Saturday, 31 May 2014

Water Under The Bridge

A good forecast ahead, a trip to Grass Holm maybe? the tides don't work.  Bristol Channel crossing maybe? Elans in, how about a one way trip down the channel, not done that in a while.  A plan is quickly put together the night before and we meet up early at Cardiff Barrage, our finishing point.
The starting point is a good half hour or so journey by car along the coast.  Black Rock, where the original 18th century ferry crossing was situated.  To the south the 2nd Severn crossing now stands rising out of the muddy waters.  
 Just offshore is Charston Rock lighthouse, which marks a safe passage down a narrow channel known as the shoots.
The shoots are also marked by four beacons known as upper and lower shoots beacons.  The red beacon pictured above is known as 'Lad Bench'.  
We pass under the colossal man made structure that is the second Severn bridge.  No toll charges down here.  

Leaving the bridge behind the tide takes us speedily down on to Deny Island. 

From here on out the rest of the trip is much like an open crossing, a bit uneventful and a bit of a slog.  There are no landings due to the vast expanses of mud, something we are reminded about as our hulls scrape the bottom as we approach Cardiff Barrage.  It's a muddy scramble up the steps along side the barrage to the top where we wash off our muddy shoes in the fresh water on the far side.  Then it's time to go back to the start to pick up the other car.  

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Some Me Time

This trip was a while back so I'll try to remember what I can, so here goes...

End of May, a busy time of year in the garden, my business.  Everyone wants me at once, the phone doesn't stop ringing, endless unopened emails in my inbox, I've had enough.  Time for some 'me' time to recharge the batteries.  So decide to escape the rat run, turn off the work phone and get away from it all out on Flat Holm.
Sometimes it's just nice to get out on your own and sometimes it's nice to have some unexpected company.  Someone else had the same idea, and this is becoming a bit of a habit.
Hywel was unloading his kayak at the Captains Wife heading out for the same destination.  The conditions were perfect for a relaxing paddle out to the island.  We round the island and land briefly under the farm house on the south beach.  In the sun we bathe in the tranquillity of the island gazing over the mainland just a short distance away.  It's the perfect was to escape from it all and unwind.
We can't stay for long though, the tide is turning and it's time to return and re-join the madness.  We pass the Wolves buoy and negotiate a large container ship making it's way down the channel.
Of all the times I've crossed this shipping lane this is probably one of the closest passes I've made.  
Hywel offers to buy me a pint in the Captain Wife on our return, which reminds me I should return the offer on the next trip.  Back in work in the morning but feeling much more refreshed, just what the doctor ordered.

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Whitford Point Lighthouse

Summer has come early and an opportunity to paddle one of my last remaining gaps on the Gower coast presented itself.  The paddle was planned for Sunday so I decided to take the family camping the previous evening...
We spend the evening walking the length of Worms Head as the sun set on the western horizon before retiring to our somewhat 'cosy' tent.  Last time we all slept in here the children were a lot smaller.
The following morning Hannah headed home with the kids while I made the short journey to meet up with Sean, Paul and Katie at Pen-clawdd on the Loughor estuary.  Katie wasn't paddling today but was going to meet us at the other end of the trip.
It was around high water so the estuary was in flood, at low water it completely dries out.  We paddle down the length of the estuary was uneventful apart from a private air show from a couple of small propeller aircraft.
A the mouth of the Loughor Estuary at Whitford Points stands an impressive lighthouse which marks an extensive sandbank that almost stretches across the entire entrance.  We took the opportunity to stretch our legs before heading out to the light.
I always get a tingly feeling and a big smile on my face when paddling out to such a focal destination I haven't been to before.  This abandoned lighthouse is unique in that it is the only cast iron offshore lighthouse in Britain, despite over seventy years of disuse.  
The light has had some extensive repairs in it's time.  During it's operation bands were placed around the tower after the cast iron panels kept loosening.  Later concrete and stones were placed around it's based after soft sand foundations gave concern to sinking.    
The fast flowing ebbing estuary waters provided some playful conditions around the light.
The tower has received a white wash coat of bird poop in it's time.  In an effort to save the tower crumbling into the sea the Llanelli Coastal Millennium Park offered it for sale for £1 on the provision that the new owner repaired it.  Unfortunately the future looks uncertain for the light as prospective buyers are put off by the £100,000 repair costs.  
For this trip I brought along my new Greenland paddle to test (more to follow on later posts).
Sean seems to be enjoying the new paddle.
We cut in through the shallow waters dividing Burry Holms and Rhossili Bay and take another opportunity for a short break with Worms Head on the horizon.

Back on the water we make a loop around the island and head back in close to the shore to eventually land at Broughton Bay.

On the sands is a host of life from Spider Crabs to hundred upon hundreds of Starfish.

The carry to the car was somewhat of a record, the waters edge where we landed can be seen in the top of the above picture.
A great end to a great weekend on the Gower peninsular with great company.  Thanks to Katie, Paul and Sean for the invite and the lift back to the van.