Report on Chertsey to Runnymede trip – 15 Nov 2014
Allow me to set the scene: Bernard and Ivy were the first to arrive, having been up since dawn, doing an excellent job of discouraging any fishermen who might be tempted to purloin one of the few remaining parking places. There was dependable Dave Kew, with his camera at the ready; Chris as keen as ever to get as many miles under her belt before darkness descended; the ever-efficient Jenny in the orange Hobby; and Amanda, temporarily liberated from her all-male household, relishing the prospect of breaking in a brand new Tercel.
Thus the Magnificent Seven Stalwarts were poised to enter the Thames at a tied-arch white stone bridge, with its seven elegant arches, which has stood since the mid-1780s. Yes, last Saturday we launched from Chertsey Bridge, the construction of which, by the way, cost fractionally over £6, 813.00, back in the day, and is now a Grade 2 listed building. Nearby is the up-market Kingfisher pub, which had churlishly rejected my polite request to use its car park, even though it didn’t open its doors for a further two hours and even though I had promised we would all return for lunch. I suggest you cross the manager off your Christmas card list at once.
In spite of recent rain, the flow seemed only moderate as we set off upstream towards no particular destination; a friendly breeze was blowing and the sky above was still undecided. Chertsey Lock was only 200 metres away; then came the M3 motorway bridge and subsequently Penton Hook Lock, cutting across a large loop or hook in the river, creating Penton Hook Island, once used as a burial ground during the Great Plague of 1665.
At 81 metres the lock is the third longest on the river. By this stage we were marvelling at the skill of the Dynamic Duo (aka Bernard and Ivy) in being able to paddle a canoe faster than most of us could manoeuvre our kayaks. We pass under Staines railway bridge to where the River Colne joins the Thames; regrettably we miss the replica of the ‘London Stone’ which was originally placed here in 1285 to mark the upper limit of the tidal Thames and the jurisdiction of the City of London. At my insistence we explore the narrow channel on the inside of Holm Island before passing under the M25 Runnymede Bridge.
Bell Weir Lock arrives soon enough. It is named after its first lock-keeper, Charles Bell, who was first employed in 1917 on a wage of £4 per month. Like countless others he bravely went off to fight in WW1, but never returned. Many years later a subsequent lock-keeper found a collection of papers in a bag bobbing along in the river by the lock. The papers turned out to be a full set of floor plans for the Bank of England. How they got there has remained a mystery.
We paddle on up the inside of another island, which is imaginatively named The Island. As we turn to head back downstream, the rain starts and Jenny’s wisdom and forethought have paid dividends – she was the only one to have fitted a spraydeck.
Having arrived back at our starting point, the twelve miles paddled warrants lunch, albeit somewhat grudgingly, at the Kingfisher. In truth the food’s not bad, although my coffee was cold, but the company was better. Thank you all for a lovely outing.
(Pictures – Dave Kew)