finally, we were blown back upstream to The Albany for the Party to begin.

We had drinks and a pre ordered meal and lots and lots of laughs. Whoever said Halloween was for kids. They haven’t met the members of Dittons Paddle Boarding. We know how to have fun.

If you would like to have fun and come paddle boarding with us, why not Become a Member.

By Sara Valente
18 Oct 21

A Brief history of the Dittons Dolphins

It all started one warm summer’s day in July with a taster session run by Blue Chip at Thames Sailing Club. Several curious paddlers from Dittons Paddle Boarding Club wanted to have a go at a niche sport called “SUP polo”, which is a cross between lacrosse and water polo…on paddle boards. With mixed teams, it is a very inclusive sport. Even as experienced paddlers, SUP Polo proved challenging even for the most agile paddlers. We fell backwards and forwards, sideways and belly-flopped, we landed on each other’s boards and found creative new ways to fall into the water.

Suffice to say after a several hours of aiming footballs at a bouy using the SUP Polo paddles and taking immense joy at knocking each other into the water, the Dittons paddlers were hooked. Not long after, they formed the team “Dittons Dolphins” and started practicing at Hampton Sailing Club once a week playing friendly matches against Chichester SUP Club and Blue Chip. It was a steep learning curve but after a month of practice, The Dittons Dolphins felt ready to enter themselves into the National SUP polo tournament.

SUP Polo tournament

The Dittons Dolphins and support team arrived early at the Real Blue Chip SUP polo tournament 2021 and set up a base camp at the Guildford Lido. They had a gazebo, eight camping chairs, two camping grills, a BBQ and several weeks worth of food. The Dolphins knew that sustenance and stamina would be the key to a successful tournament.

The first match was played against SUP Junkie, an experienced team and fierce competition. Despite getting a goal, the Dittons Dolphins lost 6-1 in the first match. They made a valiant comeback in the second match winning 5-1 against the Dorset Dunkers but lost again to the Blue Chip Raiders 3-0 in another tough match. The final match against Chichester was an extremely close draw 0-0 as both teams were strong in defence and both narrowly missed scoring.

The final result saw the Dittons Dolphins place third at their first National tournament. Dittons Paddle Boarding Club couldn’t be more proud of their Dolphins and hope more will join the sport and get practicing for the next tournament looking to take place Spring 2022!

5 September 2021 – By Jo Burne

The club held its second ‘Whole of the Wey’ trip on 5th September.   Hosted by the River Wey Tuesday group but open to all DPB to come and SUP the whole of the Navigation.

The Wey Navigation runs from Godalming to the Thames at Weybridge and is 31k (plus a bit on the Thames at the end to get to the car park) and 14 locks.  I joined this event last year.  I’d only been with the club a few months and managed to do 2/3rds of the Wey.   This year I was determined to make the whole trip.  

It was an early start.   With it being a one-way trip, we had a combination of partners kindly picking people up and lift buddies.   I drove to Weybridge to pick up Ed at 7.15am, who left his car there for the return to the start.   Then we drove to the start in Godalming at Farncombe Boat house. There were 13 of us setting off at 8.30am.  In a couple of groups to make it easier for portage, passing people and comply with the Wey rule of 10 people max!

It was a lovely morning.  A little overcast but for September nice and warm and the promise of sun later.   The first few Kms we tried to keep up a reasonable pace and they ticked over with the locks coming and going.   It was great to get to Guildford – the big major milestone, before a snack and refuel.   The group mixed and matched around, a nice pace for chatting and getting to know people who usually paddle in different areas.   A few people took our photos with amazement and seeing so many paddleboarders out together.

Going from Guildford to Send the sun started to come out and everything gets really pretty.   Lots of locks, bridges, reflections and nature.   Occasional sounds of the A3 coming in and out, but mostly peaceful and beautiful.  Quite a few barges around, as it was such a nice day at the end of the summer.   And, as always on the Wey, a few more locks to negotiate.  The lovely nature kept us going while we paddled towards send, keen to get lunch.

We arrived at Send, just over half way, the group straggled out a bit, between 12pm and 12.20pm.   There we met four more Dittons Paddlers, who were doing ‘Half the Wey’.   We stopped at the New Inn pub in now glorious sunshine.   The Half Weyers had set up a paddleboard camp by the riverside and grabbed us a couple of tables by the river.   There was an outside bar for beers and soft drinks and we ate our picnics by the river – all very idyllic.   

