Iken Canoe … can you?

Written by  //  August 24, 2015  //  Upcoming Events  //  No comments

aboutfram goes to Iken Canoe

Of course you can if you take a trip down to the upper reaches of the River Alde and meet up with Dominic and Kate Kilburn who run Iken Canoe, which is exactly what the intrepid aboutfram team did on a sultry Sunday afternoon in July.

After parking on the slopes of the Iken picnic site carpark, just a few miles from Snape Maltings, we grab a towel and march single file along a sandy path that leads through the pine trees at the edge of the river. Every now and then we catch a glimpse of the reed beds and glittering river beyond, until we come out at the edge of the cliff and spy the boatshed ahead. Dominic is waiting, all smiles and enthusiasm and, as we are fitted with life-jackets and armed with paddles of varying sizes, we work out the formation of our eager crew. It is decided that we will take out two of the Canadian canoes – dud dud dud dud der der…. and one sit-on-top kayak.

After the safety briefing we step outside to find the clouds have parted and the late afternoon sunshine is now streaming across the river. The conditions are perfect; the air is still and rich with the smell of salt and seaweed, and at high tide there is no need to slip our way through the mud to reach the boats. Dominic suggests that we head downstream, and cross the river mouth to find Japan Beach, a little strip of sand where the children are safe to swim. Steering a course between a pair of isolated mud stacks, where a pair of oyster catchers busying themselves at the edge of the rising tide trill out a warning, we aim for Iken Church.

Here we idle along the edge of the reeds, keeping an eye out for a family of otters that are reportedly in the area, and in the calm waters of the shallows try to master the ‘J-turn’. That done it is now time to head into open water, and we zig-zag our way across the expanse, all three vessels trying to just have the competitive edge. Once past an impressive ‘pile’ on the left we scan the shoreline for the sliver of sand that was promised, and with a sigh of relief (from the adult paddlers at least) finally come ashore. Before we have time to heave the canoes up the sand and admonish ourselves for not bringing a picnic, or at least a bottle of something cold, the kids have plunged back into the water and happily spend the next twenty minutes swimming and practising their capsizing techniques. Bear Grylls would be proud!

Aware of the time, and also the tide that is now against us, we cast off and head for home, the church now a much smaller silhouette on the horizon. It is quite hard work and with cries of ‘heave’ and ‘follow the sticks’ we slowly make our back to the calmer waters of the river mouth. It has been an exhilarating but also a deeply relaxing afternoon, the cathartic rhythm of the paddling allowing busy thoughts to drift away with the current, and we all know that unlike the aching muscles, this will be a memory that endures.


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