A tale of there and back again in which Sarah Horton returns to sea kayaking and to Wales after too long away from both. And also compares herself and her ways to a Hobbit. The part of Smaug the Dragon in this particular Hobbit tale being played, as you can see, by A Very Big Ferry.
Over to you Bilbo, sorry, Sarah!
At the beginning of March 2020 I came back from a kayaking trip to Anglesey and made a list of kayaking plans for the year – trips, kit, goals… Of course, like everyone I had to give up everything on that particular list, because of the pandemic. I had ordered a new drysuit (which was to have been made in the US) and over the next few months the UK supplier would call and ask if I still wanted it, if it ever managed to cross the Atlantic. I would jokingly say, ‘Yes, if I can ever go kayaking again.’
Well, that drysuit was eventually cancelled as the pandemic became a semi-permanent state of our lives. ‘A mature society knows when there’s a dire need to give up some of its freedoms,’ said Ronnie. Well I longed for the old freedoms, and their return.
So finally and at last, this week my new red drysuit and I went to Anglesey. This drysuit was made in the UK, so no travel delays (for Brexit or pandemic reasons), and has been hanging upstairs expectantly for a few weeks while we waited for travel restrictions to ease. And whilst many of our old freedoms are not yet returned to us, this trip was very good. Expansive. Exciting. and as I’ll go on to explain, Hobbit-like.
Day one is exploring the Cymyran Estuary, a continuing adventure with my friend and coach of several years now, Geth. This is ideal on a high water at springs. We explore ‘the other side’, as we call it, having explored it together in the brief easing of last July on a high tide, one of many of our trips here together.
I love this mud and saltmarsh habitat. We stop for our lunch on Ynys Las, which is covered in squill – lilac-blue and lovely. I love the expansive-ness of here.
Coming out of the estuary is an easy glide on the ebb, and briefly into some fast-moving flow as the estuary meets the sea. Along the coast and into some gullies at low water. Red and brown seaweed, and plenty of invertebrates to keep us interested.
For me this repetition of the trip along the Cymyran Estuary and into the sea brings a comfort like a bedtime story. It is never boring, never not right. It is a like a blanket of reassurance, and from all our months of uncertainty I needed that and enjoyed it.
In the lanes after kayaking frothy blackthorn and bright yellow gorse flowers are everywhere, bluebells appearing now too. Then back in my accommodation with a glass of wine and listening to The Archers. Simple pleasures. Leaving the anxieties behind.
Day two, and we meet at Penrhos Country Park, just off the A5. Today is another repeat, this one of a ‘not looked forward to trip which we really enjoyed’, and we both laugh about this. When I was completing my circumnavigation of Anglesey the year before last I had a gap for ages on this section of coast which passes the aluminium works and crosses Holyhead harbour It doesn’t really sound very enticing! But when me and Geth did finally paddle it, we discovered a lovely trip and said we would repeat it one day.
That day was today.
It’s colder than yesterday with 8 knots of northerly wind, and a few bits of chop. The lunch stop wasn’t fantastic, but it’s a varied and interesting trip anyway.
After lunch we find our route across the harbour is blocked by not one, but two enormous Irish ferry boats. One looks like it might be able to leave, but the other is firmly tethered as lorries are loading onto it. There is no way past them, and neither of us fancy squeezing past them! I think we may have to turn back to Penrhos, but Geth has an idea, knowing there is a gap under the road bridge which is connected to the landing stage. So we sneak through the old harbour like thieves, keeping close to the wall hoping the Port Authority won’t spot us. It’s fun.
We emerge in the ‘new harbour’ and paddle back to look at the ferry boat, with its propellors now churning up surf as it prepares to leave, and we are glad we are nowhere near it! And there is another smaller ferry as well, but massive in comparison to us.
We paddle across the end of the breakwater, observe the ebb languidly flowing here, and make our way along the wall to the marina. And here our trip ends, as does our two days together, until next time. Which this time, thank goodness, will be soon.
As we’d been chatting over lunch we’d mused over ‘What makes a good trip?’ And our thoughts include: variety of coast from sandy to rocky to shingle to saltmarsh, and also industrial too; an easy place to put in (high springs tide is helpful); new coast to explore; a good lunch stop; and perhaps a frisson of danger! Though not actual danger, I tentatively add, so a bit of moving water or challenging conditions, but not too much. It is then I realise that I have revealed myself to be a Hobbit. I am happy to leave home, to seek adventure and challenge, but also and equally happy when I arrive back to the warm bed and the glass of wine….. Sometimes as I embark on my kayaking adventures people may call me brave, but I think I am probably as brave as the average Hobbit. Which is just about brave enough for me!
More of Sarah’s sea kayaking adventures, and more besides as you’d expect from a hobbit, are here at “Letters From Sarah“