DW: We did it our way, April 2019

The DW race is well-known to you all (and our congratulations to Mike and Elly for an excellent perfomance).  It travels through a pleasant part of England, but racing isn’t our thing, so we decided to take a tour this Eastertime from Devizes back to our home in Teddington.

Our expedition benefited greatly from being able to buy Bernard and Ivy’s ultralightweight canoe just before we left.  We called it ‘Darbon’ and this was its inaugural voyage.  It came with a 50 litre dry bag and a 75 litre dry bag, both well-filled with sunoil, sunglasses, pogies, fleeces, cags, etc.  – this was an Eastertime trip.  Here’s our report.

Sunday 14 Apr: unloaded boat and luggage at Devizes Wharf.  Parked the Yeti as close as possible to the headquarters of Wiltshire Police.  8 miles, no portages to lunch at the café at Honey Street.  7 miles, no portages to Wooton Rivers.  Here we discovered we’d left the canoe wheels in the Yeti!  Portaged 400 metres north of Bridge 108 to The Royal Oak at Wooton Rivers, supper booked for 7 – 7:30, bed and breakfast.

Monday 15 Apr: 6 miles, tunnel, 13 locks to lunch at Great Bedwyn.  Walked into village, freshly-baked Cornish Pasties and Lardy cake from the village shop for lunch (best lunch of the trip).  3 miles and 6 portages to Froxfield.  150 metres north of Bridge 90, 150 metres west along the A4 to The Pelican Inn, Froxfield.  Supper included superb roast venison.  Bed and breakfast.

Tuesday 16 Apr: 3 miles and 4 portages to lunch in Hungerford.  Lovely café just 30 metres south of Bridge  84.  4 miles, 4 portages to Kintbury.   Supper, bed and breakfast at The Dundas Arms, Kintbury, right by Kintbury lock.

Wednesday 17 Apr:  6 miles, 7 portages to lunch in Newbury.  2 course set lunch at Cote Brasserie, about 50 metres north of Bridge 59.  4 miles, 5 portages to Thatcham.   Supper, bed and breakfast at The Swan, Thatcham, 200 metres north of Bridge 42.

Thursday 18 Apr:  5 miles, 5 portages to lunch at The Rowbarge at Woolhampton, beside the canal by Bridge 31.  One mile further, after Bridge 30, by prior arrangement, left Darbon at Froud’s Marina.  Half day.  Trudged half a mile along a busy road to The Hind’s Head, Aldermaston.  After supper, bed and breakfast, pleased to find a footpath across the fields to get back to the marina.

Good Friday 19 Apr:  6 miles, 7 portages and too many low bridges to lunch at The Cunning Man in Burghfield, before Bridge 14.  Table booked for 2 at noon.  4 miles and 3 portages to refreshment stop in Reading.  Then 5 miles and 3 locks to Wargrave.  Landed on a slipway, about 400 metres to The Bull on the High Street, for supper, bed and breakfast. 

Saturday 20 Apr:  7 miles, 2 locks to planned lunchstop at The Flower Pot at Aston, but we were feeling full of energy and pressed on.   9 miles, 3 locks to Cookham; we were through Marlow Lock 2 hours ahead of the DW race!  Stayed two nights at the Crown in Cookham to let both parts of the race pass us by.  On Sunday we enjoyed a pleasant walk across the fields to Boulter’s Lock, where we had an ice cream with our picnic, and strolled back to Cookham alongside the Thames and Cliveden Reach.

Easter Monday 22 Apr:  3 miles, 2 locks to Maidenhead:  lunch break evaded again.  11 miles, 4 locks to Old Windsor. Landed 200 metres upstream of the Bells of Ouzeley, so that was our lunch stop.  Bed and breakfast was 500 metres along the road at McMillans B&B in Old Windsor. 

Tuesday 23 Apr:  8 miles, 3 locks to lunch at Thames Court (Shepperton).  On to tea with Carole in Hampton (a welcome break mid way between Shepperton and Teddington).  Then on home.

Wed 24 Apr:  train from Hampton Wick via Clapham Junction to Salisbury, then a bus via Berwick St John, Shrewton and Market Lavington to Devizes.  Collected Yeti.  Drove home.

Paddlers and scribes:  Andrew Wallace and Norma Morris