Work hard, canoe home

By Kenny Stocker

Over the years of commuting to and from work in Ilkeston team Alpkit has driven, cycled, bused, walked and run, but there was one mode of transport that we all participate in which we had overlooked.. the canoe. Fortunately the Erewash canal passes just a short distance from our front door, joins the river Trent and continues on to Beeston where I live. It looked like the challenge was on.

I was joined by Jim and Jenni for the trip and rather than using the small playboats which would have been a dog to paddle we borrowed some sea kayaks from our friends at P&H Sea Kayaks.

Canoeists navigate a canal lock

We put in just above Potters Lock at 4.30 and set off enthusiastically aiming to average 4mph which would bring me home around 8pm. Jim commented that the front of my boat looked low in the water, a knocking noise made me think the bulkhead was loose, and as we got out to portage Potters Lock I found out why. Comedy Nick had hilariously placed a 10kg rock in the front of my boat. This rock had sentimental value so I couldn’t ditch it overboard. Paddling was fine but the portages were going to be heavy!

Commuting home in a sea kayak

On such a narrow stretch of water you are always going to come into contact with other river users; human, beast and kids! The vast majority were cool, we tracked a canal boat until passing it around a lock and received friendly banter from cyclists, joggers and punters who were enjoying a quiet pint outside one of the many pubs we passed. We came under fire by kids in Ilkeston who threw stones and a length of 2x2 as well as 2 kids who tried to catch us with their fishing lines as they tracked us along the towpath before Jim made a move to the bank. The final peril was coming up against a family of Swans who obviously owned this section of canal.

Paddling home along a canal

Our small flotilla continued passing the Greens, Gallows Inn, Hallam Fields, Stanton, Sandiacre, Dockholme and Long Eaton Locks where Jenni was to leave us. The number of locks had slowed our pace but we thought we would speed up on the Trent.

Here the canal started to widen and the water became clearer. Reaching Trent Lock we stopped for a cheeky half before joining the wide Trent, a shock after being on the canal which was barely wider than the length of our boats. I think this was my favourite section of the journey, the sun was starting to set, space opened up in front of us and it felt like we had escaped the towns into a wilderness. River life was still active with flocks of geese squawking over head circling Attenborough nature reserve, while a group of 25 young swans were strung out in a line along the river. Their playful nature gave some small concern as it looked like they were lining up for a mass takeoff and we were on their runway.

Two canoeists paddling with headtorches at night

We reached the lights of Beeston Marina as darkness fell with tired arms. As someone commented on our Facebook page.. Dream - Lived!

Distance: 20.6km (12.8miles). Height gain: -23m. Time: 4hr 15min.

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