Poole Harbour - August Bank Holiday Weekend

After zipping down the motor way to Dorset, Simon, Jen, Kieran, Anna, Penny, Ruth and Becks all met in the car park at Poole Harbour to unload boats and work out the day's strategy. We had some initial problems with the trailer, because it wouldn't fit through the narrow barriers, so we had to unload and the awesome power of Simon, with some help from the rest of us, managed to lift it over the barriers and safely into the car park.

Once loaded, we carried the boats down to the sand and launched for our first paddle of the weekend. We made off for the two islands to the south of Brownsea Island. As the tide was low we managed to find some smaller islands where we thought it might be fun to have lunch, one mini island each, but a swift look around made us all realised that they smelled and were a bit soggy. All of us that is, except Simon, who decided to beach his boat on one and make an effort to get out. It didn't last long though and we all paddled off in the direction of Brownsea to find a secluded beach for a quiet lunch. Over our sandwiches Kieran and Anna gave us all a demonstration of tying knots in case we needed winching out of the harbour by a helicopter. We all prayed this wouldn't happen, finished our lunch and decided to continue around the island.

As we rounded the north of the island the wind reared its head and we realised that our plans of exploring more islands would have to wait because the gentle pootle around the harbour had turned into a struggle against the high wind which was making the water very choppy and difficult to paddle. We set our sights on a series of buoys which helped us to focus on a path across the harbour, but even with this we had to still beware of the sailing boats and wind surfers who came zipping across the water in front of us. A special commendation goes to Becks who was experiencing her first trip on moving water and who managed admirably. We finally made it to the shore and went for ice cream to celebrate not being blown out of the harbour.

Back at the camp site we set to work creating fire and cooking our dinner, which we had all definitely earned. Kieran and Anna chose the traditional coal barbecue while we chose to use the Isis CC gas barbecue which had seen a lot of action this summer, so much so that it decided to go into retirement. Andy had joined us at this point and we used his talents to mend the barbecue which threatened to leave us with uncooked burgers. After a few minutes of shaking and blowing, the gas started flowing and the men finally made some fire. Becks sampled some carbon encrusted burgers and then went back to Oxford that evening.

After munching our way through varying qualities of burgers, sausages and some dubious looking chicken wings we pondered what to do for the rest of the evening. Our only form of entertainment seemed to be two frisbees and so we formed a circle and started throwing. It started off easily enough, but as the sun waned and the full moon appeared, we found it harder to a) see the frisbee and eventually b) see each other, even by the light of the moon. We eventually abandoned reason and just started lobbing the frisbees in the rough direction of a voice and abandoned the game once we started to find it difficult to see where they were landing. Jon arrived, not long after, but after helping him arrange his tent we were all so tired we went to bed early.

River Frome and the River Piddle

The second day brought more winds, mist and some rain. Kieran and Anna pondered over where to paddle and decided on the River Frome and River Piddle. We launched and paddled off down the Frome which was lined with reeds and large boats. We rounded into the mud flats where the Frome meets the Piddle and realised we had lost Simon who had gone exploring in the reeds. We waited and waited, half expecting his head to pop up in the reeds somewhere, but it didn't. Eventually he came paddling around the corner and explained that he paddled into the reeds, got out of his boat to explore, but then the reeds closed behind him and he lost his boat. After rustling around in the reeds for a while he was eventually reunited with his kayak and rejoined the group.

We then set off up the River Piddle which was narrower and more winding than the Frome and helped us practice our manoeuvring in the sea kayaks. After a couple of hours we reached the get out at a small weir and decided to pull the boats up it and have lunch in a neighbouring field. I think Andy was a little disappointed, because after talking about the difficulties of the previous day's paddle, he was experiencing a much easier pootle on the Piddle.

After lunch Anna, Simon and Jen thought they would collect the trailer from the get-in while everyone else paddled upstream a little more. Unfortunately, as everyone else disappeared into the distance they realised they didn't have the keys to the trailer so they decided to use the time booking somewhere for dinner and Anna suggested a nearby Italian restaurant. Hayley and Keith met us in the pub for a pre-dinner drink and after a filling dinner of pasta we all went back to the campsite for more sleep before our final day of paddling.

Studland Bay to Swanage Beach

Our final day of paddling was absolutely perfect. We launched at the National Trust car park at Studland Bay and paddled towards Old Harry Rock and then around into the bay at Swanage. We had a play around in the caves, hopped over some rocks and made the most of the beautiful weather as the sun emerged from the clouds. We surfed into the beach and after building sandcastles and playing n the waves we all sat down for lunch and sunbathing. This was the perfect end to a weekend of paddling. After more celebratory ice creams back on land we headed for home and even managed to miss the bank holiday weekend traffic.

- Jen