River Mole – Cobham to the Thames

It was essential to complete the exploration of the River Mole before the fishing season started at midnight on 15th June. With me on my 2* course most weekends in May suitable dates for the trip were few and far between. Checking the weather last week, Friday looked sunny and dry so a quick text to Dan and we agreed to take a canoe down to Cobham to do this last leg of the River Mole, having done two previous sections earlier in the year.

We popped the canoe in the river at the nice grassy area near the shops in Cobham and paddled swiftly off with the flow downstream. Rounding the first corner we were met with the first of about a dozen impassable trees completely blocking the river. The banks were too steep and covered in nettles to attempt portaging so we had to ‘bodge’ the canoe through and over the branches and undergrowth. Stepping out precariously on to half sunken logs we dragged, pushed, pulled, nudged and lifted the canoe past the obstruction, clambering back in at the last moment once it was afloat.

For the first few miles the river was narrow and shallow with a fast flow to whisk us onwards. There was evidence of the flooding earlier in the year with discoloured bushes and trees with debris in them some 10 feet above the water level. We ran one small weir where an old mill stream diverted off the main river. The mill has been rebuilt with a massive water wheel. On this first section we saw no other boats, people or cars, We passed one golf course and greeted the golfers in their plus fours, surprised to see people on the river. The magnificent club house at Burhill had a perfectly tended 18th green with circular mower pattern and people sitting outside with tea and cake!

We went under the A3 and into another dense section of fallen trees involving lots more tree clambering than paddling. Eventully the river broadens out and the steep banks turn into small beaches for cattle to come down for a drink from. At Hersham there were signs of ‘civilization’ with large houses with gardens running down to the river and a few pleasure boats moored up. We paddled past Wolesey’s tower which is a fine old structure now paired up with a very modern little side building. Passing on through the outskirts of Esher the river looks like the Thames until you come to Island Barn reservoir where it has been contained between massive concrete banks and there were two broad weirs with gates and big drops to portage.

Eventually we got to Molesey weir which is an easy portage through a tunnel with nice rollers to move your boat along. We were soon back on the water and passing underneath Hampton Court railway station with a glimpse of the Golden gates at Hampton court ahead. We emerged from the shady quiet undergrowth on the Mole into the broad fast flowing Thames with tourist boats and motor cruisers buzzing up and down. We turned left up to Hampton Court bridge and were soon at the Molesey rollers for the last short leg back to Bell Hill which we reached in bright sunshine as the church clock struck 3 o’clock.

The distance was about 14 miles which took us 5 hours.

Phil Tauwhare

First fallen tree to negotiate
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Water is very murky!
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Lots of scrambling in and out of the boat to get past the fallen trees
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Phil putting in some stern rudder
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The massive waterwheel
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A narrow route under the bridge was clear
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Burhill Golf club
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Club house reflected in the waters of the Mole
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Wolseys tower in Esher
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Sunny day passing the pastures in Esher
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First big impassable weir, portaged river left, this is the view from below where we got back in
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Below the weir the river is contained within steep engineered banks
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Looking back towards the weir, we are actually on the River Ember now as the Mole branches off around Island Barns reservoir
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Approaching Island Barns the river regains its rural feel
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The weir in East Molesey has a tunnel on the right with rollers.
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Dan in the tunnel
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Phil in the tunnel
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We slipped silently past the The BP garage
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And Hampton Court station
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Hampton Court is ahead
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Out on to the river Thames, looking back to the Mole
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