A Day on the River Medway


A Day on the River Medway
by Gavin Atkin

Here are some photos of a day out on the river Medway that Jim and I enjoyed on Sunday (5th October). As you can see, it was a clear, bright day, but despite appearances the temperature in the shade didn't rise above about 11 degrees Centigrade, which was just about perfect for us as Jim paddled his IMP, (which he has named: 'Little Monkey)', and I rowed Doris the Dory.

We started from Yalding Lock, hard by Yalding railway station, but we were working so hard and having so much fun that we forgot to get the camera out until we'd had an early afternoon rest, a splendid lunch in The Victory pub at East Farleigh, and a couple of foaming, hoppy beers that raised our spirits to the skies.

Here, just by the fine old bridge at East Farleigh, Jim has the dory and canoe under control ready to go through the lock. Notice Jim's good spirits following that lunch :-)

Views of the lock. There's no lock keeper, and opening all these sluices is not a trivial task. I'm sure, by the by, that many of the locals drop by on Sunday afternoons just to see the boating types make fools of themselves operating these things.

Here's Jim again, this time paddling his canoe manfully to try to catch up with the dory. In advance, I thought our two boats would be fairly evenly matched, for although the canoe has a shorter waterline, it has a very sleek shape under the water and Jim is a far more athletic specimen than I am. Still, as it turned out the dory under my oars was significantly quicker.

The Medway is a fortunate river, at least where Maidstone, the county town of Kent, is concerned. It remains wooded and beautiful, and almost silent right into the centre of town. For the water-borne visitor from upriver, the first real signs that you're entering a substantial town of 30-odd thousand people is the substantial parish church, and a castle.

Here are a few more shots of the last stretch into the town. By the end we had covered 10-11 miles and were both pretty weary, having spent about four hours rowing or paddling, and a couple more negotiating locks and attempting to sail.

The boats both behaved very well. I think if asked to decide which had proved the most appropriate for this kind of river trip, I would be hard pressed to choose between them: the dory was comfortable and fast, while the canoe was silent, allowed the crew to sit looking forward and watch the birdlife (a lot of kingfishers, says Jim), and could easily be portaged around locks. Operating a few locks is not a great hardship, but it isn't quick.

My only disappointment was that I found the winds along the river so fluky that it wasn't worth attempting to sail: it's true that at one or two points I was able to make good progress, but each time I soon ran into still patches or even eddies that attempted to take me back up river.

You may be wondering about why I should be rowing with my daggerboard stuck in its slot. The answer is that I found that when rowing at top speed gobbets of water were building up inside the slot and sloshing noisily into the boat - I suppose that demonstrates how quick and slippery the dory really is.

Anyway, the board stopped that nonsense, and suggested a task for the future - making a small handy board-let to fit the slot and keep the forward part of the boat dry and quiet.