‘Cruising down the river on a [sunny] afternoon ...". Nellie Tollerton and Eily Bendell, two middle-aged ladies in England, wrote the song, presumably just after the end of the war in Europe, May 8, 1945. It won a song-writing competition and was issued on a record in January 1946. What a relief it must have been, after the Blitz, to imagine a leisurely river trip.
I changed "Sunday" to "sunny" because I'm looking forward to joining a covey of paddlers floating down the somewhat unappreciated Hoosic River this Saturday, making the point that northern Berkshire and southwestern Vermont have a fine, water-based recreational resource. No, we're not recovering from all-out war; rather we're celebrating spring, the advent of summer, and a time to get involved outside.
The Hoosic River Watershed Association plans to put in at Cole Field in Williamstown and take out at Clayton Park, Pownal, Vt., winding between banks heavily forested with hemlock, open meadows, wild rose likely in fragrant bloom and even a riverside view of a former race track. Together with the Williams Outing Club, we will provide shuttle service; Wild Oats will provide a picnic; Higher Ground, lemonade; and Williams dining services, pastries.
If you'd like to join us, today is the last day to register, either at (413) 458-2742 (be sure to leave contact information) or at HooRWA.org. Registration fee is $10. Bring your own kayak or canoe, life jacket, water bottle.
Likely there will be some excitement. The seven-mile stretch includes several modest rapids. It's possible some boats will take in water; not a problem if people are prepared. Secure loose items. Look out for sweeps, in this case partially downed tree branches that, given the speed of the current, can lift you right out of your boat. The standing waves stand below the rocks. Note the roostertail that takes you safely between two rocks. Observe that the deeper water is always on the outside of the curve.
Those who might not be able to participate could nevertheless get a good view of our progress from either the North Street (Route 7) bridge in Williamstown some time after 10 a.m. or the Main Street bridge in Pownal, some time after noon.
Weather the day of, by itself, will not determine if the expedition goes forward. Rather HooRWA will decide if river conditions permit the trip. If you like, check "Hoosic River flow" on the Internet. We need more than 200 cubic feet per second.
Nellie and Eily saw a river trip as a way for British women to reunite with their soldier sweethearts.
"Cruising down the river on a Sunday afternoon
With one you love the sun above waiting for the moon
An old accordion playing a sentimental tune
Cruising down the river on a Sunday afternoon."
I wouldn't advise the accordion under any circumstances, but sweethearts are as always welcome. At least, that's how it looks from the White Oaks.
A writer and environmentalist, Lauren R. Stevens is a regular Eagle contributor.