I spotted an opportunity for a possible skills weekend on Anglesey. Only one slight issue, it was for the West Midlands Regional Development Team. OK, well this could work. So I fired off an email asking if I could join them. Nothing ventured nothing gained and all that.
A couple of days later and I received a reply asking me which club I represented? erm, well none actually. Whereabouts in the West Midlands was I based? Well just slightly north in a lovely place called Yorkshire. I know, I was being a bit cheeky, but what the hell! I’ve always had the mentality of asking, the worst people can say is no, right?
Fortunately the lovely Charles Miller, Chair for the WMRDT, saw no reason why I couldn’t join in, we’re all here to work together and share skills. Result…Anglesey here I come!
‘Mark I’m off to Anglesey to join in with the West Midlands RDT training weekend’
‘Lynne your Geography’s crap, Leeds is not in the West Midlands’
‘Yeah I know. Bye, see you Monday. Love ya and promise to ring in each day’
So off we went, Bumble and I had a new adventure to make.
For many paddlers, Anglesey is the mecca of Sea Kayaking. With its amazing and varied coastline and the tide flooding and ebbing through the Menai Straits you can normally find a location to launch from whatever the weather. So if the conditions are bad on the south of the island, you head north, and vica versa.
I had booked myself a bed in a bunk room at Anglesey Outdoors. WMRDT had booked the whole centre so I didn’t know who I would be sharing with. I felt so far out of my comfort zone when I arrived. It’s something I experience every time I go away on my own. It’s worse when I am actually driving there, I get such anxiety I can’t relax on the drive at all. I get emotional and have that awful feeling that I’ve taken on too much again. So when I checked in I called Mark in tears. He knows this is normal for me. I’m OK once I’ve spoken to him and I always facetime him to show him around. It makes him feel better as he can picture where I am and by sharing it, I feel as if I’m not on my own.
The Paddlers Return
The next hurdle, once I’d checked out my room, was to go and meet everyone in the Paddlers Return. The Paddlers Return is so well know to sea kayakers and outdoors enthusiasts in Anglesey. This charming bar is a great social point for many coaches to meet their clients and catch up with each other, and for paddlers from all over the country to meet for a drink, meal and a natter.
As I walk in, with my stomach churning, I am greeted by the sight of so many people, all of whom seem to know each other. Well they would I guess, they were all their as part of the WMRDT so many were from the same clubs. I introduced myself to Charles and he told me what group I would be paddling with the next morning. I met my room mate, Jules, she was lovely and took me off to introduce me to Amy. Such lovely people.
Next morning and 6 of us met in the kitchen after breakfast to arrange our paddle. We were going to launch from Porth Dafarch and head round towards Penrhyn Mawr.
Down at the beach offloading the kit was quite daunting. I had never paddled with any of the group before so didn’t know if I would cope with the conditions. I was so nervous, but the little bay was so lovely and everyone was so friendly I found the courage to carry on. So I met Karen, Usha, Ian, Alan and Matthew and we launched out of the bay.
As we paddled round the coastline, the caves and gullies were simply stunning. So many places to explore, it was also great for boat control as you need to manoeuvre through narrow gaps as the waves crash through. We chatted and shared experiences and they helped me with my paddling so much. I really like picking up tips from other paddlers. We explored so many caves, all encouraged by Ian to whom we soon adopted the name of Caveman, so much is his enthusiasm to share his knowledge and experiences of the sea.
We stopped for lunch at a lovely bay at Porth Ruffydd. Though we noticed that Alan had stayed in his boat. He sat there staring out at the sea with pent up energy.
He was bursting to get out to Penrhyn Mawr. Alan is a very experienced paddler with a circumnavigation of Anglesey completed in just 16 hours. With Matthew also keen to go out and have a play, he and Alan left ahead of us and we followed some distance behind.
Y nysoedd Y Ffrydiau
We got as far as little Penrhyn. I was practising turning in and out of the flow, but with the flow now quite strongly against us and a really narrow gap to get through I make a mistake, catching the bow of Bumble on a rock in the middle of quite a fast flow I went over. I try to roll but the gap is too narrow so I have to pull and exit. As my head popped up I kept hold of Bumble and started swimming towards Ian. My paddle decides it wants to go off on its own and has to be retrieved by Alan.
Ian got me back in Bumble but it was a real tough few minutes with him fighting the flow. Once back in the saddle and comfortable, Alan guides me back round into the flow and I have to paddle like hell to get clear. That was my first dunking in Anglesey and the reason I now use a paddle leash on the sea.
In the afternoon, we went on towards Treaddur Bay and the infamous Scooby Doo house. Wow, its absolutely gorgeous. Standing imposingly on the rocks looking out from the bay. The house, who’s real name is Craig-y-Mor was built between 1911-1919, work having to stop during the First World War. In a Georgian style with such an elevated position over the cliffs, it’s easy to see why it was chosen for filming the ITV series ‘Safehouse’.
It was time to get off the water. We had paddled an impressive 23.18 km that day. So it was time for a chilled evening back at The Paddlers Return. I was so grateful to how welcoming everybody had been and I couldn’t wait for Sunday to come round.
Next morning saw a smaller group of just Karen, Ian and myself. So we drove over to Bull Bay on the north of the mainland. Again the weather was favourable and we paddled round towards the old brickworks at Porth Wen for a quick coffee stop and a look around.
This beautiful disused Victorian brickworks has suffered some erosion from the sea but there are still some beautiful buildings to look around and some of the old machinery remains in place.
A stunning stone arch provides a reflective view point out to the sea beyond.
Camaes Bay then rescues & laughs
Lunch stop was at Camaes Bay, where a well placed picnic table gives you the perfect view out to Middle Mouse. After lunch it was time to head back and I was dreading leaving. I’d had such a brilliant weekend. On our return leg Ian and Karen put me through some rescue training. We did capsizes and rescues and I did my first roll with Bumble fully loaded and in real conditions, which I was super pleased about. Then Ian had us going round the boats balancing before Karen and I ended up laughing so much neither of us could do anymore. What an absolutely brilliant day to round off a great weekend. We had paddled another 11.98 km.
We have stayed in touch to this day and since then I have enjoyed many weekends down in Anglesey. Ian has become a good friend and helped with my progression so much over the past couple of years. We regularly meet down in Anglesey and take groups of friends down to paddle together. It is such a lovely place. I look forward to the day I can meet up again with Karen, Usha and Ian, and enjoy another paddle together.