Saturday, 10 October 2009

A Bridge Too Far 10/10/2009

Launching at sunrise from a deserted Penarth Beach the plan was to paddle north easterly up the Bristol Channel with the last 4 hours of the flood tide and see how far I could get towards the 2 Severn Bridges.
The conditions were near perfect with a yacht passing me just at the right time to take quite a half decent photo.
The Outer Wrach Cardinal Buoy was also nicely silouehetted in front of the fast rising sun

I was losing valuable time taking photos so I decided to paddle until I got to Newport where I stopped for a well deserved break. Looking at the GPS I had covered a distance of 9.5 nautical miles and had been on the water for 2 hours but I still couldn't see the Second Severn Crossing as visibility was a bit hazy with even Newport not that clear.
Continuing on for another half an hour I pass Goldcliff, a small hamlet bounded by a sea wall, it is by here I catch my first glimpse of the bridge through the haze and it looks a very long way off!
I paddle for another hour with my speed picking up as the Severn Estuary gets narrower watching the GPS. I am averaging a speed of just over 6 knots with little effort. The visibility is also getting better and the bridge is now clearly visible and it is pretty impressive even from this distance.

Another half hours paddle and I am almost there but my speed is starting to slow, that would be about right after paddling all this way the tide turns before I get there!
After another 15 minutes I am there at the Second Severn Bridge which was started in 1992 and finished in 1996.

I feel very small up close to this immense structure being 5128 metres long overall with a span of 456 metres between the 2 main towers which are 137 metres tall with 37 metres clearance between the water and the bridge.
I paddle under the bridge but like Operation Market Garden in September 1944 the airbourne assault on Arnhem, it was also a "Bridge Too Far" for me as the tide had now well and truly turned and there was no way I would make it to the original Severn Bridge built in 1966 and another 4 miles upstream.

Looking at the GPS I had paddled a distance of 19.5 nautical miles so I had that distance to paddle back, taking a last look at the bridge I set off on my way.
The wind picked up a bit on my return leg which made things a little harder, but with the tide aiding me I made good progress again and in just under 2 hours I was approaching Goldcliff with Newport in the background.
The islands of Flat Holm and Steep Holm soon came into view and slowly got larger so I knew I was nearly home.
I passed Cardiff Docks with the Millennium Centre's bronze coloured roof glistening in the afternoon sun, I never thought I would be so pleased to see Cardiff Docks.
I was soon back at Penarth Pier with only a short paddle back to the beach where I had launched some eight and a half hours ago after paddling a distance of 39.5 nautical miles (just over 45 miles or 72.5 kms).
A great paddle with a feeling of accomplishment even though I didn't make it to both bridges, next time I might try paddling one way possibly launching from Lydney and paddling downstream to Penarth.


stoney (Martyn) said...

Nice one Richard!

Wish we were nearer the sea!

James Murray said...

That is a pretty impressive trip Richard. If you do go again can I tag along? unless you prefer solo paddling of course.

Douglas Wilcox said...

What a brilliant day out!


Richard said...

Thanks all, it was a great trip and James maybe next time I'm thinking of doing it one way from Lydney to Penarth, I'll let you know and you are more than welcome to tag along

Stuart Wales said...

That's a fair distance! Nice pictures. You've inspired me to set up my own blog. I'm new to the world of kayaking so there isnt much there at the momment but hope to build on it with a more trips.