Llandysul weekend – Jan 2008

Here’s an old article I found…

Friday night… with KENT FORD!
The club’s annual Llandysul trip had been carefully timed by Martin to coincide with nationwide flooding. And we managed to end up in the one part of the UK which had been flooded more than anywhere else.  The river Teifi outside the canoe centre in Llandysul was stonking along and was still rising as the rain poured down.

Myself, Ray and R-J were first to arrive on the Friday night and promptly decided to head out for curry and beer as the local scouts were still using the centre to practice for their cookery badge (cookery badge indeed, what’s the world coming to!).  We scoffed the food and then a few others started turning up – just in time to enjoy a video we’d found, ‘The river runner’s edge’ with Kent Ford.  The sight of all that eighties fluorescent kit was a true sight to behold.  Popular radical boat tricks from this era were: front surfing, back surfing and throwing your paddles away (it seems having a moustache was also a popular move).

A few of us headed to the pub rather than suffer the kayaking video ‘Kajak Balkan’, which seemed to consist of Italian paddlers going down not very hard rapids.  A few beers and river discussions later, a slightly inebriated bunch headed back to the canoe centre to marvel at the glowing kettle and disagree further about which rivers we may paddle in the morning.

Saturday… big day at Buriel Chamber
I’m woken up by Ben saying I have 10 minutes until my breakfast is ready (he suddenly becomes my favourite club member).  A fine fry up later, and we’ve still not made any decisions on where to paddle.  The Teifi is now even higher.

Eventually, we half form a plan to head for Llyn Brianne to have a look at the famous slide at the dam.  We drive through water-logged roads.  The fields all around are under a few feet of water. Eventually, as we get closer to the dam, we start to see the surrounding rivers – tiny tribs that would normally only be trickles are raging.  The dam and slide are huge – there’s a foot or so of water going down the spillway, and the stopper at the bottom is phenomenal with about 20ft of tow back.  Surprisingly there are no takers to run it today.

We head down to the get in for the Tywi at Burial Chamber bridge.  The river here is a nice class II bimble … usually.  In flood, it was a different game.

We get on and start floating down the river. It feels fairly friendly – fast flowing, boiling and no eddies, but it’s easy going and the 15 of us stretch out into a few groups, chatting and joking as we speed along. This goes on for a few ks and, just as boredom is beginning to set in, I notice RJ and Ben making some fairly fast moves ahead.  A pourover is taking up most of river left, a sizeable stopper is taking most of river right, with just a small green tongue on the far right… but straight into trees. RJ and Ben make for far river right and then paddle quickly away from the tree behind the stopper.  Everybody else tries to follow… except for Rich S, who piles into the pourover.  I just have time to see his boat throwing ends as I turn to concentrate on the line.

After a couple of circulations, Rich S manages to roll and the boat pops out of the towback.  We gather ourselves in an eddy before pushing on.  Rich explains he quite fancied the look of the left line – a new club probe is born!  (Later he reveals he’d actually forgotten his glasses.)

It’s a slightly more nervous group that heads off from this episode, as there are a lot of blind bends and not a lot of time if an ‘interesting’ feature appears.

We enter the first gorge.  The water boils and swirls against the sheer sides, and we hit our first big rapid – a series of waves on river right, including a decent-sized stopper that puts Neville over.  A decent roll means he’s up quickly and we carry on.

The second gorge is a little thinner.  Rounding a corner, I see Ben and RJ heading for a tiny eddy and signalling – there’s a tree across the river.  15 people into such a fast-flowing small space isn’t a great idea.  Luckily, there’s just enough room under the tree to thread through – ducking low against my deck, I feel the thick trunk of the tree scrape the back of my buoyancy aid… gulp.

We speed on, looking for the get-out bridge.  Eventually, after some small rapids, we see it.  Beneath the bridge lurks a big, car-eating sized hole.  Running the shuttle, we couldn’t see underneath the bridge, but at water level a couple of huge holes form behind curling waves. Luckily we all get through and make the get-out eddy.  A quick change and then back to the centre in Llandysul for tea, jaffa cakes and dodgy kayaking videos.

16km in 55 minutes.  No stopping.  Some hairy rapids.  And great fun.