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Author Topic: ....plays in a band.... paddling the Bann....??  (Read 3299 times)

Highlandpaddy

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The Lower Bann Canoe trip- Lower Bann, Northern Ireland (about 40 mins outside Belfast)

So the weekend was planned to a tee, in advance and we were scheduled for the off on morning of 28th July. It was supposed to be a group of 11 over 4 Canadians but last minute withdrawals were forthcoming and the numbers were 6 bodies over 2 boats (3 Adults, 1 Well built Teeny bopper, a 10 year old and a Dog!!).

So we had John and Dillon in one canoe and Vince, Cnochur, Oisin and Cuan the dog in the other. The menu for the weekend was basic:

Friday Night
Burgers and Hotdogs

Saturday Morning
Ulster Fry (Bacon, sausage, Eggs, soda and Potato bread)

Saturday Afternoon
Sandwich rolls (ham and cheese or sandwich fillers)

Saturday Evening
Fajitas (chicken, peppers and onions in tortillas)

Sunday Morning
Ulster Fry (Bacon, sausage, Eggs, soda and Potato bread)

Sunday Afternoon
Lunch at Coleraine Marina
[/b]
Our local butchers provided the meat and my local farmer friend provided the eggs and onions – Tesco provided the Fajita dinner kits!! Over and above this we included the usual milk, butter and black bags for our rubbish and of course not forgetting the most precious commodities of Beer, wee treats (mini mars, snickers etc..) and boiled sweets are great for a wee boost when your paddling. I can include a kit list and shopping list if anyone is interested??

We had originally arranged to paddle the river, putting in at Toome, however after a rethink we decided better to put in from Newferry West and aim for a 1pm start at the latest.

So boats and gear dropped off – left the adults to pack the boats, while I headed to Coleraine’s Christie Park, to drop off the motor and get a lift back from a friend.

On my return, we were running late by 2 hours and I arrived at the Jetty to find the Adults standing having a beer with all their kit packed and mine on the concrete!! Use your imagination at the type of swear words that came next……

Anyway- a quick repack of the boats and we were off, only 2 ½ hours late J

The weather seemed to be holding up and the sun was shining, we did have to battle a bit of a head wind and after speaking to a local outdoor Ed instructor, he mentioned that they tend to check the wind on the day they are taking groups out, which will determine the direction of travel!! A word to the wise if your planning a trip. Remember the Bann flows from Toome in the direction of Coleraine but at a very lazy pace.

I have had a bit of experience paddling open boats in Scotland and in Ireland so we were pretty quick in reacquainting ourselves with the water and getting the boat moving. The other boat was a newbie set of paddlers and did take a wee getting used to the requirements and getting the boat to run straight- but hey we had the sun on our heads most of the way. I brought some Speedo swimming floats which I cut to shape and used as knee pads with pieces of memory foam glued to a pre cut groove for knees.

The planned itinerary was:

Day 1 (Friday- aiming to be on the water for 1pm at the latest)
Paddle from

Newferry West to Portglenone then onto Portna Locks 


We did have to keep really pushing as the paddle from Newferry to Portglenone was a bit of a trek and the map seemed to be a bit out of sync with our estimations - the wind blowing a bit, didn’t do us any favours and some of the banks are really flat with no cover to help.

As we meandered along we had the company of lots of wildlife- including Kingfishers, Heron, Swallows and various species of Duck.

We took a break and stretched the legs at Portglenone for about 40 minutes and had a pee. Onward to Portna and time was running on, by this stage it was about 6 0 clock and we still had a way to paddle yet to reach camp. We did notify the Lockkeeper that we expected to arrive after 8pm (they finish work at 8pm during the summer months) and he was cool, leaving the key to the toilet and shower for us. Portna locks were a welcome sight as we drew into the navigation canal – We needed a good energy replishment by this stage. The campsite is the small garden of the lockkeeper’s cottage which also houses the loo.

Gear out, BBQ lit, tents pitched and beer opened – Day done.


NB rather than take disposable BBQ’s we bought a small pack away type from Argos for £9- bargain,

it was a God send I also would recommend a Weber chimney starter as the luxury items that I personally took .