Tempting as it was to sit in the sun, there was another half a navigation to get done!   So set off again around 1pm.   Layers off, hats on and sunscreen for what was now a pretty hot day for September.   Lots more pretty countryside, cows in the river and quite a lot of river weed (but very passable) brought us passed the picturesque Ripley Priory and onto Pyrford.   The speedy folks (not me!) were rewarded with time to visit and ice-cream van next to the Anchor pub.  The rest of us caught up for a little snack and a quick rest.

Photos 9 and 10

The next section is the longest without a lock, a nice 4.5k of flat and straight (ish) water.   A great combination of countryside then passing under the M25 and the columns of graffiti.   It was nice to finish this section as it was then onto the home straight.  Crossing the road, we headed on towards Weybridge.   After our final portage we headed towards the Thames to a really pretty stretch past the posh houses of Weybridge.   A very pretty view for the end of the Wey.   There’s no-where to park here, so although finished with the Wey we had a final tiring portage through the rowing club and onto the Thames.   Where less than a km brought us to Elmbridge Canoe Club at around 4.30pm.    Many of us had a dip in the Thames to celebrate – we’d made it!    A final trip to the pub for some then headed back to Godalming then home – all feeling rather tired but happy memories of a fab day and pleased we’d completed the “Whole of the Wey”.     Hope you can join us next year.

14 Aug 21 – Brett Scillitoe

It started off as just the next Safari of the year. It’s been on my list for some time and Ed, Claire and Alex had paddled bits of it before. The challenge of a Safari is we go the extra distance. Ed helped with the planning and after checking the tides Saturday 14 August was the day. A month before when we set it up we didn’t have a clue if the weather was going to be kind to us.

We shouldn’t have worried. In a summer that has be challenging weatherwise, the forecast was OK. The week before, the attendee numbers started to creep up. It was looking good.

Come the day cars were shared and we arrived at Warsash just after 9am to pump up. Three of the club members who had all-round boards were able to borrow club touring boards. It’s one of the many benefits of club membership. By the time we were all pumped up and ready for the safety briefing, there were 21 of us. It was quite a sight!

After the Safety Briefing, we were off. A short walk and we were on the water and heading up the estuary. We had the wind and tide with us. It was definitely a mix of paddling and sailing. The Hamble is home to thousands of sailing yachts, both sailing and motor. Some very expensive ones at that!

The group did well to stay together and we made quite a sight out on the water. Our first stop was at The Jolly Sailor, Old Bursledon. The staff were great and quickly served us drinks and nibbles. We really did take the place over for a while. There were groups of us all over the place.

It took a while to get back on the water and carry on under the 3 bridges that cross The Hamble. By this time the tide was in full flow and as the river is narrow here we were moving at quite a pace. We were all wearing quick release belts or attaching our leashes to our Buoyancy Aids. With so many buoys and posts to avoid, it is the safest place to attach the leash.

Once we passed the last moored boats, the river opened up and the hustle and bustle of the marina area was left behind. We were paddling through fields and woods, with lots of bird life to look at, including some small white storks.

At the top of the main estuary, the river has 2 branches. The Hamble to the West and Curbridge Creek to the East. We turned left and headed up the Hamble as we had time to kill as we needed it to be high tide to reach our lunch stop.

Soon after there was a shout from the back of the group the “The Cream Mary”, the Hamble’s very own Ice Cream Boat had made an appearance. Had they seen 21 paddlers heading upstream or knew that the YMCA watersports centre was about to open 🤷‍♂️

They were delicious all the same and he made a good profit.

Onwards we went, up to a waterfall that is visible when the tide is low. I paddled over it before I know it was there and promptly ran aground on the large Paving Slabs that cover the base of the river here, under the road bridge at Botley Mills.

We turned and headed downstream towards lunch. Passed the other paddlers coming upstream. In the ensuing fun of turning round in a tight stream with long touring boards, a game of Domino’s was played and poor Caroline was at the end and went for a swim 🏊‍♂️😳

After a speedy paddle, we arrived at the Horse and Jockey for lunch. The staff couldn’t have been more helpful and the pub was very well set up for large groups. The food was tasty with large portions. Definitely a place to visit, as long as the tide is in 😁

After lunch it was just a small matter of paddling back on the outgoing tide, but with a steady head wind.

