A few months ago, Rob Smith got in touch with the Pitmedden First Responders to say he was going to raise funds for us by paddling down the Ythan. His plan was to go from source to sea, but the first part is barely ankle deep and very narrow, so he did the first 10 miles by foot, accompanied by his son Dave.
His reason for choosing the Ythan is because it is the only river in Scotland that goes through arable land only, i.e. it doesn’t start up a hill or mountain. I should also mention that Rob is a farmer, and age 68 years.
When he first spoke about this he had never paddled in his life, so he got in touch with Peterhead Canoe Club who very kindly helped him out with some training. I volunteered to go down the Ythan with him, thinking it would be a good experience.
Rob came along to our AGM in April to say he planned to carry out the Ythan Challenge on 5th & 6th May. I had reservations – it’s been snowing here for the last month, and we’re in to the Gabs of May, so I was thinking if anyone goes in for a dip it’s going to be mighty chilly!!
Well we were extremely lucky with the weather. Despite the snow on the Saturday morning, both Saturday and Sunday turned out to be dry and sunny.
Eight of us entered the Ythan at the Vale Hotel in Fyvie. After a great send off from our support crew, we were down river less than a minute before Rob capsized. Fortunately he was fine, just wet and cold, but he got straight back in the kayak and continued.
I’ve never paddled down a river before and really wasn’t enjoying the encounters with trees. Especially after I got stuck on one and my kayak capsized. Fortunately Chris (from Peterhead Canoe Club) came to my rescue and got me upright again – thanks Chris.
We carried on through Methlick, Ythanbank and made it to Ellon in good time. We had the wind behind us, and the high water meant the river was flowing well. We covered 20 miles on the first day.
Today (Sunday) we entered the water back at Ellon, and continued the journey, the timing set so we’d be going along with the ebbing tide toward Newburgh. Well, what a cracking morning. The water was like a millpond, no wind, brilliant sunshine. It was very pleasant indeed. We were spotting wildlife all the way including herons, swans, ducks and deer. As we got closer to Newburgh, the wind picked up and we were facing in to it.
It was hard going at times, so we took a number of breathers on the way. I must admit, I was much more comfortable with the open water than I was with the river and all it’s obstacles.
We made good time once again, arriving in Newburgh to a brilliant crowd cheering us on.
Well done Rob – huge respect for your achievement. I hope I can still do things like that when I’m 68. Thank you.