Sunday, 3 August 2014

White Water Rafting - 3rd August

This morning Jimmy and I went a nice walk along part of the Lee Valley Country Park. It has lovely scenery and nice paved paths to walk as well off road walks.1 morning walk

We soon came to the Waltham Common Lock No. 10 and found a great stash of Blackberries so picked some for tea.2 Waltham Common Lock

A short distance down river from the lock is the Powder Mill Cut used to divert water to the Gunpowder Mills, more about this later. The area around here is a haven for wildlife.3 gunpowder cut

We decided to stay the day here so that we could explore the surroundings and first went into the Lee Valley White Water Centre which was home to the Olympic white water canoeing. We arrived at 10.30am just in time to hear the hooter sound and the pumps begin to put water into the Olympic course. Here you can see what creates the white water before the waters is in the channel. The blocks can be adjusted to vary the conditions and course.4 Empty slalom

There are 5 pumps which move the water from the lower level to the top and they start gradually with 1 then 2 and so on until all five provide maximum water power. Today they had only 4 working so that it would be manageable by novices. The photos show the gradual build up of the water.5 filling

Once the water was flowing the canoeists were first to tackle the course with some turning over and all enjoying the difficult sections.6 canoeists

Next came the rafters with 6 or 8 in the raft with an experienced steerer controlling the raft. Some would turn the raft and dunk the occupants into the waves or slide over the  waterfalls sideways. One occupant actually fell out of the raft but was soon hauled back in by the steerer.7 rafting

All down the course there are life guards ready to jump in and rescue anybody who falls out of the raft. At the bottom of the run the water takes the raft to a travelator which takes the raft or canoe with occupants back up to the start.

Its a great experience and if you want to do it make sure you don’t turn up on Monday or Tuesday as the centre is closed. You will also need to pay £59 to have a go.As well as the rafting there is a nice cafe and outdoor BBQ for lunch.8 rafting 2

In the afternoon we went across the other side of the navigation to visit the Royal Gunpowder Mills Museum.The Mills are set in 175 acres of parkland on a virtual island and contains  21 buildings of major historical importance and mixes history, science, and attractive surroundings. It was one of three in the UK but is the only site to have survived virtually intact. It was in operation for over 300 years; however, from the mid-1850s onwards the site was involved in developing new nitro-based explosives and propellants. The site grew in size, and gunpowder became less important. Shortly after World War II it became solely a Defence Research Establishment - firstly the Explosives Research and Development Establishment, then the Propellants, Explosives and Rocket Motor Establishment, and finally the Royal Armament Research and Development Establishment. Its superior production methods and high quality results earned it a reputation on an international level. There is an excellent display of small arms bought from a collector and you can handle some of the old weapons as well a modern gun used by the army today; it was surprisingly heavy at 11Lbs.( bottom left picture)

9 gunpowder

Some eight kilometres of canal were constructed for transporting materials within the site. The system has two levels, connected by a lock, and aqueducts. Today the upper canals are dry, but the lower ones still contain water. A barge for transporting explosives is on display, and also footbridges designed to be compatible with the shape of the barges. The canals could not cope with the increased production from six thousand munitions workers during the First World War, so the narrow gauge railway system was developed, remains of which can be seen in some places. Over the 300 years amazingly there were only 200 people killed in accidents considerably better than a lot of less dangerous trades which is a tribute to the workers and management.


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