Has the charcoal rocking white in around 15mins (real charcoal not the instant light stuff).

As part of the prep, for the next few days and to save some time, I opted to cook off all the sausages and bacon for the breakfasts and wrap them up in foil on the Friday night BBQ. This saves space and also saves a lot of hassle is the weather is bad- especially when there are kids on the trip!! After this we hit the sack at around 12.00 midnight abso knacked but more than happy.



Day 2 Portna to Agivey Bridge (Saturday- aiming to be on the water for 10am at the latest)
Paddle from:

Portna to Portneal Lodge
Portneal Lodge to Movanagher (take lunch here)
Movanagher to Carnroe (through 2 sets of locks)
Carnroe to Agivey Bridge
.
We thought that this was going to be the hardest day, but as it turned out it wasn’t too bad – we had extra time and a bit more experience of what we were in for. We rose at 7:30 and started with a hot shower and got the stove fired uptogether. The aroma soon had the younger lads wakened and salivating with the smell of bacon and HP Brown sauce combined.

Breakfast over, tents dropped and site cleared- The boats were repacked, which proved a bit more of a challenge with the boats in the deep water locks and not able to tie off to a few points!!

Paddy – The lockkeeper was onsite at 9am that morning and was great craic, he couldn’t do enough for us and gave us lots of little pieces of info about the next leg to Carnroe. It cost us £3 for 2 boats to use all the locks. We eventually got on the water and out of the locks at 11.30am and were about 20-25 minutes waiting on the locks to empty.

Id never seen locks actually being used before so it was a nice experience for the entire group.

The weather was a bit on and off so far and the wind had picked up to about 5-10 knots, this is where we again started to feel the pinch. However the novice paddlers seemed to have gotten to grips with the boat and paddling, so they pulled ahead leaving us to trundle along at a more leisurely pace.

We had a bigger wider boat so had most of the gear and the additional bodies onboard proved to be better in the wind, as they kept the boat a bit lower in the water. We pressed on as the sun played hide and seek in and out behind the clouds.

As we began to draw into Movanagher it was about 1.40am. The skies darkened and darkened and the heavens opened- We scrambled for waterproofs and decided to try and sit it out. The lockkeepers have their dinner hour between 1pm and 2pm so we weren’t going anywhere until then. The rain was relentless and we tied up the boats at the jetty and took shelter from the driving rain in the lockkeeper’s garage!! (Thanks for the coffee and juice for the boys Mr. Lockkeeper sir).


We had a wait of about 20 minutes here for a small cabin cruiser to also arrive after this, so it was almost 3 by the time we set off again for the next set of locks at Carnroe. The same lockkeeper looks after both. A quick 30 mins later and we arrived. We stopped to have lunch here and the rain had been replaced by the sun again, even though it was a bit blustery.

Pushing on the water was rough coming out of Carnroe and the wind was blowing so much, that we had to dig deep to make some sort of headway- I think the Fishermen on the river found this a great source of amusement. This stretch of water was particularly hard going and the virtually non-existent banks offered no relief from the gusts. The Salmon, jumping for flies at this part, was a fantastic sight, as this happened on average about 1 every 30 seconds and offered a few smiles from the group.

After 4 hours of paddling and a few stops to catch a toilet break and a stretch of the auld septic pegs (legs to those uneducated in Belfast slang!) we arrived at final destination for the day. Time was around 8.15pm so the pressure was on to get the boats out and set up camp for the night before the light faded too much. The lads were exhausted and the dog, who obviously chilled out all day, ran around expelling some of the energy reserves before we all had dinner of Chicken Fajitas and Heineken (under 18s had juice).

The weather wasn’t too bad with the odd sporadic shower here and there. The site itself was a piece of farmland but had a small overhang of trees which provided excellent shelter for cooking and from the wind.

We got the BBQ/ fire rocking with the Webber chimney starter and had brought some wooden logs which we kept dry in black bags and the guitar along too.
Wee John Boy, who used to play in a band, got the sing song started, as the beer went down sweet. We crashed out about 1.30am slurring our words and happy as pigs in the preverbal sh**e!

