The Upper Barle

This is an account of the Trip to the upper Barle

The Awakening

I think everybody would agree with me when I say the worst part of the upper Barle experience is getting up at 4:45 am.

Dragging yourself from the warmth and safety of your bed, scrambling into your clothes and in the process, waking up half the street.

Then driving through unlit streets, looking for Paul’s house almost knocking on the wrong door twice and then doing the same for Dave. You really start questioning your sanity at this point.

The journey

It was generally quiet until about 5:45 when the caffeine kicks in and Dave started talking about previous trips when the water was “This Big!” or “ 21ft over the dart ledge”. You may have thought it impossible. You may have thought it too the extreme for 5:57 am but at this point, the wind started blowing a Volvo, our silver beacon of technology, sideways across the road.

With all this going on there’s absolutely no chance of getting any much-needed sleep in before the paddle.


We usually stop and have breakfast with Wurzel Gummage and his pals at the truck-stop services just past Bridport. The food there is warm and welcoming after 2/3 hours in the car.

On this occasion, Wurzel and his pals decided to howl crazily at thin air, much to the surprise of myself, Phil, Paul and Dave.

And they call us crazy for getting up at 4:50am just to go paddling.

On the road again

So after the food, we were back in the saddle again, with the last hour and a half of the journey left.

To pass the time, Paul timed how long it took us to get from the pink castle house to our destination.

You must appreciate how boring the car journey is when all you’re thinking about is how the waters going to be after all those hours journeying.

At last!

When we finally got there we found everyone else waiting for us. We made up an excuse about Phil wanting a double breakfast. This was the most plausible as he’s always thinking about food.

The water looked at a good level for 4*, big and bouncy all the way, Dave estimated a good grade 3 all the way, which was satisfying after the drive.

There were many complaints about not being allowed to seal-launch off Tarr steps, as it was an ancient monument to our forefathers or some rubbish.

After squeezing into our cold kit in the cold we were cold and ready to paddle.

Or so we thought!

It turned out that after a good half hours searching, Dave the instructor, the setter of a good example (!) had left his helmet in the boot of our car.

If it hadn’t been for Doug, driving back to the car park, we would have been even later starting. We would have been really cold by then.

River and Testing

After getting on, those being tested started nervously doing the 4* syllabus, perfectly ferry – gliding and draw – stroking our way across the river while the instructors weren’t watching and really messing up when they were. While the others happily paddled, occasionally stopping to surf a wave or play in a hole.

Eventually, those being tested started to perform up to the needed standard.

Stopper Play

Ahh. The best part of the trip. Well, in my opinion, others may differ. After finding a suitable stopper (one that doesn’t munch you to death), Dave said that for part of the 4* we had to sit and look confident in a stopper. The reactions of the group were mixed.

Terror. Smiles. A sight to behold, all in the same eddy. Eleanor really excelled in this. Never have I seen someone roll three times in a stopper and get halfway each time, then to go over once again, before eventually successfully rolling up looking scared and pleased.

The End

After getting dressed everyone was told the news everyone was waiting for.

We had all passed our 4*.  Congratulations to all by the way.

PS: If you think getting up at 4:50 and driving through a gale to go for a three-hour paddle is bad. Please spare a thought for the chap in another party who took a swim at Tarr steps and managed to get himself to the bank with his paddle, only to find that his boat had travelled ¾ of the way to Dolverton.

Cheers, Ed Jackson

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