2016-06-26 Barnstaple to Bideford

Abandoned to rot

On holiday in North Devon for a week, but unfortunately the weather was not playing ball. About the only option for a paddle was the Taw and Torridge rivers. So putting in at Barnstaple about an hour before high tide, I paddled up and through Long Bridge before returning downstream. and under Taw Bridge.

Long Bridge - Barnstaple
Long Bridge – Barnstaple
Taw Bridge Barnstaple
Taw Bridge Barnstaple

On the way down stream there were many abandoned boats, soon followed by much birdlife at Penhill Marsh. In particular there were many Shelduck with their young. One of these Shelduck parents started pretending it was injured in front of me. This went on for about half a mile despite me paying no attention to it. Thankfully it finally decided it had led me far enough away from its brood and left me to get on with my journey. About this point a speed boat came whizzing passed disappearing around the corner with a friendly wave. As I rounded the corner at Penhill Point thinking I was seeing so much more at my pace,  I found them stuck on a sandbank, stood in the water trying to maneuver their craft back into deeper water.  I gave them a friendly wave as I passed. Being able to read the water currents certainly helps as I too could have become stuck as I was whisked along by the falling tide.

All too soon I was approaching Appledore. There appeared to be much activity despite the rain. I soon found out it was Pilot Gig Racing day at Appledore. Needing a loo, I pulled into Appledore and watched the racing for a bit. Not the nicest of days for the event.

Crow Point Light
Crow Point Light
Appledore in the rain
Appledore in the rain
Pilot Gig Racing at Appledore
Pilot Gig Racing at Appledore
Pilot Gig Racing at Appledore
Pilot Gig Racing at Appledore

Now I could have called it a day hear at Appledore and summoned my lift, but it was still early, so I decided to paddle upstream to Bideford. The guide book suggested this as being rather “tedious”, but I guess I fall into the category that see it as a challenge. So using the many eddies and much use of “spangle” – Speed and Angle, I made my way upstream. I have to say there is much to see on the Torridge – Shipyards and lots of boats, some rotting, some lived in and ever increasingly large mud flats as the tide receded.

LÉ William Butler Yeats (P63)
LÉ William Butler Yeats (P63)
Abandoned to rot
Abandoned to rot
The slowly rotting carcass of a ship
The slowly rotting carcass of a ship
The slowly rotting carcass of a ship
The slowly rotting carcass of a ship
Torridge A39 Road Bridge
Torridge A39 Road Bridge

Soon under the Torridge A39 road bridge I passed a slipway. Thinking I had time to make it to the medieval bridge and back I pressed on. Soon passing plenty of Tugs and the MS Oldenburg.

Tug 'n mud
Tug ‘n mud
Tug 'n mud
Tug ‘n mud
MS Oldenburg
MS Oldenburg
Bideford Long Bridge
Bideford Long Bridge
MS Oldenburg
MS Oldenburg
Tug at Bideford
Tug at Bideford

Under the uneven arches of the Long Bridge I headed back downstream, stopping for a chat with a chap attempting to dig out his Tug boat! He was attempting to dig a channel in such a way that on the next falling tide the water would flush through the channel and open up a route through the mud. Good luck with that!

Tugs at Bideford - owner trying to dig a channel to flush out his tug next tide
Tugs at Bideford – owner trying to dig a channel to flush out his tug next tide

By the time I reached the slipway again there was around 15 meters of mud to cross before the concrete. Getting out of the boat the mud seemed fine – nice and firm so I attached my trolley to the boat and started to cross to the slipway. Suddenly, I was up to my waist in the mud and sinking! Using my boat I was eventually able to free myself, but I soon found that anything other than laying flat caused me to sink rapidly into the stinking oozing mud. I managed to grab my towline and attach the line to the front of my boat, before crawling flat as possible to the slipway. A very kind gentleman offered his help in trying to pull the boat out of the mud, but with the wheels still attached it was pretty much impossible. Eventually some youngsters in their cars offered to pull the boat out using a tow bar fitted to one of their cars. This thankfully worked. The trouble now was both the boat and I were covered head to toe in stinking mud. There was nothing for it but to strip off my kit and head back to our cottage.

Mud mud mud
Mud mud mud

Back at the cottage there was a nice handy stream (with trout). So there was nothing for it but to put on the now cold damp smelly kit and jump in the stream. Everything, was covered in mud. In fact a few weeks on, I am still finding mud on my kit!

Washing off in the stream
Washing off in the stream

What a great trip!!

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