2010 Gipping Expedition (third)
3th May 2010
The weather forecast was cold, windy, showers with sunny intervals. They were spot on, apart from not mentioning the hail storms!
After a very wet start to the year, April was exceptionally dry, making the river level fairly low. This led us to change the starting point, further down river at the entrance of Muntons ‘Cedars' Maltings on the Needham road. This worked fairly well; we unloaded on the green apron at the entrance, then parked the trailer on the wide verge on the opposite side of the road where there was plenty of space.
Whilst the weather forecast had not put off the foolhardy, it did mean a number of people with more sense decided to stay snug at home. So five canoes with seven crew set off from under Muntons bridge to brave the elements, with encouragement from the landowners of the first property on the right and a noisy send-off from the dogs next door.
We were soon dragging canoes across the shallows on the way down to Badley Mill where we came to the first of a number of trees fallen across the river and not attended to by the landowners since last year.
For the first part of the trip between the sunny spells we had rain and hailstorms! These were driven through by high winds, the only good news, this came from a northerly direction and really pushed us along all day. If we had taken a kite we could have easily got the canoe on the ‘plane'.
On the approach to Needham we met a landowning couple at Hawkes Mill who helped us round the lock and find a place to launch in the shallow waters downstream. They said they were members of the Gipping Trust and we the first they had seen attempt to canoe the old navigation. They felt the Environment Agency could do more to maintain the river bed and help people access the river. Whilst they were happy for people to use their stretch of river, please no fishing from the back of the canoe!
We arrived at Needham Lakes a half of an hour behind schedule at 11.30 am. Not so many people about this year, but tea on sale and toilets across the bridge.
As we approached Baylham we met another resident keen to maintain rights over a stretch of the river. Mr Cob Swan of Pipps Ford only agreed to let us by on the basis he escorted us through and we didn't try and get off with any of the female (Pen) swans on his territory. So we were led through in procession down to the rare breeds centre.
The Lock at Baylham was still under repair and closed off so we again forked right and shot the small narrow weir (watch your paddles on the side – mine got stuck halfway down and nearly took off my head). We then found a tree blocking the stream-way and had to lift the boats over this.
We reached Gt Blakenham just before 2.00 pm and found the footpath round the lock between the houses really tight for the wider Canadian boat, which we had to lift high over the over the top of the wooden fence.
We were again given a warm welcome by the Chequers pub just across the way on the main road where we took an hour for a hot lunch and a decent pint of Wherrys.
After taking on board a new crew for one of the boats we made good time through Claydon where we met a double Canadian boat coming the other way. Not sure who was more surprised. Again some shallows and more half fallen trees.
With the wind strong behind us we quickly made the lock on Paper Mill lane and then Bramford. Here Raymond shot the steep right hand flume but took in a good deal of water as a result of his efforts. We stopped for another cup of tea at the Bramford picnic area before deciding to continue the whole way, even though some crew were tired and cold.
At Sproughton lock we took the canoes down the bank to the stream and launched from there, following in the path of the Ipswich Canoe club who do this stretch. This worked well and was better than dropping off the end of the lock.
Some head winds as we meandered towards Ipswich, but still mainly speeding us from behind we made good time and finished earlier at 6.30 pm.
So the third successful down the Gipping with hail, wind, mud, cold and fallen trees adding to the sense of adventure and determination.
Timings on the day
9.30 am depart Muntons Maltings.
11.30 Needham Lakes stop for tea & toilets.
12.00 Midday - Creeting/Riverside Farm
12.45 Baylham Lock (Rare Breeds centre)
2.00 pm Gt Blakenham for pub lunch
3.00 pm Depart after hearty meal and drink.
3.30 pm pass Claydon landing stage.
4.40 pm Coffee break Bramford picnic area
5.30 pm Sproughton Lock
5.45 pm Pumping Station
6.00 pm Sugar Beet Weir
6.30 pm finish at the Range (Suffolk retail Park)
Total of nine hours with hour for lunch and two 15 min stops. Good northerly tail wind all the way.