Messing about on the river

Swans with cygnets on the Waverley

Swans with cygnets on the Waverley

There’s only one thing better than being on the water in the weather we’ve been having – and that’s being in the water.

We’ve been exploring the smaller, less-navigable parts of the Broads network of lakes, rivers and dykes on our kayak, unromantically christened The Log (it’s brown and floats).

Being in a kayak or canoe opens up a new world of watery loveliness. You’re right down at water level, within touching distance of the waterlilies and rushes. Dragonflies and damsel flies swirl around your head, darts of iridescent turqoise, jade and emerald. Ducks swim past companionably, with little balls of yellow fluff scrambling along behind them like wind-up bath toys. Swans seem less tranquil and more menacing at water level, and will not be happy if you get too close to their cygnets.

On the upper reaches of the river, you leave behind the power boats with their noisy diesel engines and proceed in near silence, the gentle splashing of the paddles harmonising with the sussuration of wind in the reeds. Wildlife pops out at you – a splash as a water vole plops into the water, a streak of orange and turquoise as a kingfisher swoops down for a fish.

Stopping for a dip

Stopping for a dip

Beyond the limits of navigation, there are plenty of quiet spots or mill ponds where you can cool off with a dip, meaning we can combine our twin loves of canoeing and swimming in one expedition. Early evening seems to be a good time, when the winds drop and the day hire motor boats are back in their berths. And it’s amazing how many canoeing spots seem to have pubs close by. A particular favourite is the lovely Locks Inn at Geldeston, where Friday night curries washed down with a half of Trawlerboys is an excellent way to round off a canoeing trip.

Canoeing seems like the aquatic equivalent of cycling. You make your way entirely by your own muscle power, immediately conscious of the effect of elements like current and wind. You can go pretty much anywhere you like, so long as there’s a way into and out of the river. You don’t have to worry about parking, so long as you can tie up by the side of the water or haul it onto the bank. And both bikes and canoes are eminently transportable, taking minutes to fix to the roof rack so you can head off to explore a new stretch of wilderness. Now what we need is a canoe that converts into a tandem bicycle, so we can ride home afterwards. Surely that’s a gap in the market?

Damsel fly in the reeds

Damsel fly in the reeds

Ellington Village

Riverside dwellings

The Locks Inn, Geldeston

The Locks Inn, Geldeston


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