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The morning came for the first paddle of the circumnavigation. I took a look over Llanyblodwel Bridge the evening before and was confident that it wouldn’t happen. The water was massive after the rains of Storm Hannah. The next morning however it had gone down to 0.8m on the Llanyblodwel River Gauge and Sue Couling and Brian Wenlock made it quite clear that we were on. I was terrified! I haven’t been in a small white water boat for more than a year and I was pretty rubbish back then. Did Sue know that? Brian did. There was no escape. If I didn’t do this stage I couldn’t do the next and the next one after that.
John and Amy took Sue’s gorgeous dogs, Izzy and Scout off for a walk. I got on the water numb with fear. The boats fits like a glove. Is it too tight? I hope I won’t need to get out upside down. Woolly hat under my helmet…hope it won’t get wet. What an idiot. What have Sue and Brian let themselves in for?
Well it’s interesting that what scares you witless can turn out to be so fun. I was, of course, in the very best of company with Brian and Sue. That is confidence inspiring but after 18 months away I found that little drops and tight manoeuvres are in fact super fun in a tight fitting short boat. This river has run through my life for the thirty years that we have lived here. It was a privilege to see it from the water. At this time of year a few Blackthorn are just frothing into flower. Among the roots snowdrops are finishing and a few primroses are showing. The aged tree roots, washed out by years of flood frame the river runner’s world view. Cottage gardens, normally hidden from view whip by. And look at Llanyblodwel Church and Bridge: so fine! Tiny Afon Cynllaith joins the Tanat winding its way down from the site of Owain Glyndwr’s castle at Sycarth. We’ve got history. I totally loved the morning and we were off sooner than I expected to have lunch at Tan y Graig cooked by Amy. Brian said, wisely “This trip is going to be about the people and the paddling.” He’s right.