The late afternoon sky was beautiful and the scenery magical. Lots of other paddlers were out on the water having fun.

However, the fun stopped for Jane, one of our party, when here paddle blade fell off and promptly disappeared into the gloom of the deep water. She was adrift. Yes, up the creek with out a…

There was only one thing to do and that was to tow her home. She climbed onto my Red Voyager 13’2 and towed her board behind. The Voyager was brilliant and handled to extra load with ease. Once we had got going, it slipped easily over the water.

We finally reached the starting point by the foot ferry, after a proper paddle back. We were all tired but elated at such a great day out on the water.

Some went to the pub and others headed home, to return for part two – Hayling Blow 🌬

If you would like to join us on our next Safari, why not Become a Member.

By Brett Scillitoe 21 June 2021

It was a gentle start to the day, with an easy journey across to The Cunning Man Pub to the west of Reading. We were last here in September 2020 for lunch, at the turn round point of our first Safari on the Kennet and Avon Canal. Today’s Safari, the first of 2021, was going to be a different challenge entirely. Our Longest yet. We needed to be about our business and paddle well.

The Team at the start
Brett, Alex, Andy, Claire, Jackie, Sara

We had a group of six, Claire, Alex, Andy, Sara, Jackie and myself. After the normal pumping up and and faffing we perpared to go. A lone paddler passed us heading downstream, he was moving quickly on the strong current. We knew we would have to employ all our river skills to punch into the current for over 8 miles to our Lunch at the Rowbarge in Woolhampton.

paddle boarding under the M4
Paddle boarding under the M4

There were few other craft out on the canal as we made good progress upstream. This section of the Canal is very rural, with lots of wildlife, Geese of different kinds, Moorhens and Coots, Herons standing watch and many others. There were mainly cattle in the fields and the odd group of horses.

This section of Canal is notable not only for the normal locks, but the Pillboxes from World War 2, as the Canal was a heavily defended Stop Line. Some would have contained some big guns. Also, there were lots of Swing and Lift Bridges. These we had to duck under. Some were very low indeed and needed a couple of attempts to get under.

Posing by a well defended Lock
Posing by a well defended Lock

At Aldermaston Wharf we met some other paddle boarders and had a chat. This was going to be our lunch spot, but the Tea Rooms were closed for the day. The next eatery, was the Rowbarge, 2 miles further on. We kept on pushing on.

There are sections near the locks that are pure canal with very little flow, but these where in the minority. As we neared Woolhampton, the banks were lined with a large growth of Gunnera plants. It was an amazing display of these large plants.

Gunnera Plants

Lunch was eagerly awaited as we had burned a lot of calories and we needed to fuel for the return journey. There was a lot of banter and storytelling over the mainly burgers and beer. The challenges of ordering via Apps and online payments were overcome. Although we did confuse the staff a little as we used the QR codes from many different tables to order. But we worked it out. All part of the Adventure!

Lunch at the Rowbarge, Woolhampton
Lunch at the Rowbarge, Woolhampton

Oh, how we enjoyed the first section heading back. Riding the flow, passed the colourful narrowboats and through the wooded sections. Staying in the middle of the canal away from branches and other things to snag yourself on. We strongly advise quick release belts now for all paddling. We stuck together as well, making sure we were all safe. But no-one fell in or even had a “Moment”.

Under a low bridge
Under a swing bridge

We had been out for a long time and had met some lovely people along the way. Had good discussions with Fishermen about the river and what they were hoping to catch. As we got closer The Cunning Man, he sent us a head wind, just for a laugh. So, we doubled down and pushed for home. Checking each other were alright as we passed the last remaining locks. These are some of the danger points as you remount your board when tired.

Arriving back to the Cunning Man
Arriving back to the Cunning Man

Finally, the pub came into view, and we used our last energy to Sprint for the line. It had been a long, but very enjoyable, satisfying day.

We had a great mini safari today from Hurst Park to the Weir Hotel just past Sunbury Lock.

