That’s the same question we were asking ourselves a week and a half ago. Being short on time and money, we figured the best bet was to book a cheap ferry and head to Cardiff International White Water Centre for a couple of days.
THE GOLDEN RULE: JUST BECAUSE THE CENTRE IS ADVERTISED AS OPEN 9AM TO 8PM DOESN’T MEAN THE COURSE IS!
So with return ferries booked, 2 nights stay in a plush hotel in central Cardiff (breakfast included!), we arrived at the course to find out the water was flowing but it had been block booked for SRT training and was only open to paddlers from 6pm to 8pm!
Over a quick coffee/hot-chocolate we devised an alternate plan that involved driving 3.5 hrs from Cardiff to North London, around the dreaded M25 to reach the Holy Grail of Lee Valley Whitewater Course.
Uh Oh, flat water…
Uh Oh, no water!!!
Don’t worry, Walshy’ll sort it out
Time to get ready.
Well not so fast. First we had to book an assessor to make sure we could actually paddle (no ICU/BCU qualifications recognised here!). Luckily I had one contact in the area, all-round Mr nice guy Aaron from Squarerock who popped down to make sure we knew our sweep strokes from our ferry glides (It’s also thanks to Aaron that there are 16 shiny Jackson Kayaks available for rent at the course). But first we had to fill out a 2 page disclaimer/indemnity form, pay £5 for registration, have our photos taken and pay £10 for the first hour/assessment. Once we had the correct colour bib (with bib number logged) we could finally head down towards the lower lake for a short health and safety briefing! To say this place has rules is an understatement. I was waiting for them to bring out a hi-vis jacket and steel toe boots!!
Bernie dropping in.
Lee Valley has some pretty big drops for an artificial WW course. With a height drop of 5 metres and average flow rate of 20+ cumecs it can certainly pack a punch.
While there are a couple of playspots on the course, it is definitely more river-play style than park’n’play (and it is a tad shallow for lanky gits).
Window Licking Good.
There is of course a smaller, secondary course in Lee Valley (about 2/3rds the length of Cardiff) which we were dead curious to explore but due to the reams of red tape, form filling and the fact it was fully booked meant we’d have to leave it for another day.
Stay tuned for Part 2.