The Barle 2005

The Barle November 2005

Steveo, do you know how to run a trip? Barley.

Boom Boom.

I’m getting better at these, don’t you think?! It started at the boat hard, boats on van, chip shop en route, get to hut. You’ve got the picture by now.

Although it wasn’t quite that simple, the hut was a little elusive. Just past the pub apparently. Just call the Scout master they said. Oh dear. It wasn’t just past the pub, and all we could get was his answerphone. Solution – have a pint. It worked, the Scout master turned up at the pub, they’d been playing Charity Bingo. A couple of Cheddar Valleys (for those not in the know, it’s the luminous orange cider available at the Seahorse Inn. Imagine a pint of Kia Ora and you’re on the way) and the Scout master had finished his pint so was ready to introduce us to our accommodation.

There were a couple of rules to the hut, namely not going near the Karate stuff. Which was dangerously close to getting broken before the Scouters had even left us alone. Club curiosity eh?! After deciding what could and could not be used as a roll-mat replacement, a table and some cheers had materialized in the middle of the hut, and drinking games ensued. A slow start with some spot game and a bit of what the f*** (this is a family publication) and it was on to the hard stuff. My personal highlights were the beautifully choreographed introduction to Deutsches Erotica (I gave up on the family publication idea) lead by Danny, and of course Ring of Fire. John Goode took the position of chairman, but promptly needed support as he forgot which card did what. After Ring of Fire some went to bed. I’m not sure if John Stockley did or not, but he downed a pint of crap for the 4th King too. A lot didn’t go to bed. Danny introduced a few of the hardcore to a new game, a Chinese game, an intellectual game. He then introduced us to Taiwanese and Philipino variations of the game. All this became a bit too much for Fresher Charlie, who as far as I know is the only person to chunder on themselves, and sleep through it. Whatever Trevor, Ming Chowmein!

Away from the drinking however, romance was blossoming. Noted only by their absence were a certain social sec (I’ll remind you Hannah and Lucy don’t come on trips) and a certain fresher (we’ll call her Laura, because it’s her name). After some espionage, they were tracked down to the gate of the hut, “chatting”. Mmmm, is that what the kids are calling it these days?

A good nights sleep and a bacon and egg sandwich later, we make it to the get in. A picturesque location, populated by some of those open boater types. The get in doubles up as a road to landrover owners, providing some mild pre-faff entertainment. After much discussion, suitable faff follows involving van and minibus relocation, and people hunting high and low for kit, which they had definitely packed. While the shuttle was taking place, president James took an awesome warm up, making sure everyone was ready for the adventure that lay ahead.

The Barle journey was notable mainly for the high rock to water ratio. Despite being bumpy, our group had fun playing the Chinese intellectual game on the water. After commencement of “Ping, Pang, Pong” by our leader Danny, last person to find an eddie had 2 digits banked for the evening. More fun was had when we realized we were the first to the bottom, but didn’t have any keys. Ah. Oh well, let’s run around until our feet actually freeze and drop off!

A particularly cold getting changed session later and it’s out with the traditional ham and cheese rolls, which are fastly becoming a favourite of mine. As darkness fell, some shuttling occurred, during which some British Bulldog was played in the car park, to everyone’s delight. The excitement continued when we visited a spooky deserted mill on the way back to the hut. A giant weir keeps the hardened paddlers interested, and the Blair Witch stick men and cans hanging from the roof kept everyone else interested. It was agreed that for future trips it would make for ideal accommodation, the gentle breeze/draught would offer excellent kit drying opportunities!

Back to the hut for some traditional club spag bol, followed by not so traditional, but ever so lovely swiss roll and custard. After the culinary treat its back to the Seahorse Inn, to celebrate the growing old of Stu. He may or may not have been 21 at the time, I can’t remember, but it was a good time for everyone to donate some cash to buy the man a dirty pint. I tasted a bit, and it was worth every penny. Not sure who finished it, but well done that (wo)man! More Cheddar Valley was also to be seen – 2 nights in a row sounds like a recommendation to me, check it out next time you’re in that neck of the woods!

No points to anyone who predicted that we went back to the hut after the pub, it’s a bit of a recurring theme! Again, no points to anyone who predicted that Ring of Fire kicked off. My memory is a little hazy, but I think John forgot what the cards did and everyone was getting very good at banking mistakes. Good job! After many people had gone to bed, George provided much entertainment (as ever, thankyou George!) being quite the knowledgeable man. Those of us still awake managed to convince him that “cold heat” existed. George was puzzled but then justified it by saying the Sun didn’t exist, it was just a lack of dark. Or something. I’m not entirely sure what he was spouting, but I think it proves the fact that 8 cans of Red Stripe and some dodgy shots does not an astrophysicist make. Another lesson learnt – Mikey B loves a lemon in his mouth at midnight. Bonus Bucking Burto points!

