Text contributed by Phil D.; pics by Pete E. and Matty
Six of us gathered at the bridge at Dedham and got togged up with various wetsuits and buoyancy aids to face the River Stour. After a briefing from Matty our instructor, we tentatively crawled onto the boards and, kneeling, paddled out into the pool. Once we had learnt to go in a straight line we were shown how to climb to our feet and paddle and turn our boards. We all had a good go around the pool doing our best to avoid hitting each other and attempting to master the various techniques. Everyone was waiting for someone to fall off first so Phil duly obliged by trying to go too fast! Karen was then so busy laughing that she fell off as well. Emma and Pete showed solidarity in falling off too but Ruth and Rachel showed us how it was done but remaining on their boards.
We were then deemed expert enough to set off down the river. Once under the bridge (Phil having to duck) we meandered our way through the meadows enjoying the beautiful countryside from a different perspective. Very peaceful and enjoyable although a few hazards of overhanging tree branches, rowing boats broadside to the stream out of control and posts in the water had to be avoided. We paused half way to Flatford down by the footbridge and the general public were entertained by six wetsuited people running up and down to warm up. However they were spared another conga [thank goodness! – ed.].
The way back was slightly tougher against the stream and wind but we were growing in confidence and made it back in one piece. As Rachel and Phil were paddling up we heard someone on the bank say it must have taken loads of practice to make it look that easy. We didn’t let on! Back to the pool and off with the gear. We were treated to the sight of Karen clutching her hot water bottle to warm up!
It was then felt that we had earned a roast dinner and we retired to the Marlborough in Dedham for a couple of hours. All in all a great morning enjoyed by all. Definitely up to do more. Thanks Matty for looking after us, Ruth for buying Pete the session as a present and Pete for opening it up to us.