Day 1, Sonning to Hurley Lock 12.4 mils, 3 locks, no portages.
We met at the club at a leisurely 9:00, to load 3 kayaks and just one canoe, as John F had already taken a canoe the previous evening.
We arrived at Sonning at approx 10:30 where John F was waiting to meet us with his super fast sleek canoe. Then the task of cramming all our gear into the kayaks hatches, but this was made easier by the knowledge that anything that didn’t fit could go in John F’s car, as he was going to cycle back and fetch it once we arrived at Hurley lock !
Weather was overcast, but dry and not too cold. We departed about 11:00.
We stopped at the Angel on the Bridge, Henley for lunch. We chose a table outside near the bank and ordered our food. Then it was decided it was a bit chilly and windy on that table, so we moved to a sheltered one in the corner, and went and told barman that the 7 orders had changed tables.
After another 5 minutes we moved again to a small inside bar,… orders amended to new location.
But the bar area didn’t have enough tables so we split into 2 groups in different parts of the pub, poor servers were chasing around trying to keep track of us.
Several of us ordered the small burgers, which when they arrived were surprisingly large and very good.
We paddled on, and then I heard a couple on the bank, who had two dogs with them calling out to ask if we could help them, I paddled over, expecting to be asked to retrieve a ball from the water, only to be told “There’s a lamb in the water under the bushes”. Hmm, bigger job than I was expecting.
The rest of our party arrived. The lamb was hiding under the bushes and bracken that overhung the steep bank,
I considered hopping out of my kayak, but it was about 3 feet deep, so instead Phil and Maxine manoeuvred their canoe in. The location of the lamb was found, and with a bit of persuasion from a paddle it was extracted from under the bushes, but it was hard to get hold off, and there was no easy place to return it to dry land. Phil managed to grab it by a front leg and pull it out. Then with kayaks helping to hold the canoe in to the bank Phil stood up and passed the lamb to the guy on the bank. Rescue accomplished, hail our hero Phil.
We paddled through Henley where the regatta course is marked by a floating wood course boundary for about a mile. It was quite windy down the long course straight, waves even, so much so that when we reached a gap in the course boundary, we moved across to the edge of the river, even thought it looked like in the distance the boundary markers got closer and closer to the bank.
Frank questioned whether we would get stuck, I assured him it would be crazy if there wasn’t an exit, Frank decided to continue in the middle of the river, the rest of us went at the edge.
The more we paddled the narrower the gap between the floating log boundary and the bank became, until we reached the point where the logs were touching the bank. Oops. So we then had the first portage of the trip, hauling the kayaks out and back in further along, whilst the canoe was pushed over the logs and passed to Mr Smug Frank, who towed it further along.
We arrived at Hurley lock campsite around 5:00 and first had a well earned coffee at the lock cafe, whilst John F, retrieved his bike that he had left there, and peddled (not paddled) off back to Sonning to collect his car!
The campsite entrance was via a high metal gate secured with a combination lock, having paid our fees we had the combination, but sliding the lock bolt was a real fight.
Having setup our tents and used the nice hot campsite showers we proceeded to the Rising Sun pub to eat. There was a closer pub, The Old Bell, but Frank had been advised by the lock keeper that it was a bit up market and expensive I think he meant too posh for us scruffy lot !
Anyway the food at the Rising Sun proved to be excellent.
We had a noisy nights sleep, with noisy geese, music from a nearby wedding, and according to just Frank, fireworks.
Day 2 Hurley Lock to Boveney Lock 13.7mls, 5 locks, no portages.
Breakfasts were the usual porridge, biscuits etc,
We were up early to be ready to watch Tamra fold up her pop up tent, which she had practised and videoed at home! After only about 4 attempts she succeeded and packed it away in its bag, quite impressive. However 15 minutes later she was packing it up again ????. Apparently the first time she had left her shoes inside, doh.
We set off at 9:30 I seem to recall Phil saying something like we could stop for breakfast and coffee after a short paddle, … but somehow he missed it, and we paddled on until we reached The Bounty pub/cafe at Bourne End where we stopped for lunch.
The Bounty is an unusual quirky establishment. A sign outside proclaims “Welcome to THE PEOPLES REPUBLIC OF COCKMARSH, Enjoy your visit, The Laws Of Common Sense Apply” next to another sign ”Twinned with Chernoby;” The get out/in was easy and the food was good, PLUS the sun came out while we lunched, so a very nice stop.
Onwards….towards Maidenhead over the route of the Autumn Colours trip, but without the colours at this time of year.
Despite it being Saturday, there was very little other river traffic to disturb us, and with light winds it was a pleasant paddle We stopped at a cafe at Maidenhead, for ice cream ( ice cream and coffee for me, no its not a strange mixture)
Leaving the cafe it looked like it might rain, most of us thought it would pass. One minute after setting off it started raining, quite hard, so had to stop and put cags on. But it turned out the rain at that time was good, as it meant it stopped before we reached our Boveney lock campsite.
Boveney is a small campsite with limited amount of flat areas, and just one shower, token operated.
Nice view of lots of white scum coming past from the weir, apparently that’s a sign the river is healthy, it not detergent like I thought !
Mark was joining the trip at this point, but had a half mile trek from car to the lock. He delivered his tent and a bag of beer first, with a request that we put his tent up for him to save time while he went back to get his kayak.. With four of us the tent was soon up, then Tamra decided Mark should get a proper 4 star treatment, so she collected some flowers (well daisies) to decorate his sleeping bag, with a complementary sweet (fruit pastille ) by the side.
With that done Phil, Maxine, Paul and myself set off for the 1 mile walk to the nearest pub The Palmer Arms. Frank promised he would catch us up, and Tamra, John and Mark would come by car.
Food was excellent, some of us had the lamb…..
On the way back it was misty, and had an interesting ‘discussion’ as to whether the illuminated building in the distance with spire and flagpole was Windsor Castle or Egham college.
We passed a car parked in the middle of nowhere with a strange woman in it, she had been there when we were on the way to the pub, and had been flashing her lights at a car on the other side of the common.
Day 3, Boveney Lock to Hampton, 20.3mls, 6 locks, 2portages.
Quite an early start, as we has 20 miles to cover, on the water by 8:30.
Phil had promised the previous evening that he would get us coffee from Windsor leisure centre which was about 1 mile away, but guess what….he missed it and we paddled on….
We went through Romney and Old Windsor locks and didn’t stop until Wraysbury NT tearooms, but found there was a 20 minute wait to be served, so back to the boats and on to Wraysbury Pleasure Grounds cafe, it was 11:00.
While stopped we booked a table at The Bridge pub Chertsey for 12:30, seemed plenty of time.
But at 12:30 we were only just entering Penton Hook lock, due to it being very slow getting though Bell Weir lock and into Penton Hook. We realised how lucky we had been with the previous locks, as we never waited for more than a few minutes at any of them
So it was decided we had better sprint from Penton Hook to Chertsey and portage there to get to the pub for the revised time of 1:00.
When we got to the pub it wasn’t busy, plenty of tables.
Finally on through familiar waters, portaging through Sunbury ( why don’t more locks have rollers) to arrive back at the club by 4:45.
Thanks to Frank for organising, and everyone for making it a great trip.
Participants:Frank Bench (trip leader)
Phil Tauwhare (deputy trip leader and lamb rescue)
Tamra Cave (Tent and hospitality expert)
Paul Scott ( beer consumer)
John Stafford (scribe)
John Freeman (Paddler AND cyclist)
Maxine Nelson ( assistant lamb rescue )
Mark Lewis (part timer, free beer supplier