A few top tips

Getting out on the water gives the opportunity to learn a few things.  Here are my top tips .

1) Plan your trip. Check on-line if someone has documented the route.  Especially if locks are involved.   Let someone know where you have gone and arrange to contact them when you are back on dry land.

2) A decent paddle is a worthwhile investment . Helps to get the best output from all your muscular effort and expended energy.  Also can decrease fatigue and increase the distance you travel in a session. Do a bit of market research as there are many variations to paddle design. The manufacturer’s websites give good guides to which paddle design will suite you. Try http://www.wernerpaddles.com

3) Don’t skimp on safety, the water is a great place to have fun but it can be reveal some dangerous situations. My standard kit includes.
》Safety knife
》Tow line
》Boyancy aid
》Scotty Bilge pump
》Floating rope
Worth taking an old mobile with a Pay-as-you-go SIM card if you feel it’s not sensible to take your prized Smart phone on the water.

4) Take some food and drink. Great to stop off and have a refreshments break, on the bank or just drifting in the quieter waters.

5) Check the right to access water before you go out at a unfamiliar place. ( some rivers have limited access due to fishing rights ) Most UK rivers require a British Waterways license to allow access.

6) Get a British Canoe Union membership.  (www.britishcanoeing.org.uk) Gives access to British waterways and Norfolk broards.  Some canals, especially those that are run by private restoration trusts, may have a private access scheme in place.  I’ve been caught out by this one once, where I had to get a day permit to use a canal. Only found out when I looked at the by-laws posted at the lock gate.

7) Obtain canoe insurance. Third Party liability insurance is a must as there are some expensive boats out there. British Canoe Union membership comes with liability insurance. Worth getting canoe and kit insurance. Again BCU offer good discount on this. I tend to lock my kayak and trolley with a chain and padlock whenever possible. While transporting the kayak on the roof rack I use a product called a “Play Boater Rack Guard” . A simple and effective roofrack theft deterrent. Most kayak shops sell this useful accessory.

8) On the coast check the tide times. Bear in mind that 10 miles up the coast from the location on the tide tables can change the times by more than 1/2 hour.  (www.tidetimes.org.uk or www.bbc.co.uk/weather/coast-and-sea/tide-tables ).  One idea I use occasionally is to purchase a tide table booklet giving a full years set of times.  Some of the on-line tables only have a limited period like 4 weeks.  Good idea to know ahead if you are planning a holiday and wish to know which days would be best to get out on the water.

9) After being out on the sea wash everything down with fresh water. Salt can accelerate rust and corrosion. Maybe a job to do once you are home, but good to keep everything lasting for years to come.

10) Invest in some good dry bags. Worth getting a variety of sizes. Over the years I’ve built up a collection from 1 litre to 15 litre. Also a waterproof mobile phone bag is a must. I use Aquapac products as they allow the mobile touch screen to still work through the case.

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Brancaster straithe- North Norfolk coast

Up early in the morning, bacon and eggs for breakfast.  Check kit, not the first time I’ve left a buoyancy aid behind.   Load kayak on to car and leave camp at Deepdale camp site. Quick check of the tide times, then off to Brancaster Straite for a good days paddle. Parking is free but limited. There is a grass area near the main road , I’ve usually followed everyone else and parked there. If you park near the waters edge watch out for the tide as it can come right up to the yacht yard. Lots of creeks and the main channel to explore. This is where the Canoe Man organisation start their sea kayaking trips from.  I’ve booked on one of these , good if you are  beginner as they provide all the kit. About 2 to 3 hours duration. They do a lesson beforehand if you want some good tips and instruction for kayaking.

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Wroxham broads

The Norfolk broads are a fantastic place to spend a few hours kayaking along the rivers or open broads. Wroxham town is an excellent place to have a great day out.  There is plenty of parking in the town centre. The river Bure runs through the middle.  There a a few good places to launch from. The main car park has a wooden platform on the waters edge. This gets you onto the main river.  If you paddle away from the boat yards you will be in open broads within a few minutes. Watch out for the swans around netting time they can be very protective of their young.  Just give them a wide berth. South of the town is Wroxham broad . Drive to the Wroxham Yacht club, just before their main gate there is a small parking area on the right with a slip way (Pay and display) . The broad is small but you can navigate out into the main river. The “Canoe Man” main offices are in Wroxham. Address 10 Norwich Road NR12 8RX 0845 4969177 .  So if it’s canoe hire or info about guided trips pop in for a chat . Also Wroxham Marine Ltd on Griffin Lane have canoes and accessories for sales.

