Sunday 30th March 2014
Six took to the water and five and a half returned on Charles’s 12 mile paddle down the Thames and back.
A benign spring day of slight breezes and gentle stream carried us to Teddington in 1hr 20 mins, past the unlikely charms of Thames Ditton island and gardens only recently underwater.
With the promise of tea and cake at the Royal Skiff clubhouse, we broke the return journey after 10 minutes but, sad to say, Charles’s attempts to tailgate through a locked door came to nowt. No tea, no cake, no body. Danny and I left with a ‘Hamptoneer’ – an improvised collision in the narrow exit.
Had the current increased? The wind had. And most of it was blowing on me. Charles paddled with me, then Barnet pulled in front to create a slipstream. Dan gave me his water bottle. No Tudor bishop could have more faithful boatmen than I did on the journey to Hampton Court. But even with a backing wind I was still knackered and so landing (or scrabbling up and rolling through a muddy bank) I left my empty kayak to Barnet and Charles to paddle between them, and walked along the busy riverbank past the palace and over Hampton bridge.
I feared my ragged appearance would frighten small children but for a greater distraction on the water where Barnet now had one leg in my vacated cockpit and the other in his own. “Look at that funny man”, I heard a little girl say, pointing at the spectacle. I walked on, whistling .
At the bridge I retrieved my boat and, my, what a difference a 10 minute walk can make: I covered the 50 yards to the Cricket Club tea garden in under 10 minutes (portage inc). Unfortunately Charles had decided to take the lock, and, seething with impatience, arrived in time to watch us eating. Time does funny things on the river. 3 o’clock was striking as Barnet downed an English breakfast followed by a cream tea. Thank you Hamptoneers, I had a great day.
Photos – Daniel Bownds
Stephen with eskie of cold beers
Tranquil water by Trowlock island
Taking a break at the Royal
A quick drinks stop on the way back.