Category Archives: Kayaking

Northenden Boat Race

Who needs Henley Regatta or the Oxford Cambridge Boat Race when we’ve got gangs of slightly inebriated Mancunians, in rubber dinghies, paddling in all directions on the River Mersey.

Yes it’s the annual Northenden Boat Race – no I hadn’t heard of it before either.

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My next-door neighbour Stephanie knew we did a bit of kayaking and asked if her sons could borrow a couple of paddles and life preservers for this annual charity event that I’d never heard of. When I heard it was a race, I offered them the use of the kayaks, but the strict rules meant that all competitors had to be in inflatable dinghies, I immediately guessed that we weren’t about to see any Olympic hopefuls showing off their stuff here, it was strictly for fun.

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As the television coverage was severely lacking, I felt it was my responsibility to go down and photograph the event for posterity and my own amusement – also, it was sunny and I didn’t have much else to do.

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Once the horn was blown for the start I took a few pictures of the mayhem before I realised they were actually quite fast. With them heading downstream and me trying to fight my way through the crowds of spectators, the leaders soon disappeared out of sight. Once we reached the finish line all that was left was the final stragglers. I was surprised however, to see the Northenden Pipe Band in full Scottish regalia playing for the crowds. I’ve lived in Northenden for over twenty years and I never knew we had a pipe band, let alone a boat race.

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I really must get out more.


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Kayaking on Windermere

Yesterday Clare and myself dug out all the kayaking gear and set off for the beautiful Lake District.

After strapping our two kayaks to the roof of our little Skoda Roomster we set off for Fell Foot Park at the southern end of Windermere. From where we live it’s only and hour and a half drive and we’ve been here before, so we knew it was a good place to get on the water.

When we arrived though, we were shocked at how many people were there. The lakeside looked more like a mediterranean beach with crowds of people, either sprawled out on towels and deck chairs or splashing about in the water.  You can’t blame them really, it was great weather and a beautiful spot, but it took us a while to work out the best place to launch the boats without taking out gangs of paddling toddlers in the process – always causes a fuss I’ve found.

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Once on the water we carefully navigated our way through the swimmers and inflatable dinghies to get out into open water. Gradually the sound of shouting children subsided as we followed the western shoreline up the lake, until all was quiet except for the sound of the occasional seagull or goose.

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The wind was very low so paddling was easy and we even kept up with a few yachts, who were struggling to make headway, until the lake opened up a bit and they managed to catch a breeze. Our kayaks are technically tourers so they are a bit longer and easier for distances. They aren’t very manoeuvrable, so you wouldn’t want to use them on a fast-flowing river, but they’re great for cruising along a big lake like Windermere.

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Beautiful scenery was all around us and we passed by some stunning houses and boathouses, most with big signs saying ‘private’ and ‘no landing’, but they couldn’t stop us ogling their back gardens – so there!

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We dodged various yachts and the big steamers, riding the wakes as they lifted us up as they passed,  and were even buzzed by RAF Hawk jets low flying down the valley, the roar of their engines struggling to catch up with them as they flashed overhead.

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We stumbled onto a tiny island for lunch and then cut across the lake with a bunch of teenagers paddling open canoes before heading back down the eastern side. Roughly eight kilometres in total.

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Back at Fell Foot we loaded up the gear and then went back to join the masses for a swim in the lake. The water was warm (after the initial shock) and the feeling of floating in the sunshine while tired muscles slowly relaxed was wonderful.

Quick change of clothes in the car park, doing the usual squirming routine with a towel clutched round you while you try to peel your wet trunks down and not expose yourself to the passing families – I have to admit that I’m almost at the point where I don’t care actually. If they want to look, that’s their problem, but the thought of being arrested does hold me back.

Into the car and we were off back home.

Stopping for supplies at a petrol station we were told that two lorries had had an accident on the M6 and our route home was blocked while they resurfaced the motorway. We cut through the North Yorkshire dales instead, which added to our journey but was at least a very scenic route. We later heard that some people had been stuck on the M6 until that night, so we dodged a bullet there I think.

Overall, a great little adventure. Loading up the gear that morning, I had contemplated selling the kayaks but we both agreed, we need to make more use of them, so watch this space.


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