March 24th brought us a brisk, sunshiney morning, the hedges just beginning to unfurl their electric green spring foliage. This was going to be the first official Shrewsbury Canoe Club trip for my Welsh Circumnavigation and I was moved by the turn out and glad of Brian’s offer to lead it. In no time there were 10 boats on the water: Andrew, Brian, Angus, Richard Green, Emma, Dave Butler, Amy Charles and Peter Slack.
Shrewsbury was looking wonderful in the sun. The Quarry park was full of families enjoying the sunshine, the waterside pubs were packed, the big Willow trees sparkled with new leaves, even the ducks looked freshly polished for Spring. Our little Armada circled the town, under the footbridges, Welsh and English Bridge, the massive, gloomy railway bridges and then to the weir.
The weir was still too big to run so we had to portage. It’s quite something to get 10 people out of their boats safely in a fast moving river. Brian handled it with assurance and we were soon re-launching below the weir, past Paris Island and heading out of town.
A club trip is a companionable affair. A club trip is simply never competitive or exclusive. we go at the pace of the slowest paddler on the day and without making any kind of big deal about it. It’s about building friendship and trust. It’s also a chance to catch up on old friends, gossip, laugh and meet new faces. The new faces for me on this trip were Amy Charles and Peter Slack. Amy is a delight: 19, a ball of energy, full of enthusiasm for her next adventure. So far she’s thrown herself into riding, white water and working in Ecuador and next she’s off to work in New Zealand. Lucky Kiwis. In Peter I discovered a kindred spirit: he just can’t keep away from the water. Now this was his first river trip and it gave me great pleasure to be able to help him find his confidence just as others helped me back in the day. I don’t think it’ll take him long to become assured in his beautiful Valley boat (just like mine but different). And so we coasted under the Atcham bridges, one 18th century (beautiful), one 20th (hideous) and landed opposite the gorgeous St Eata Church where Ordericus Vitalis was baptised in 1075. You couldn’t make it up, could you? If you think I did just look up Atcham in Wikipedia, fount of all knowledge.
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