10 Nov 19
Following on from the excellent experience we had on The Basingstoke Canal two weeks before (see Ash Paddle) and with The River Thames running very fast and angry, we decided to explore a little further along towards Fleet in Hampshire.
We launched where we turned last time by the A325. There is a slipway and a solid jetty is being built. I think there is a canoe club here as well. But it all looked very closed up for the winter.
The day was dry, cool but beautifully sunny, with no wind. 5 of us arrived almost simultaneously and were soon on the water. Teamwork helped in pumping up the boards.
We headed West towards Farnborough Airport, home of the famous Air Show. The Canal was perfectly still and very clear. It was as if we were paddling on a mirror or kind of floating in mid-air. Magical!
We could here the Exec Jets taking off every so often. Then we passed under a girder bridge and into a turning pool. This was right at the end on the runway. On que an exec jet came into land, it was very low.
From there the canal goes into a cutting and on towards Fleet. As we got the the edge of the town we were getting hungry and on the look out for somewhere to stop. A wayside pub or cafe as there was in Ash on the previous trip. We were not going to be in luck. The only pub was at the other end of town, some 2 miles away and a half hour of hard paddling.
In the end I found a Spar on Google and we decided to stop. The one search I didn’t do was for Restaurants. I should have as there, less than 100 metres from the canal was the Sorrento Restaurant. We could have had a pizza. But that will have to wait until next time. We were on the clock as one of our members had turned back on their own. This is never a good thing on a cold day. We had already had one person fall in. Luckily Alex had brought spare clothes and handed them over to the damp and chilly paddler.
Once we had refueled for the return leg. Garage Chicken sandwich and coffee, in a chilly park, yum? The chase was on! Could we catch up with the paddler who had turned earlier. It was a good training run. concentrating on correct paddle stroke and board position. However, the falling Autumn leaves on the water made the going tough. Having to stop now and then to clear the fin. Bouncing the board sometimes helped, but most of the time it didn’t.
Passing the Airport, more aircraft were spotted. By this time we were all getting tired and the stroke style went out the window and the lazy cruising stroke came into play. Just tapping the board along.
We arrived back at the car park just as the other paddler was exiting the water. They were safe and warm, very cheerful actually, so nothing was said. The best advice is if you need to head for home early, is take someone with you.
It was a truly wonderful day and having to push ourselves on the way back added to the sense of achievement.
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