Barle and Exe

Each year Glynn and Helen receive an invitation from South Avon Canoe Club to attend their canoe camping weekend on the Exe and Barle. This year was no exception and so off we pootled on Friday evening to deepest darkest Somerset. After a brief stop on the way for some food (well a second stop after the fries at the first stop were looking a bit pasty and the queues too long), we eventually rolled into Exbridge and the brilliant Exe Valley Campsite. Tents up quickly, we popped around the corner to the Badger's Holt for a quick drink, to sign in for the weekend with Neil, the organiser, and to say hello to our fellow paddlers for the weekend.

River Barle

We woke in the morning, glad we had brought our ear plugs, because there were a lot of noisy pheasants in the neighbouring forest. After a quick breakfast we had a safety briefing about the state of the rivers and the hazards we could expect and made the decision to do the Barle on the first day and the Exe on the second day. So off we went to the get in, setting off in groups so we didn't all get in each other's way. Our group consisted of me, Glynn, Helen, Steve and Kevin in kayaks, and Philip and Mary in an open canoe.

The river was quite low and a little bumpy in places, but we found plenty of different weirs to go down (some more than once) and also a few waves to surf. Philip and Mary found it a little shallow in places, but they persevered, and were handsomely rewarded with sunshine, stunning views and even the odd fish jumping out of the water to catch flies. Our get out was The Anchor Inn, where we relaxed with a pint before nipping back to the campsite for a shower. We had dinner back in the Badger's Holt (very good steak and ale pie) and a few drinks, while contemplating what 'bolving' was, before retiring for the night in preparation for the River Exe on the next day. The pheasants were a little quieter thanks probably to the shooting party we saw the day before!

River Exe

Sunday brought a light mist in the morning, but not enough to really warrant any special consideration for paddling. We decamped and packed the car, and then gathered around for the safety briefing which incorporated the annual award for the first swim, presented to Maidstone Canoe Club, and a special mention for Steve (from our party the previous day) who took a while to roll himself upright and eventually resorted to the palatha roll. After a round of applause we set off for the get in which just happened to be The Anchor Inn, where we got out the previous day.

I managed to take pee in what I thought was a secluded spot, but which turned out to be where the web cam was aimed for the river level. Somewhere, I am probably an internet phenomenon! Once on the river we tackled a few more interesting weirs and drops, most notably the fish steps, which were good fun, and met up with some other paddlers, and even the group which had set off before us. The river banks were teaming with wildlife and we had kingfishers and herons and lots of other birds flitting about in the trees around us.

Our get out was a field just next to Morrisons, so after the boats were loaded we popped into the cafe for a very cheap cup of tea and a cake. The perfect end to a very relaxing weekend! I'd like to say a huge thanks to Neil for organising the weekend. I think next year we'll definitely take a bigger Isis CC contingent as the rivers are beautiful, and with a little more water they could be even more fun!

- Jen


Imitating the sound a stag makes. In Somerset they have competitions to see who is the best 'bolver'. Back in the day, it was important for hunters to be able to bolve because the sound signifies a challenge to other stags in the area, and so to protect their patch from intruding males they would usually then come to you, masquerading as a challenging stag, rather than you having to try and track them.

Photos by Jen.

You can also check out Glynn's video.