Holme Pierre Pont

On Friday 15 May Gwyl and I received a text from Ruari who was hoping to resurrect our plan to visit Holme Pierre Pont in Nottingham. It would mean a very early start on Saturday morning with a stay overnight at the campsite for the National Whitewater Sports Centre. Given that Gwyl and I were going to the late showing of a film, we tried to negotiate reasonable start time for Saturday, which turned out to be 8am - it was a killer!

I arrived at the Scout Hut on Saturday morning, after four hours sleep, thinking I had made a big mistake and wishing I could have had a few hours more in bed. Gwyl, Ruari and our driver Jane (Ruari's mum) turned up just after me and we got to work loading our boats and kit on the car. After a short stop at Sainsbury's for some food we were on our way by 9.30am.


It was chilly in the back of the car as the heating system wasn't working, but rather than not turning on, it doesn't switch off! This means that those in the front seats of the car overheat and so they need to keep the windows open. Unfortunately this means those in the back of the car freeze without the benefit of the heating! It was also amusing as the rain came down because we were sat in the back of the car being rained on!

We arrived at the course before lunch and walked down it to see what had changed since the redesign. The course is much more challenging, with the new design essentially allowing the course to be manipulated when needed, with barrels being deployed to make sections narrower and thus the water flow through them at greater speed. Our first impressions were that there was more of everything, including slalom poles to hit your head on!


I always feel a little uneasy looking at all the water flowing down the course. It reminds me of the first time I sat at the top of the course, after all the other club members had started their descent, and I thought I can't do this. A little pep talk from Simon soon coaxed me down and although I swam more than I paddled I was really proud of myself. Things have changed a lot since then. We managed an average of 11 descents on Saturday with only a couple of rolls and no swims!

It was interesting getting used to the new course. The giant wave under the bridge (my nemesis) has been preceded by another drop and wave just as a gentle introduction! The looping pool below the biggest wave used be a good place to wait before playing in the main wave, however, these pools are now whirling maelstroms which suck you in and push you around. The gentle finish to the course before the final bridge now has a couple of extra sections to it too. It was a privilege to watch some international canoe slalom paddlers practising for the championships the next week, gliding through the waves and giant whirlpools without any effort.


Gwyl and Ruari did our club proud though, as time and again they forged their way into the flow and surfed the waves before being spat off and thrown around for another attempt. I have to say a massive thanks to both lads who were brilliant at sandwiching me between them as we all descended, and we even managed to practise our hand signals as I waited in an eddy to give them time to play or take photos. All in all it worked out brilliantly. Given that Gwyl had had about the same amount of sleep as me I was astounded at how much punishment he seemed to be enjoying as he and Ruari tried to tame the biggest wave, but by 5pm we all decided it was time to grab a shower and some food. We all had a lovely dinner at a nearby pub and retired to our tent for a restful night to do more paddling the next morning before we departed. On Sunday we tried to grab some photos of each other at strategic points doing increasingly impressive moves, or in my case, making eddies (or not).

It was a really fun, productive weekend and we'll be running another trip to HPP in the near future, and hopefully taking the Topo Duo for a spin!

- Jen

Video by a Gwylim, camera work by Jen and Ruari.

Pictures by Gwylim, Jen, Ruari and Jane.