Canoe believe this commute?!
Negotiating weirs, knotweed and courting couples is all part of the daily commute for Dr Tudor Williams, Director of Sport and Director of Campus Services.
Why do you canoe to work?
I canoe home usually once a week and it takes about an hour. Due to the light and river conditions I tend to only canoe from Easter to late October, so it’s not a year-round commute! It is a good workout and of course it is also downstream which is a bonus! It is a stunning route and it is difficult to imagine that within a few hundred metres of the Taff is the A470 and a lot of industry. The River Taff is now very clean and herons and cormorant are everywhere which suggests the fish stocks are back.
How long have you been canoeing?
I have always enjoyed all sports and being brought up on Anglesey meant that you were never far from the sea. I have probably been canoeing for 40 years. I am a qualified windsurfing and canoeing instructor. It was part of my original role to take groups of students out on various adventure activities and we often used to go canoeing down the Taff.
Does it improve your day at work?
I exercise every day and that usually involves cycling to/from work or canoeing. By doing as part of my ‘day’ it means that I do not have to go back out once I get home. Although my office is only 30 metres from the gym I can never find the time within work hours to quickly use the gym!
Tell us about your route
I follow a path just behind the Otley Arms and scramble down the bank to the river. At Easter this is ok, but in the summer it means fighting through 7ft of Japanese knotweed to get to the river. I finish at Taffs Well where I park the car. I then load the canoe on the car and it takes about three minutes to drive home.
Any tricky bits to look out for?
No really tricky bits, although there is a small weir at Hawthorn and also a large weir at Radyr, if I do decide to go a bit further. The challenge can be the level of the river. With heavy rain the river levels can change very quickly in 24 hours and this can affect the height and speed of the river. The characteristics of the river can be very different and I would make a judgement on the day whether to go ahead or not. In the summer some parts are so slow that it is like canoeing on a lake which is hard work!
The route is quite remote and it can be quite embarrassing if there are courting couples on the river bank who think they may have found the ideal romantic location!
Canoeing can be dangerous and it is important to gain confidence and techniques before buying any gear and setting off on your own. If you’re interested, I would start with a two-hour taster session at the White Water Centre at Cardiff which is £10 per person with all equipment supplied. If you enjoy it they also offer evening/weekend beginner and intermediate courses of 4-6 weeks.