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Sheringham beach

If you want to do some coastal paddling from a beach Sheringham is a great place to do it. The beach is typical pebble and sand with a sea wall and narrow promenade.   there is a stretch of the beach patrolled by coast guards. Here there is a slip way onto the pebbles. Fantastic for sit-on kayaks. Just launch off the beach and away you go . There are some areas of off shore reefs so I would recommend the use of a helmet . Let the life guards know you are about to go out they will keep an eye on you. Of course let them know when you are back. There is some parking at the sea front. But I just park up at the train station, load the kayak onto my c-tug trolley, load up the gear and trundle the short walk through the town centre shops to to the sea front. I guess it helps that I came here year on year as a child with my family, so I know the sea front very well.  Many a memerable day building sand castles and fish and chips on the beach.

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Great Ouse Bedford

I’m fortunate to live and work in Bedfordshire along the path of the Great Ouse river.  In fact the river is literally 1/2 mile from my office. It’s a lovely river to navigate. Just a few locks to negotiate.  Portage is mostly straightforward as long as you can carry your kayak 50 yards or so. Once you are on the river the wildlife and surrounds provide a fantastic relaxing place for a good few hours. Great Barford bridge is a good place to start . Either go up or down river from the lock. Carrdington lock is also good . Ample parking near the lock. There is a pontoon just up river from the lock to launch from.

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Burnham Overy Straithe

Burnham is a wonderful place to go for a kayak paddle. Parking is free and plenty right next to the waters edge. It is a tidal harbour Creek so check tide times first (see links page ). Going in a north easterly direction you can paddle out to lots of places to stop and disembark.  If you plan it right within a tide cycle you can paddle right out to Scolt Head island nature reserve.  This is an off shore shingle and sand barrier island .

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Camping at Breck farm

If you like a lot of space, camp fires, and are happy with the basics for washing facilities then this is ideal place.  No pitch markings . Camp fires are allowed , in fact encourage as you can purchase wood and kindling at the farm house. The wash rooms are a big barn and showers on a meter. Worth a try and then make you own mind up.  Faily close to Morston and Wells-next-sea. The town of Holt is near by.  Byfords cafe a must. A good selection of shops in the town .

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Camping at Deepdale Campsite – Burnham.

This is a great place to camp if you wish to get out on the Norfolk coast . Brancaster and Burnham are minutes away. The site has good facilities and the staff are helpful. Just next to the site is a petrol station with a good size convenience store. There is a small row of shops including the Deepdale cafe excellent for a hearty breakfast. The site is on the route of the coastal hopper bus service. The site also has youth hotel type accommodation with a communal kitchen. Both bunk rooms and private family rooms are available. I’ve used these facilities and would highly recommend them. Check their website as there are minimum booking requirements.

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Morston – North norfolk

This is one of my favourite places to kayak. Parking is easy (national trust members free) toilets , small sandwich bar for drinks and food. The parking has a formal visitors area then as you go through the yacht yard there is a wide open area for those using the water sport facilities and the seal trip boats.  The tide here doesn’t stay low for very long so usually there is enough  water level to canoe. The blakeney point harbour is sheltered so more calm than out on the sea.  If you know where to go you can get a magnificent views of the grey seal colony on the west side of the harbour. Keep your distance from the large adult ones but the  young seals will come and investigate. See my gallery for some fantastic shots of seals right up near my kayak. The sand spit can be a great place go ashore and have pack lunch. Check out Beans Seal trips . Worth the £10 just find out where the seals are . I then went back 3 hours later in my kayak to the same spot.

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Wells next the Sea harbour

As a child my family came to Wells next to sea on a regular basis. Fish and chips sitting on the harbour wall and crabbing off the Quay side.  This kayak trip was to see the harbour from the water . . Tidal current not too strong. Can get very fast and strong on the incoming tide. A lovely sunny day with the tide half out. There is a slip way at the end of the harbour as the water goes into the Creek.   Very easy to launch from here. But no parking near by. I usually park in the main car park near the front and then take the kayak by trolley up to the slip way . There are plenty of places to pad lock the trolley.  It was very relaxing just sitting in the kayak in the middle of the harbour looking across to the Quay. Worth checking at the Harbour Master office to ask if kayaking is okay in case there is a restriction in place on leisure craft. There are toilets in the main car park just behind the Ark Royal Pub on Holkham Road. The parking on the quay side is very expensive per hour.

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