Garden Leave

“Your energy” my friend says “makes me tired.” Ah yes. But I have extreme sofa skills of which she knows nothing. After any trip the boat and kit have to be washed but this time it’s salty. Just a trace of mud. Then there’s the bath and my own beautiful bed with Col to snuggle up to. Then it’s days of sofa time: a stack of books, unlimited snacks, Vlad and Igs and occasionally Col as companions. Sue meanwhile has been coaching in Anglesey and has gone up to Scotland to coach at a Women’s Sea Symposium. She’s the one with the energy but she hasn’t got my advanced sofa skills.

Advanced Sofa Skills in the garden, with Vlad

Then one day I’m up, the maps and charts are back on the table and I’m itching to go. I would like to do the next stage solo in three days with two nights wild camping from Penarth to The Mumbles. I’ll launch from the same slip in Penarth, leaving my van (aka Gwen) at Penarth Railway Station. From Penarth it’ll be an hours paddle to Lavernock Point where there’ll be some turbulence as the flow from the Severn continues to make its mark. So be there for slack, says Sue. She says it several times knowing I want to do this stretch alone. Coming round Lavernock Point I’ll have Sully Island in my sights. Sue and I desperately wanted to reach Sully Island last time but there was no way I could have gone any further than Penarth. That slip was long overdue so far as I was concerned. So maybe this time it’ll be good to land on Sully Island where once the dinosaurs roamed. One even left a footprint which you can see at low tide. Maybe a visit to the pub on the mainland where industrial quantities of pub food and fish and chips are served.  On the other hand the tide around here “runs very fast and can become quite dangerous as it runs through Sully Sound” according to Jim Krawiecki and Andy Briggs wonderful sea kayaking guide book  “Welsh Sea Kayaking” So maybe, if I’m on my own, I’ll give that a miss. My plan will be to make Llantwit Major the first night, that’s about 18 miles. Day 2 Llantwit to Porthcawl and on to Rest Bay, 14 miles with a good break to enjoy the town. Duncan says there’s some good surf along here, if that’s what you want. I don’t. Day 3 16 miles over to the Mumbles, leave the boat at the sailing club, take the train from Swansea to Penarth for a joyful reunion with Gwen the van. I have a plan! All I need  is three days of friendly weather plus a day each side for travel. 

There are two problems with this. Despite sofa time my right arm is misbehaving. Lifting a full mug of coffee is a challenge. Undoing a bottle top is beyond me. For the first time I’ve gotten myself a “sports related injury”, but nothing glamorous: I have tennis elbow. It’s my own fault. On that gruelling slog to get beyond Cardiff I stopped thinking rationally. All the good coaching I’ve had on how to paddle effectively and protect myself from injury went out the window. I just gripped my paddles tight and worried about the fingers that I was sure had fallen off. So now I still have five fingers per hand but my elbow’s a bit rubbish. The NHS site says rest up and keep applying the frozen peas. Iit is working but it takes time. Friends say ibuprofen gel and KT tape help. And they do. But it’s still there. I can lift half a cup of coffee and my left arm is getting ever so strong. I’m done a few days on the water. In Jersey I paddled two days out of seven. Afterwards I payed for it but it was so worth it.

A bit of gentle rock hopping off Plemont Point, Jersey
Plemont Point gully from above. Looks good either way
Les Ecrehous, between Jersey and France. An amazing day with a seven dolphin escort

The other problem is the calendar. It’s peppered with “dates”. Birthdays. The dentist. Much anticipated family visits. Jersey Sea Symposium. Anglesey Women’s Symposium*. St Kilda with Scottish pals. What a terrible life I lead. I don’t have a clear block free till July.

So that’s it. I’m on Garden Leave (with a bit of light paddling) till July. So that’s when I hope to be back. Penarth, Sully Island, Barry Island, Gavin and Stacey, Llantwit Major, Porthcawl and The Mumbles. It’ll be sunny. And hopefully I won’t  be solo! Sue says she’ll be down in the Gower in July and there’s a head of steam rising for some Shrewsbury Club friends to be there too. I do hope so. Maybe Penarth to Llantwit could take in Flat Holm! Maybe it could carry on to…wherever. My imagination begins to run overtime. It’s great because I don’t want to do such challenging water on my own. Back to Jim’s wise words: “The South Wales coastline (is) not a place for the faint hearted or those looking for a relaxed day.” But paddling with friends, well that will be fun!

If we stop at Barry they might still be there!
  • I’ve just agreed with Nick Cunliffe, the lovely man organising the Anglesey Women’s Symposium, that it makes sense to give it a miss this year. I probably wouldn’t last till lunch time. Which is sad. But I wish them all a brilliant weekend and I’ll be there next year.


  1. Lovely reading Pen. Resting up in your garden means you’ll enjoy the waves even more when you get back to them.

  2. TRue enough. Did you like the photo of that Plemont gully from above Amy? I think it is unusual for a gully to look more dramatic from above. I had my lunch sitting on the rocks admiring it and thinking I’d love to run it.

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