Although the earthquakes swept away much of Christchurch and with it many of city’s iconic attractions, some classic traditions remain. One of them is that age-old Christchurch leisure activity – boating on the Avon.
The Avon meanders through Hagley Park under bridges, past sculptured gardens and grassy banks overhung with weeping willows. It’s a setting that could be anywhere in England. I could be in an English storybook I think as we paddle erratically upstream, two adults and two little boys in a bright red canoe. I half expect Ratty, Mole and Toad from The Wind in Willows to come paddling round the bend towards us. But my crew mates are on a different fantasy track.
Taking to the river in a canoe is certain to unleash almost anyone’s inner brave and as we paddle upstream, the boys hurl war cries at a passing punt. “How!” replies the boater-hatted punter, raising an arm in salute and spinning his craft dangerously towards us. My husband’s latent pirate comes to the rescue “Heave ho, me hearties!” he bellows. Churning up great fans of water on all sides, we lurch into safe waters. The spirit of the river is infectious. “Ship ahoy!” we shout to other river-folk! “Ahoy, land lubbers!” we call to watchers on the bank. “Ahoy there!” they shout back.
As they say in The Wind in the Willows, “there’s nothing like messing about in boats” And happily, in spite of everything, you can still mess about in a boat on the Avon.