Paddle Boards neatly parked at The Weir

Pumping up in the sunshine, the day was set fair with low wind. We paddled as a group, past Platts Eyot up to Sunbury Court Island, pausing for refreshment.

Taking the quiet route between the land and the Island, then back into the mainstream, we were at Sunbury Lock shortly afterwards, making our way to the side and one by one walking up the portage to the higher level.

Moored Paddle Boards Ahead 😁🤙

A short paddle later and we were at the Weir Hotel, arriving ahead of schedule. Leaving our boards on the bank and making good use of the time waiting for the pub to open, we took the opportunity for a cooling dip. After trying to work out the online menu, staff appeared, and lunches and drinks followed soon.

Ready to Paddle home

After we were all fed and watered, we launched our boards to head back

Floating on the current

Avoiding the Sea Cadets, we made our way back down the portage, heading back to Hurst Park; stopping on route for hydration, we arrived back at Hurst Park on schedule.

With only one thing left to do, we were back in the water for another cool off, a great way to end the safari.

By Brett Scillitoe

The day dawned a typical September morning, a little cool with dew on the grass. Although Sunday was a Training Day at ‘Ditton Beach’, the Safari group were off in a different direction.

Reading was the launch site and The Kennet the river we were going to explore. We all met near the Wokingham Waterside Centre, who were gearing up for their days sessions and kindly let us use their facilities.

John Lloyd from our Maidenhead Paddle Base joined us. So the group was Abi, Anya, Colette, Sam, John and myself, with Stephen joining later.

The route was a few hundred metres upstream and then left into the entrance to The Kennet. We immediately noticed the increase in stream we were paddling against, compared to The Thames.

At the first lock we met Stephen who had joined us from West London and had traveled to Reading by train. The joy of an ISUP.

We were now on the Reading Town section, which was fun to paddle pass the tower blocks and eventually through the middle of The Oracle shopping centre. The river on this section even has it’s own traffic light system, It gets narrow in points.

There were lots of people surprised to see us and little children pointing and waving. It was great fun.

Very soon the next lock came into view. This next section is narrow and fast flowing. Fortunately there was very little other river traffic, but then the local Angling Club was having a Match Day and there were 40 fishermen on the bank. So, it added to the challenge of the Safari. You can imagine some of the reactions as we appeared. Most were friendly, one even court a fish as we passed by!

The next lock was a challenge as we had to climb some steep steps. But then this was a Safari and you need to have some challenges on a Safari!!

The following section was now truly out into the countryside, with canal barges moored along the edge. This continued for so way with the river gently curving this way and that. One more lock and we were onto the final stretch before Lunch at The Cunning Man.

The bridges on this section are typical 17th Century and very attractive. A pleasure to paddle under.

After a Sunday Roast and a Pint for me, it was the return trip, on the current and with the wind. What a joy.

Heading back along the same waterway is always a pleasure of there are new things to see and discover. The Anglers, had finishes and I don’t think it had been a good day. Good for the fish I guess. The Oracle was much busier as we slipped by the shoppers and dinners.

We stopped by Reading Prison to drop Stephen off to catch his train and see where Oscar Wilde was imprisoned for falling in love.

And so to the final run back to The Thames. It had been a good day, we had known we had done over 10 miles. Half of those against the current!

If you would like to join us on our next Safari, why not Become a Member.

by Anya Williamson

Tonight we paddled the Bowers Lock loop. Big black clouds were gathering, we watched them and looked at each other said Oh well and off we went.

Last time I did the loop a few trees had fallen across the river which made it difficult to pass. We took a chance not knowing how far along the loop we would get. The threatening black clouds cleared and it turned out to be a perfect paddle evening.

We were in luck, somebody had taken the trouble to cut away the worst of the fallen trees and we were able to complete the loop. In places we had to duck, lay down due to obstacles and paddle very fast in parts of the river where the flow was very strong.

We said ‘if feels like paddling in a mangrove’. We spotted TWO kingfishers, a heron, swans, ducks and a pigeon. Paddling off the beaten track, away from traffic, people and other sounds is so peaceful.

We reached the weir and found the perfect place to bypass it. With all this in mind next time this one has to be done in reverse so we can go with the flow, fast.🏄

If you like what we do and would like to support us, why not become a member.

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