Having missed the last 2 club trips to Dartmoor, I was excited to finally be able to make it this year. I'd paddled on the River Dart once before when I was very new to kayaking, but only on the easy lower section. Now it was time to step up a gear and take on the Dart Loop, a classic intermediate whitewater run.
As we drove down the M5 the water levels were already dropping following a dry few days, so we made straight for the put-in at Newbridge. An easy chute underneath the bridge led onto the warm up section, with all of us taking our time down towards the 'Washing Machine' rapid. With a 1 metre drop, I couldn't see what was coming, and instead of punching through the stopper at the bottom, I nose-dived into it, causing a capsize and roll.
With nothing more serious than a bit of wounded pride to deal with, I paddled on, following the rest of the group towards 'Lover's Leap', the second of the 3 main rapids on the Loop. We got out to scout this one, as it's somewhat longer than the others and harder to see the line from upstream. Craig, one of the more experienced among us, pointed out the main hazards, including a couple of large boulders to the right of centre, and I headed off, trying to follow his line. The rocks proved easier than expected to avoid, and we headed on towards 'Triple Drop', the final significant rapid of the run.
At triple drop, I somehow managed to capsize on the first, relatively simple, drop, before recovering and taking on the remainder of the rapid with no difficulty. After portaging at Holne Weir, we finished by 2PM, just in time to drive back to Newbridge and do it all again!
With the rivers dropping further throughout the weekend, we only managed a run on the lower Dart, followed by an interesting excursion on the Plym, where boat scraping rocks blended with a few short and sharp chutes to make an enjoyable afternoon. We ran both of the weirs on this section, and stopped to play a while on the first one, which proved to be a pretty grabby, if shallow, spot. Sound effects from Laura added to the entertainment as she skittered and skidded across the face of the weir, screaming loudly as she did.
Despite the lack of rain, we made the most of the weekend, enjoying a couple of decent runs on the Loop and scouting out a new river with potential as a beginners' run in higher water. Next time, more rain though please!