Thursday 9 March 2023 | by Brett Scillitoe
Finally the weather was kind to AquaPaddle Tonbridge. Winters Icy Grip released just enough to allow the AquaPaddle to take place. Ana, the main Captain, had arranged a great crew of six experienced paddlers and Ian, the other AquaPaddle Captain. He was in charge as Ana was playing “Golf”. Which I understand is a game where you chase a small ball around?
There were 15 people signed up on the App and we were looking forward to showing some new AquaPaddlers around Tonbridge. I was there as an ordinary crew member and to help Ian. However, with it being a little chilly, only 3 intrepid AquaPaddlers arrived, Launa, Sarah and Sara. This was a little disappointing for the Volunteer Crew, as they had gone to the trouble of getting to the Location early and were there to look after more people. Some would have taken part themselves if they had know the numbers would have been low.
If paddlers who are signed up can no longer make it, they can very easily cancel their registration with a few clicks. All they need to do is login to the website, click on the small person icon, on the right and go to registrations. There paddlers can then cancel their registration. This can be done right up to the start of the AquaPaddle. It saves Crew from waiting for paddlers who are not going to turn up. It also enables the Captain to organise the crew to reflect where to place the crew to keep all the AquaPaddlers safe.
AquaPaddle is free, but if paddlers sign up, they have an obligation to cancel their registration if not going to paddle. Please respect the Volunteer Crews. AquaPaddle is a family, we look after each other.
Once the Safety Briefing was conducted and we were all safely out in the calm waters of The Medway, we headed round to the start. The AquaPaddlers were all new to the Event. With more Crew than Paddlers, most Crew paddled with the undaunted AquaPaddlers. The AquaPaddle was started by Ian and we all headed upstream through the back gardens of Tonbridge. We also warmed up quickly. Buoyancy Aids make for a great gilet.
The route takes the paddlers passed moored boats and the playing fields of Tinkers Island. The Sunday League Football matches were getting underway. One of the Crew rescued a ball for one of the games and was returned to a grateful official.
There are a few bridges across the Medway, which makes the route interesting as some you need to duck under. One is quite low, so it adds to the fun. Crew members made sure everyone passed safely underneath. Once passed Tinkers Island and out under the Railway Bridge that takes commuters to London, we headed out into the countryside. There were lots of walkers out, interested to see what was going on. Passed a group of friendly fishermen with their very long rods that reach right across the river. They kindly took them in so we could pass. Then it was up to turn under another footbridge and back downstream to the finish, retracing the route.
Thanks to Ian and the Crew for looking after the amazing AquaPaddlers, who all said they would be back. Ana, is planning the next one for early April, so lookout for the date to be posted. Please remember if you can’t make it to the event, to cancel your registration. Happy Paddling 🤙
AquaPaddle is run purely on Donations. If AquaPaddle is of value to you with your health and wellbeing, please help by giving a donation.
Pictures by Ruth Downs and the author.