Whilst I prefer to packraft in wild locations, when time doesn’t allow such a trip and the weather is kind, it can be fun to try and find more local options. With good weather scheduled for a weekend in February 2019, I looked over the maps to see if there was a local challenge I could set myself. After a lot of research I decided to paddle from Guildford to Weybridge, a distance of around 15 miles. Mostly this is either a canal or a slow moving river, so it wouldn’t be challenging but it would be fun to paddle a decent distance point-to-point in the boat.
My wife dropped me at the start point, and I set up the packraft in a pub garden (it was early morning and the pub was closed) before putting in and paddling away down the navigation. The navigation is well signposted and the route is surprisingly rural considering it passes through some very built-up parts of Surrey.
The navigation contains quite a few locks, and I had to portage all of them, which was a bit of a bind and would probably put me off paddling canals much in the future. However there was, again, a surprising amount of bird life on the canal, with the usual mallard, teal, canada geese but also the odd flash of neon blue as a kingfisher darted between perches.
The navigation heads north, passing through Ripley, before passing under the M25. This was certainly a different experience to paddling in Scotland, with the roar of traffic noise and graffiti making it quite clear that solitude was not on offer.
After what seemed like a very long paddle, I eventually reached Addlestone, and knew Weybridge wasn’t far away. Weybridge lock comes into view as you round a corner, and before I knew it I had the boat packed away in my backpack and was heading to the station. It was certainly interesting standing on a packed commuter train in a wetsuit! I don’t think I would repeat this paddle, but it was a nice little adventure to while away a Saturday.
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