First Impressions – Boulters Lock, Maidenhead, to Marlow & Back

First Impressions – Boulters Lock, Maidenhead, to Marlow & Back - November 14th, 2021

Sunday, 14th November, 08:30 sharp at the Clubhouse to load the kayaks and heading off by various routes a little after 9. A dry start to the day, relatively mild (13°), largely windless but an entirely grey sky. By 10:30 we had all assembled ready to launch off a fairly high bank opposite the ‘Pay & Display’ car park and above Boulters Lock. All went well with a little mutual assistance getting into the kayaks and in time honoured fashion (last in, first out?) one of us duly capsized. (And fortunately – spoiler alert – that was the only one of the day).

And so we headed north/went ‘left’ (as we had been told to choose our direction with care beforehand, not that we had much choice with a lock gate a few yards away to the right!). The channel rapidly widened into a broad reach which felt much bigger than at Hampton – perhaps it was due to the beautiful countryside (and more than a few splendid houses) on both sides which we gradually passed.

And so we progressed slowly (there seemed to be just enough flow to reduce our speed or perhaps it was all too early and we needed a coffee first?). Overhead birds of prey circled – better not fall in? Eventually we reached Cookham Lock and had to stand up to clamber onto the lock entrance wall. Remarkably it proved easier than the short hop onto the Club pontoon! Kayaks then had to be portaged to the far side of the lock where one or two of us availed themselves of a discreet hedgerow only to have the lockkeeper appear and remonstrate against such behaviour. (Point to note in future – there is a toilet block on the other bank of the lock, it just lacks any sign! 2nd point to note – beware lockkeepers mowing the grass, they still have a beady eye out!).

Having avoided further abuse we continued to Marlow. This proved a little more challenging to land. There is a small reach to the side of the lock gates with a pontoon and posts separating the two. At the back of the reach there is a stormwater(?) discharge which proved turning the kayak round for a right handed exit a little challenging (note to self – try your left side next time). The kayaks then had to be lifted up a steep ramp, past the lock and lowered onto a patch of grass above some steps overlooking the Thames below Marlow town centre. In view was Marlow Bridge, a 19th century suspension bridge, and the shops were just to its right we were told.

A decision was made to leave the kayaks and walk ‘directly to the shops’ to find a friendly cafe.  Marlow must be an old town as the footpath zig-zagged between walls ancient & modern, presumably reflecting mediaeval boundaries, until we came out next to All Saints Church by Marlow Bridge. Enterprising locals had knitted hundreds of vibrant red poppies on the churchyard railings and across the road on the park’s. And the church looks hundreds of years old – worth a view another time.

By now the group of nine had divided and the ‘early birds’ had disappeared. Tempted to visit every hostelry as we headed towards the High Street, we eventually sighted Mark waving vigorously outside a pleasant but crowded café. After all on a grey November day there’s nothing better than shopping and eating out? At least so it seemed. The staff and owner were friendly and welcoming but with limited daylight hours remaining and a long paddle back (it was thought) hot food wasn’t going to appear other than for the lucky few. Coffee and cake it was therefore until an enterprising pair (Denise and Audrey) went hunting and discovered Sainsbury’s Metro just up the road and collared some sandwiches. There is absolutely no truth that they shamefacedly consumed the sandwiches in the café, (they eat them out of sight under the table – the sandwiches that is, not Denise and Audrey).

And so back to the kayaks, which were miraculously still there, past a sole bagpiper playing heartily outside a backstreet pub. No apparent reason why although it was Armistice Sunday.

Then we raced back, except we didn’t (just in case the lockkeeper remembered us) but we still shaved a whole hour’s paddling time off the outwards journey. And there really wasn’t that much flow. The skies turned blue and the autumn golds/browns/yellows glittered below Clivedon where the hillside rose above the Thames. Another highlight was the grazing heifers who had descended a steep bank to take the waters, and suddenly appeared a few feet to our right as we paddled past. Then there was the ‘running greyhound’ who leapt off the bank between the passing kayaks at which point it became clear it was a wetsuit clad swimmer. One kayaker commented on his sanity – we had passed a few lumps of wood floating just below the surface. What would have happened if he had head butted one?    

Cookham Lock proved to be easier returning – the lockkeeper had gone, or maybe he couldn’t face us again?  And as the light began to fade we suddenly appeared back at the car park. All exited without mishap, some with a little assistance, and then we packed up for the return. Or most of us did. The intrepid few headed across the lock, on foot, for a welcome drink and hot nibbles at the Boathouse ( ). Great welcome and even greater food (any hot food is great after its lack at the Marlow café).

Then it was back to the Clubhouse, clean the kayaks and head home after a very good day out. And Mark’s (alleged) unblemished record of leading dry paddles was retained – until next time.

Thanks Mark & Maxine for leading us on a beautiful day’s paddling, and for good company throughout. 

New Haw to Newark, Nov 23rd 2019

New Haw to Newark, Nov 23rd 2019

13 paddlers avoided the fast flows of the Thames for the calmer waters of the Wey Navigation for this return trip from New Haw lock to Newark lock.

