I believe the term ‘song of the paddle’ orginated from an american writer/artist called Bill Mason who wrote and produced a film of the same name in the post hippy era of the mid seventies, where he explores the ‘wilds’ with his family in two open canoes. In his film he states “the wilderness was only invented by the white men, for the native americans it was always know as home, now modern society has put a distance between man and his creator.” To take up the paddle or to cast a line must surely be part of the re-connection that drives anglers and canoeist to venture out? So while paddle and rod cross swords in this country over their fight for rights to our rivers, it must be both parties that should tread carefully as we have no rights, if we are lucky we have the opportunity to experience, and then we leave, the ‘wilderness’ should not be plundered, nor exploited and certainly not owned.
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A few years ago I bought a Canadian canoe, an ex-army friend borrowed it almost immediately and took it on some adventures, from source to sea along the Thames, and the following year the length of the Wye on the Welsh/English border. I was happy that the canoe was getting used but I was envious when his tales were re-told. One story that struck a chord was the night-time paddles (mainly to avoid the boat traffic during the day) on the Thames, to be afloat on the river at night and experience the very first light while drifting with the flow must have been magical, no other soul, just the song of the paddle.
I eventually reclaimed the canoe from a frozen shipyard one January morning out on an estuary in Essex, but to be honest it was nearing the end, damp had got to it, boards were delaminating. So this year I have started to build a new plywood Canadian canoe, twelve feet in length, that should carry two adults and some gear. In the summer I want set out and paddle the length of the River Lea from it’s source in Hertfordshire to Leamouth where it enters the Thames. Like Bill Mason I want this journey to be a connection and not just a recreation, exploring your place, your home and what comes around the corner is a journey that only ends, when it ends.