Going for a little paddle to Canterbury and and having a look around the Cathedral sounded like a fun idea. It was just going to be me and Ewa. It had been a while since we had just paddled together.
I read up on Paddle Points where to paddle and what to avoid. So I was reasonably confident we would have a fun and relaxing time. However, one wrong turn and the gentle paddle turning into a whole different adventure.
We were advised on Paddle Points to either park at Sainsburys or the Toddlers Grove Park. We got that bit right. The Toddlers Grove Park is the best location as there is plenty of parking, although it is not cheap. Sainsburys has 2 hours free, but I will come to that later.
After walking through a small park we came to a sluice. I decided to carry on downstream to see where the Sainsburys Car Park and Launch point was. The river downstream of the sluice was a lot shallower and was going to be a “Wet Launch”, we had to wade into the middle of the beautifully clear water to get enough depth for our touring fins, (error #2), a river fin would be much better for this paddle.
After pumping up, and launching under the main road bridge, we headed downstream (first error). The Great Stour was running fast and we surprised a few ducks, who shot off into the sky, just ahead of us. Under some low bridges we were having a great time, flying along with wind and stream behind us. Eventually we came to Causeway Bridge and the Mill beyond. There was no way through so we had to paddle a little way back upstream to where we had notice a launch point. Paddle Points had mentioned a portage might be needed. This was it I thought.
It was great fun going down the fast flowing, if shallow river, over small rapids with the fin bouncing off the bottom, with us on the nose of our boards to keep them moving. We realised we wouldn’t be able to paddle back the same way we had come, so when we were met with another Mill and Sluice, we stopped to see if we were going to have to get a taxi?? Horror of Horrors!
After a little investigation, the original branch of the river we had been on, looked deep enough to paddle back upstream. It was narrow, fast-flowing and beautifully clear. Whilst Launching, I threw my board in and inadvertently, splashed Ewa with a large wave of water from my board. She was just bending down on her board to get her phone to maybe capture me slipping down the bank and falling in. Karma, hey. I did apologies and was “accidently” splashed later on 😂
This was a Proper Adventure now! We had to wade in parts, climb over small weirs, use the boards as small bridges to get over obstacles. Eventually, we could go no further, the river was too shallow and we had to walk. After some consolation of the map and clarification that a taxi wouldn’t be needed, we hiked off through the parks of Canterbury back to the original sluice where we had launched downstream. This time we were heading the other way.
If only I had looked over the otherside of the bridge the first time, we would have had an easier paddle, but missed out on the adventure.
We had an easy launch and paddled upstream through the heart of Canterbury, passed the punts and guided pleasure boats taking tourist sightseeing. Under the very low bridges and past the ancient buildings of the City. It was great fun, waving at tourist and being photographed by many.
Finally out of the built-up area and into the fields and back to the Toddler Grove Park. Here you can paddle a long way upstream and this is where we should have gone first. There is also a closer launch point to the car park by a footbridge.
Once changed and boards packed away, we then visited the amazing Canterbury Cathedral. Regardless of your beliefs, it is an amazing and beautiful building and one we will be going back to. The entry price gives free re-admission for a year!
My advice is forget the Sainsburys Car Park and paddle from the Toddler Grove Car Park, into the fields first before heading into the City. But don’t let me put you off your own adventure. But please keep yourself safe.