River Dart 2007

A Dart weekend by Monkey and Squelcher… no- Squelcher and Monkey

FRIDAY

As Jenny looked in dismay at the 3 of us being picked up from Glen, we grinned insanely! Somehow it seemed we couldn’t quite comfortably fit all our stuff (possibly because some of us had a little excess baggage – no names mentioned…ahem…cough**Jo …cough**) into the car. At this point the packing argument between myself and Squelch had reached a point where I was stressed enough to put on 2 hats and refuse to talk to her without using the word ‘moron’. Having made it to the boat hard we spilled out of Jenny’s luxurious automobile and loaded up for the journey ahead.

Having shot gunned the fasted vehicle known to man, I set off (after firmly putting on my seatbelt) for an epic journey to the Dart – I was willing to lose a few limbs to get there faster! And I shot gunned the anti-tardis that is Mr Harvey’s 5-boat-carrying-extreme-monster. Walkie-talkies in hand we set off heading straight for the Chinese. It seems the walkie-talkie idea was a perfect way to continue the banter between cars. The plan was going well we sped ahead making it to the Chinese with all limbs intact!! I consumed the best jumbo sausage (battered of course) known to man and the somewhat ‘phallic comments’ had us politely requested to eat outside like the dogs we are… we obliged. We continued on, pas-de-problem and arrived safely at the DART (yes, I said DART hut)… but where was Speedy Mcspeedy? …well speedy Mcspeedy was indeed speedy Mcspeedy but unfortunately it seems the tactic of driving to a place you’ve heard of is not the best of ideas. So we headed triumphantly to Bampton thinking there was no way anyone could catch us now! Hmm Kingsteinton you’d think a place like that would be on the map – no where to be found – I was rather surprised seeing as my hamlet St.Donats had made the cut – hmm I guessed it was just special. The absence of Kingsteinton on the map was beginning to cause a bit of concern – ah yes the walkie-talkies would have been a great idea at this point, unfortunately Mr Thom Harvey’s amazing technology seemed to lack battery power, therefore he is responsible for all driving errors made by team speedy. Cruising through Bampton we’re all feeling a little excited that we recognise places – we must be nearly there –time to wake up Jenny and get the map out of Helen Wilkin’s clutches! “There’s the pub – wait…that’s the pub for the Barle!! Shit we’re in Bampton!” Cries Laurent in a rather squeaky high pitched voice!! Right on cue comes a phone call from Laura– how handy! Yup it was confirmed Bampton was definitely not the place to be!! After a little touring of the country with the map safely back in the hands of the only non-blonde in the car we made it to the right hut!! But damn it we were the first one’s to the Barle hut!!

Eventually, we ALL came back to the hut after some pint-age. A rather miraculous discovery was made. A mysterious, glittery pink tube. Found next to cement and chalk- but what could it be!? Only two ways to find out. Cat…obviously having missed any childhood experience of eating things she wasn’t meant to… ate it. And our beloved captain Tim wrote ‘TIM’ on his face… obviously out of politeness to those who had forgotten.

SATURDAY

The early rising olds set off for adventures new and exciting… then they decided to do the Upper Dart. We met them all at the Loop get in with one of their party looking slightly more moist than the rest. No it wasn’t Dr Matt (who we though would be too tired to paddle after his exciting night of drilling) Bastard. But, Mr Vian who it seems has no problems rolling a mini bus but can’t roll a kayak. The joys of the loop began – unfortunately my line seemed to be blocked by a humungous tanker captained by Mr Harvey. Overall a fantastic day on the water, everyone did really well and levels were lovely. We continued on down the Lower Dart- chasing ‘dartmoor chickens’ down the whole way and happily sliding down the ‘DEATH WEIR’ – it went something like this…(approaching the horizon line) oh dear…oh no what’s this…shit… I’m gonna die…(on reaching the edge of the weir) oh… that’s rubbish –so much for the ‘Death’ Weir! After 6 swims in my group I was beginning to crave the sweet sweet taste of swim beer – alcoholic! However it would appear that Sheffield are a little stricter on their swim beer regulations that Southampton… we ended up going thirsty! :-(  Only fair when you’re the one pushing them in!! That line was fine last time I swear…

Off to the pub for some much needed Wales vs Scotland rugby action- what a game eh Squelch? No comment – it’s all about lulling them into a false sense of security!! We returned back to the hut for a marathon of peeling and the best club food ever- bangers and mash. Wonderful. Happy and full there was only one place to go- the pub. After some throwing of twine ball fun – those mumblings of paddling the Dart at night were finally voiced by a drunken Danny. So we set off… put on damp kit – morons, piled into Mr Harvey’s car and gave clear instructions that he was to call the emergency services if we hadn’t arrived at Holme bridge in 90mins. He gave us clear promises that he would be nowhere to be seen at the first hint that he was parked in a ‘dogging spot’. But after all the excitement, the river had risen enough to give us doubts and we reluctantly decided that it would be more foolish than usual to get on… we returned home. Thom looked the most disappointed! While this excellent demonstration of canoe club faff continued the pub crew had managed to form a karaoke team of old and new ready to mutilate ‘Stand By Me’ in ways you’d never think were possible! We did however show excellent ad libing skills by singing words that for some reason did not appear on the screen!! After which we promptly decided to leave the establishment in fear that are fans might get a little too friendly…

SUNDAY

A few of us started off on Sunday morning nice and early to fit in an Upper Dart run – wasn’t quite so early by the time you left!! George started his car using a spanner as some kind of electricity conducting device and although a little concerned for his health after passing a voltage through him, we continued. What my friend Jo here fails to mention is that even though they were in such a rush, somehow they managed to find time to tie a particularly fetching cone onto the roof of Thom’s car and to decorate the car park with an array of boats and straps – carnage!! The Upper was at lovely medium levels, and our group made it down with no worries. I seemed to spend a disturbing amount of time upside down but I firmly believe there is no better way to enjoy a river. Ahem. But after waiting at the Loop get on for the other group, we became a little concerned for the other group. They eventually turned up, and again Mr Vian looked a little soggy. Having become use to this, the thing that suggested that all may have not gone to plan was the severe limp he appeared to have arrived with. But hey if you do insist on swimming the mad mile what can you expect?!? After much reorganising of boats on roof racks we made it to the start of the loop to meet the upper crew of drowned rats. Rain a plenty meant water to the max, who knew the Dart Loop could actually have water!!! A great paddle by everyone in the harder conditions and we all made it to the get out ready for some of those tasty Asda Smart price sandwiches. Home time – now all we had to do was try and avoid Bampton!!

Agreed- a fantastic paddle this afternoon. Everyone did really well, especially Anna G in my group, who I have never seen smile so much after running triple 3 with no worries at all, and even staying calm while we got a bit of a spin dry! A fantastic but exhausting weekend- home time! Thanks Jen for a brilliant time – yeah thanks, and a special thanks to your folder of fun!

Anna & Jo x

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