Up the Dyfi
Making the most of my One Excursion per Day
With the Coronavirus lock-down in full effect, we are only allowed one excursion outside to exercise each day. I thought I’d make the most of it today. The weather was forecast to be really nice. I’d already done lots of University work from home on Monday and Tuesday despite the fact that I don’t usually work on Mondays and Tuesdays, and the tides looked good for a trip up the Dyfi. Too good an opportunity to miss.
Social Distancing to the Extreme
The fact that I was fairly certain I wouldn’t see anyone else meant that it ticked the social-distancing boxes too. The rules say that we are allowed out once a day to exercise but what’s actually important are the principles behind those rules. The idea behind them is obviously to minimise contact with others so as to slow the spread of the virus and thereby alleviate the pressure on the NHS. In theory, here in West Wales, I could be outside exercising all day long and not see a single person. I don’t remember the last time I came across someone else whilst running in the hills or paddling in the estuary. I rarely even see people on the shore while I’m out there. I guess these pastimes have always been a form of social distancing for me, so complying with the principles behind the rules is easy.
By contrast, if someone lives in a city and going out for a run in the local park means that they’ll be running alongside hundreds of other people then they probably shouldn’t be doing it even if they are allowed one outdoor exercise per day. In such a situation it’s better to simply ‘Stay at Home’.
I’m also aware of the fact that being outside, especially when on the sea, means that there is always the potential of needing some assistance from the emergency services. In my books this is something to be avoided at all costs at any time, but now, whilst they are under more pressure than usual and the various personnel should be at home themselves it’s even more pertinent. With that in mind I planned a route that would see me never more than a few metres from the shore and within enclosed waters most of the time. It’s one of my favourite routes anyway so that wasn’t a problem. I had an easy exit strategy should anything go wrong and I had my phone with me so that Anna could collect me if something did happen without having to call out someone else. It was unlikely that there would be any issues with the paddle I had planned but contingencies were in place anyway.
An Early Start
I had to make a fairly early start so as to catch the tides right. It was therefore still quite chilly at around 6ºC when I set off. The Skylarks were already up singing from high above me as I walked to the beach. It was going to be a lovely Spring Day with temperatures soon rising so I had decided to forego the wetsuit for the first time this year. What I hadn’t counted on was that there would be quite such a big swell. I timed my entry from the pebbles so as to avoid the sets but still ended up with a few waves over my head as I paddled out. The water didn’t feel too cold even as it rushed down inside my cagoule.
I was soon out beyond the whitewater and heading north towards the estuary with the swell hitting my side and raising me up and down every few seconds. Once beyond the dunes I angled myself to follow the shoreline and was soon racing along on the waves as I headed into the enclosed waters of the estuary.
Up the Dyfi
The tide was in full flow so I was flying along at a decent pace as Aberdyfi glided past on my left-hand side. Ivor, our local katabatic wind was also in full force today as well. Actually, he was nowhere near full force as that’s about 50 knots or so, but considering the fact that the forecast was for it to be completely still, the 20 knots of wind coming down the valley was still quite a bit.
The headwind against a strong tide meant that things were pretty choppy in places but despite the wind and chop I was making good progress. I hugged the coastline all the way for the sake of safety but it’s also the fastest line to take most of the time as the little headlands provide some shelter from the wind now and then and it’s also the deepest part of the channel so has the fastest flow.
With the help from the tide it wasn’t long before I was turning right and heading past the Ynyshir RSPB Reserve and into Glandyfi. Here the channel narrows and becomes much more river-like. With the tide approaching high tide the flow was slowing somewhat too and there was various bit of debris in the river in the form of twigs, leaves and other vegetation. I felt as though some was caught on my rudder but decided that it was probably just my imagination as my pace was still good. Geese honked and flapped their wings as I approached taking off only to come back into land on the water a few hundred yards ahead of me. They did this a few times and then flew off a little further and out of sight.
I glided under the railway bridge and on deeper into the Dyfi Valley. The grassy banks now sheltering me from the worst of the wind.
A Quick Stop
After about 11 miles of paddling and with the tide now ebbing I pulled up alongside the bank and stopped to stretch for a few minutes. There was indeed some vegetation caught on my rudder so I removed it ready for the trip back home. A flapjack was consumed, drinks taken on board and then it was back onto my ski for the return journey.
The Return Journey
I’d timed things perfectly. As soon as I started heading back downstream my pace was faster than it had been for a while. The tide was already ebbing pretty quickly so I was gliding along at a fast pace without too much effort. Around the bends in the river, past the Osprey nesting platforms, under the bridge and out past Glandyfi once more. I retraced my paddle strokes all the way, once again hugging the far shoreline and following the deeper channel close to the coast. The strong katabatic wind had eased off now – it is usually only a morning phenomenon – so the waters were much calmer. There were a few slightly choppy bits over the shallows but otherwise it was a nice easy paddle back down the dyfi.
I stopped off once more on my favourite little beach just to stretch my legs but only lingered for a minute or two in the sunshine. The temperature was indeed rising now.
Aberdyfi flew past once again and then I headed out through the mouth of the estuary. A slight sea-breeze was kicking in now so there was some chop over the bar intermingled with the swell which was still present. I negotiated the sandbanks, avoiding the breaking waves over them and then headed south along the beach. Once again I was rising and falling with the swell as I went until I was finally able to turn towards the shore and catch one of the waves to the beach.
Todays allocated exercise was done, and at just over 21 miles of paddling it was a good one and about as socially distanced as you could get.