Boulters Lock to Marlow 03.10.2015
Six kayakers, a capsize, a cow and a concentration* of kingfishers
*the collective noun for kingfishers, according to Google
The six kayakers were Houran, Jenny, Mark, Tamra and myself bravely lead by Dan who had stepped in as trip leader at the eleventh hour. I would’ve liked to have reported that we arrived at Boulters Lock without incident but that’s not strictly true. Once we were on the M4, Mark noticed that the car in his rear-view mirror seemed to be shedding one of its kayaks but fortunately he was able to indicate that it needed to stop. A few minutes later the load was re-secured and the vehicles were back on their way. I won’t cause further embarrassment to those involved by mentioning any of their (our) names, but let’s just say that you (we) know who you (we) are and that lessons have been learnt.
Getting on the water presented no problems, though we did get a few strange looks from motorists as we negotiated the zebra crossing from the car-park to the river, each carrying a kayak. The initially overcast weather improved as we paused where the Jubilee River meets the Thames to admire a flight (thanks again Google) of cormorants, and headed towards Cookham Lock. We had no problems getting the boats around the lock but getting back in at the other side proved more difficult.
It was here that Tamra, with a little help from Dan, demonstrated her possibly unique skill of being able to capsize a boat without getting even the slightest bit wet. Emptying the boat was a real challenge as the bank was quite high and the boat heavy. A committee soon formed to discuss the best solution and it was decided to float the kayak to the other side of the river where there was a low mooring, and empty it there. Although Tamra remained dry the clothing that she’d left in the kayak didn’t, so off she went to try to persuade the lock-keeper to wash, dry and maybe iron it for her, ready for collection on our return journey.
The paddle from Cookham to Marlow locks was really enjoyable. The sun was out, there were very few other craft on the water and every few minutes we saw a kingfisher – we probably saw about ten altogether. There are also some very nice riverside properties along this stretch and we picked out our favourites, should we ever become seriously rich. The view towards Marlow from Marlow lock is very picturesque and there was quite a delay here while we took pictures before heading a little further upstream to leave our boats underneath the suspension bridge (completed in 1832 as a ‘prototype’ for the Széchenyi Chain Bridge in Budapest).
The previously patronised café in Marlow was too busy so we headed instead to Costa Coffee in the nearby Higginson Park. Here we gave a visibly stressed staff member a small fortune in exchange for unhealthy but energy-rich lunches.
On the return journey we stopped to admire a cow taking a dip at the water’s edge and some of the braver members of our party showed off by paddling under a partially submerged fallen tree. It was here that I again used my ‘recovering from a collar-bone fracture’ card (having already used it to avoid helping empty the capsized boat earlier, it was clearly wearing a bit thin when I later suggested that it also prevented me from writing the trip report…)
As we approached Cookham lock again, and scoffed at a large pleasure cruiser struggling to get under the low bridge, the lock-keeper waved us into the lock and saved us having to portage. His kindness apparently only stretches so far though as Tamra’s clothing was returned, still wet and un-ironed.
We arrived back at the cars having covered almost exactly 13 miles. The paddle to Marlow having taken 2 hours and 20 minutes, the return journey took only 1 hour 55 minutes (clearly the lunch at Costa had raised our energy levels). The boats were very, very securely fastened back on the cars and we headed back to Bell Hill. This had been a very enjoyable paddle and we all agreed that there was no better way to spend a sunny Saturday in October.