Do you enjoy winter paddling? I certainly do! I’ve been out on the river a lot since the New Year, trying to keep fit and clocking up miles for the British Canoeing Winter Club Challenge along the way. The exercise has been welcome but seeing the river in so many different moods is always the real pleasure.
This January has seen all weathers in the Thames valley. A couple of warm, almost balmy days, but also the to-be-expected wind and wet, fog and frost, sleet and snow. We’ve had some wonderful crisp, icy mornings with clear blue skies and mirror-still water and a few days with the wind whipping across the fields and whistling through the trees and the river on red boards – very different environments but each exhilarating in their own way.
Friends often ask whether I get cold when I’m out. The answer is yes, sometimes, but on most occasions I’m moving and dressed for the weather and it really isn’t a problem. A decent cag, a hat and pogies make all the difference. And I also point out that staying on, rather than in, the water is the objective!
With the days starting to get longer and warmer, more and more wildlife is beginning to emerge. Hardly a session goes by without seeing at least one kingfisher skimming low over the water, darting from one branch to another, and a heron standing majestically in the shallows or perching in a tree watching my progress. Cormorants and coots, moorhens and mallard, grebes and swans, and the ever-present Canada geese, all are anticipating the coming of spring. As am I.