Day 3 Agivey Bridge to Coleraine Marina (Sunday- aiming to be on the water for 10am at the latest)
Paddle from:
Agivey Bridge to Drumaheglis Marina
Drumaheglis Marina to Camus
Camus to the Cutts
The Cutts to Somerset Riverside park (through 1 set of locks)
Somerset Riverside Park to Christie Park


We rose at 8am that morning and I got the breakfast on while the rest of the crew dropped the tents and packed the boats with gear. The heads weren’t too bad, but we were looking forward to getting going on the last leg of our boy’s weekend. John and Dillon were 1st outta the blocks again and started 20 mins ahead of the other boat. They had obviously gotten to grips with the boat by this stage, as it took us until almost The Cutts, to catch up with them.

As we passed Drumaheglis, the rain started in again and the temperature dropped significantly. The paddle in the rain didn’t really dampen our spirits too much though as the thought of a roast chicken dinner had us drifting along like the bisto kids….

The water on the way into the Cutts, which is our last set of locks, was a pleasure to paddle- nice and calm and forgiving. The boats skimmed along in tandem. Lots of dog walkers out along the river and again loads of wildlife to spot along the way, with the weans.

We got through The Cutts around 1pm and from here the Bann really opens up wide getting ready to flow into the sea. The final paddle along from the Cutts to Christie Park took us around 20-25 mins easy paddling. The left side of the bank can be a bit shallow and staying out towards the middle of the river will make the paddle easier with no paddle knocks.

Arriving at Christie Park we had a quick toilet break and emptied the boats. I started packing the car as the rest of the troops, ferried the gear from the Jetty. A bit weary and a bit wet, we got the boats on the cars and chilled out under a big tree right in the middle of the park.

All involved felt a great sense of achievement as we said our goodbyes and headed home in the comfort of the motor with the heating on a packet of Beef Monster Munch and an Orange Sukie. Great Trip and the next one looks to be Upper Lough Erne- but not for a few weeks yet!!
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LennyJ1

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Re: ....plays in a band.... paddling the Bann....??
« Reply #1 on: August 08, 2012 »

Great write up, I really enjoyed reading that.

Thanks  :)
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Highlandpaddy

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Re: ....plays in a band.... paddling the Bann....??
« Reply #2 on: August 08, 2012 »

Cheers LJ1- Enojoyed writing it!! ;D ;D
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whoRya

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Re: ....plays in a band.... paddling the Bann....??
« Reply #3 on: August 09, 2012 »

Sound like a great adventure, albeit hard work!  Is it doable for those who never paddle to take on the like of this with a bit of determination?  Perhaps one overnight for the first time would be wise.
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Highlandpaddy

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Re: ....plays in a band.... paddling the Bann....??
« Reply #4 on: August 09, 2012 »

Sound like a great adventure, albeit hard work!  Is it doable for those who never paddle to take on the like of this with a bit of determination?  Perhaps one overnight for the first time would be wise.

It's ok as long as you take a full day at it whoRya. The trail is well mapped out on www.canoeni.com

Only thing you can't fix is the weather but the last 2 weeks in August have been good for the past 7 years, so I normally take some leave from work then.

Scout the area before hand if you really epwant to get a feel for it but I would seriously recommend staying the night at Portna if your looking at an overnighter with maybe a 11 am start. That would leave plenty of time to cruise along.
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whoRya

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Re: ....plays in a band.... paddling the Bann....??
« Reply #5 on: August 09, 2012 »

Cheers HP.  It's something that is on the long finger.  If you have ever paddled in Lough Erne then keep out an eye for another thread of mine soon to go up. :)
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Mourneman

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Re: ....plays in a band.... paddling the Bann....??
« Reply #6 on: August 10, 2012 »

Super write up mate,sounds lke a right adventure,any photos?

Highlandpaddy

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Re: ....plays in a band.... paddling the Bann....??
« Reply #7 on: August 10, 2012 »

Look forward to it WRY!!
Mourneman- yes I have pics but don't know how to post them??
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