I was only in the South of England because my daughter had changed her travel plans at the last minute. She was now flying into Gatwick Airport instead of Manchester.
It is an almost five hour car journey from my home to Gatwick, so I was faced with a ten hour return trip. I do generally enjoy driving, but ten hours is a lot! That's why I decided to set off early and find a spot to stand up paddle (SUP) for a few hours to break up the driving. As I am not familiar with the area, I used the power of social media to seek out some local knowledge.
I got a few very good suggestions to my Facebook post, one of which led me to the Anchor Pub at Wisley, Woking on the River Wey navigation system. Thanks Ryan Cobb for the excellent suggestion.
I arrived at the Anchor late afternoon, with the intentions of eating there before a paddle on the waterway. I was starting to get a bit hungry as I had only eaten an energy bar since breakfast! So you can imagine my disappointment when I found out there was an electricity problem at the pub. No electricity. And no food!
Plan B kicked in. I got on the water and set off, hoping to find some food on the way.
|Setting Off From The Anchor|
My route took me under the M25 Motorway which must be one of, if not the most congested roads in the country. Although I could hear the noise of the traffic from above, all was calm and peaceful on the water. If I had the choice, I would always travel under and not on the M25!
|Under the M25 Motorway|
Unsurprisingly I was starting to feel hungry and was hoping to find a riverside pub to grab some food. A passerby suggested that I get off at New Haw Lock, a short distance ahead, and eat in the White Hart pub there. Just as I was approaching the lock, I spotted some stand up paddle boarders on the river ahead of me. In fact they were just getting off the water at New Haw Lock.
It turned out they were Brett Scillicoe (of Dittons Paddle Boarding fame) and Tati Coco (of just about everywhere fame). In the past Tati has paddled round the islands of Sardinia, Isle of Wight and Mallorca to name but a few, but today she was having a more tranquil paddle on the leafy Basingstoke Canal and River Wey Navigation system. I have been following both of them on Facebook for quite some time so it was awesome to bump into them in the real world, and entirely by chance. It was also exciting to find out they had followed my own SUP adventures. They were with Samantha, a second time out paddleboarder who had just completed an 11 mile round trip SUP from New Haw Lock to Woking. Well done Sam, on my second time out I was just concentrating on keeping my hair dry! I only met up with Coco, Brett and Sam as a result of my daughter's last minute change of flight, Ryan's chance recommendation of the River Wey and the power failure at The Anchor.
By another happy coincidence, they were also on route to the White Hart for a post SUP drink. So we got off the water together and made our way to the pub. I was ready for some food. but, alas, it seemed I was destined to go hungry. It was 6pm and The White Hart had stopped serving food at 4pm. All they could offer me was a packet of peanuts!
I decided to treat myself to two packets of dry roasted peanuts and a glass of fine wine. Well it certainly tasted fine to me after a canal paddle on a very warm day. At least the great company made up for the lack of food as we sat at an outside table, right next to the water, and swapped SUP stories for an hour, until it was time for me to make my way back upstream to the Anchor.
|With Tati Coco, Brett and Sam|
When I got back to The Anchor an hour later, they had resolved their electricity problem. But time had run out for me. I needed to leave straight away to get onto the dreaded M25 and drive to Gatwick Airport for my daughter.
This story does have a happy ending however. Not only did I make it to the airport in good time to meet my daughter, I got there early enough to have a sandwich and a coffee at the Costa situated at Arrivals. All's well that ends well!
Well not quite - by the time I got home I realised I had been attacked by something, most probably a horsefly, or two. Cue a restless night trying not to scratch my back. And then being unable to reach the itch when I did finally surrender to temptation! I love stand up paddling on canals, and similar water ways, but being attacked by bugs is the definite downside.
|Attacked by Horseflies!|
|The Anchor at Ripley|