Despite our love of rocks (remember kids, Rocks are your friends, hug rocks) it was decided that the Dart would be a better paddle for Sunday. A warm up was most definitely needed, the night before had been particularly cold and most kit was frozen solid. I had to crack my board shorts back in to shape, and Tim R had to remove the large blocks of ice from his wet suit boots before he could snap them back in to shape! Beautiful weather and a slightly better (ever so slightly) rock to water ratio made the Dart an enjoyable paddle for most. Some cheesy chips at the get out, and it was time to head back to Southampton.

Again, another trip enjoyed by all. (Of course they did, me and Beth only run enjoyable trips!)

The Usk 2005

So Steveo, how good was the Usk trip? I was drunk, don’t usk me!

Boom boom.

Now that I’ve got the first line out of the way I can start the trip report proper. After much debate as to which river would be best to take our lovely new people down, the Usk was chosen. Bonus – some motor way driving in the minibus!

It all began, as all good trips do, at the Boathard sometime after Countdown has finished. Yes, I did have to miss Deal/No Deal, but Noel Edmonds is getting on my wick anyway. It’s not like the banker is really on the phone is it, it’s just him improvising a rubbish conversation. Anyway, I digress. All things were packed, and people were on the bus. The lovely drivers for this trip were myself and Jackie. Unfortunately for most people on the bus, the age old law of “I’m driving, so I get final say on the music” came in to play. Which is why for the first half of the journey everyone on the bus was subjected to the Charlotte Church album at very loud volumes. At the food stop most people were happy to admit to any crimes they had or hadn’t committed, and some were willing to walk the leg from Bristol to Cwmdu.

After much coaxing, and less controversial music later, we arrived in the idyllic town village/hamlet house/pub combo that is Cwmdu. To the Farmers Arms, and half the pub is ours. Much beer later and back to the hut. Not sure why, but a few people hit the sack early, namely George, Tim and Tom. Those still awake find it highly amusing to see how much damage can be caused with a burnt cork to the aforementioned – answer = lots!

Saturday morning is a bright an early start, with everyone eager to get on the water. The level is reasonable, and everyone enjoys a paddle. Some enjoy it so much, they decide to continue paddling past the get out. The leader of the following group informs the observers on the bridge that a somewhat dangerous weir is ahead. Some Baywatch running along the bank reveals everyone is safe, albeit with one Fresher sat on a rock in the middle of the river for a while. Someone should point out eddies are found behind rocks, not on them. A notable swim is Thom. Not sure why, but I’m sure the reason will become clear at some point (Steveo, it was my second only river ever—Thom (Thom you paddled the hard bit fine then fell in on flat water – Chris)). What with the trip being so popular, two runs were needed. I volunteered to ferry people about in the minibus and take part in the second run. The hardened crew of people left with me were given the task of making sandwiches for the soon to be hungry paddlers getting off the river. Plates and plates of beautiful sandwiches were made, and presented in a simply delightful manner. Unfortunately, we didn’t think the logistics through completely and left the sandwiches in the hut. Much to the distaste of everyone doing both runs, who weren’t returning to the hut. Ah. A quick sandwich run by Thom and everyone is much happier, and the faff is calmed. Some loudish Half Man Half Biscuit from the minibus helped to raise spirits.

In a mould-breaking tea, many sausages were fried and a trip to a not so local chip shop meant that everyone enjoyed an alternative club feast. Followed by one of the most creative puddings I’ve ever had the honour of; Bananas with grated chocolate (white or milk!) and various sauces, administered by Hugh and Thom in a variety of manners, including some, all or none of the following – creative, arty, thoughtful, generous, dangerous, messy. Sometimes people even got the sauces they asked for. Sometimes.

Evening falls and it’s back to the Farmers Arms. A fine evening of beer, wine and a little bit of Tequila ensued. After some alleged Dart Banditers received a stern lecture on the wrongs off breaking access agreements and it’s back to the hut for more drinking fun. But no! Only seconds from the door of the Farmers Arms and we’re in the middle of a full scale midnight rally! What excitement! Cries of “oooh”, “aaahh”, “was that a Nova?!” and “I really think he needs to work on his lane management” were not uncommon. Thom even joined in for the small stretch between the pub and the hut, wheelspinning and attempting to take out the crowd in the hut car park.

After the good cars have gone, and everyone got bored watching Grannys carefully accelerating their Skodas past, it’s inside for some Ring of Fire. It’s around now I have to admit to going to bed somewhat early. All I know, is that the next morning people were eager to show me pictures of Stevie Shaw covered in cork, Jack with a giant shaving foam penis drawn on his chest and pictures of possibly the best game ever – Bucking Burto (information to be found elsewhere in this fine publication!).

Sunday, and the hardcore paddlers are greeted with a treat, the Usk is in Spate! It is indeed big, fast and chocolatey. Alas, those of us not so confident with our paddling decide it’s not ideal for us. Instead, we head off to practice some skills in the canal and eat more cheese and ham rolls. Rock on!

By all accounts the Usk in spate was decidedly more exciting than the canal. However, those who did paddle the Usk missed out on a certain mischievous minibus driver repeatedly inching across a car park whenever Mike Bunton tried to get on. Still makes me giggle. Hehe.

A fine bus journey home, and another fine trip enjoyed by many.