With a leisurely Saturday morning pace we largely had the run of the river, with only a few other boats out across the morning. It was a good chance to see some Autumn colours. Ably led and organised by Ainle, this 8.6 mile trip was well accessible to improvers.

About a half mile in we crossed under the megalith M25 flyover, improved I think by the artistic graffiti on its main pillars, including a Brexit tableau. The one portage at Pyrford lock required a road crossing but bank levels on either side were good.

Our break at Newark Lock allowed us to take in the views of the Newark Abbey ruins – in its heyday the Abbey would have been well placed to harness the riches of the Wey waters. Shortly below Newark Abbey our gazes fell upon the charming onetime riverside home of the metaphysical poet (and Dean of St Paul’s) John Donne.  

Ainle had chosen this route well as we were rewarded by a decent lunch stop at the White Hart pub in New Haw, adjacent to our entry point.

As a new Paddler to Hampton this year this was my first club trip off the Thames. Hampton Paddlers are a friendly bunch, generous with paddling tips, and I shall look forward to other trips.  

 Lewis Brown

Today’s paddlers were: Áinle, Lewis, Phil, Jana, Jill,  Amanda , Sarah, Stephen, Tamra, Deborah, Rick, Neil and Chris  

Medway Canoe Trail, Nov 9th 2019

Medway Canoe Trail, Nov 9th 2019

8.75 Miles
Grade: Easy when the conditions are fine
Portages/Passes 6
Start: Tonbridge
End :Yalding
Canoes/Sea Kayaks

Guide to Medway Canoe Trail

Guide to Canoe Passes

Map of river level monitoring stations

Video from James 


On a very chilly morning a group of us loaded the canoes onto our cars and headed down to Kent. The plan was to do part of the Medway Canoe trail set in the beautiful countryside between Tonbridge and Yalding.

The satnav didn’t seem to cope well so it was after a few detours that we finally all ended up in the correct car park in Tonbridge.  The group comprised Peter, Paul, Catelin, Frank, Maxine, Jenny, Kathy(me) & Dan (our Leader) from HCC with David(Kayak), James, and Hannah from PDCC along with a small bear.

Having unloaded the canoes, 6 people drove the cars to the end point at the pub in Yalding while the rest of us waited, keeping warm as best we could.

The Thames had been on yellow boards all week and the Medway was also showing the same so I wasn’t sure what to expect. Fortunately Dan had checked the water levels and confirmed that all looked well and he was right. The conditions were actually good no flow, no rain and no wind.

The section of the trail that we were doing had 6 locks on it. All of which had canoe passes. The plan was to do go down the passes with the option to portage for those (me) who didn’t fancy it.

We set off into the mist and after a few miles we arrived at the first pass. This was closed and had no water in it, but we were still able to use the pass to get the boats across rather than having to carry them around. Pass number 2 was open and was a very gentle descent past the lock.  The next couple of passes were closed so we had to portage which also gave us an opportunity for a few well deserved snack breaks.  Fortunately all along the trail there were good platforms making portaging a breeze with only the small bear falling in.

The rest of the passes were open including the final grade 3 pass at Sluice Weir lock which had a steep drop. This (I was told) was the most fun although they did all seem to get wet and fill their boats with water….. Having now seen the passes another time I would be braver and do them except maybe not the last one!

We ended the trip at Yalding at a handily placed pub in time for a late lunch.

This was a great trip just a nice length to paddle in a couple of hours through beautiful countryside, fuelled on Jelly Babies with good company and the added excitement of the canoe passes.

Dan also pointed out that this trip could also be run as an improvers K1 trip using the portages so maybe next summer once it is warmer ……
Thanks to Jenny for the Photos also see link above to view the Video taken by James.

Views of the South Downs, 28th September 2019

Views of the South Downs, 28th September 2019

Paddle from seven sisters country car park up the river Cuckmere with views of the south downs and the white horse at Litlington towards the picturesque village of Alfriston for lunch and exploring the village with the in coming tide, then return 8 miles.

Doggy Paddle : July 14th, 2019

Doggy Paddle : July 14th, 2019

A number of the club headed up to Leamington Spa to do the Doggy Paddle in aid of the Guide Dogs for the Blind. An 18 mile paddle along a lovely stretch of river between Leamington Spa and Stratford Upon Avon. 

Brittany Holiday: June, 2019

Hampton Canoe Club in North Brittany June 2019

For decades, the club has been enjoying its summer holidays abroad, and in recent years our holidays have been in sea kayaks on the Mediterranean.  This was our first venture onto tidal waters, their currents and the ever-changing size of the beaches.

Our guide was Agnès of Planè, a friend of mine who has lots of local knowledge, a reassuring manner, excellent judgement of paddlers’ capabilities and – maybe as important – kayaks for hire.  About half of us paddled in boats we’d brought over on the ferry, the rest were Agnès’.  Several of the paddlers had significant sea kayaking expertise, and everyone had met minimum standards of skill and stamina.

We stayed in the pretty town of Lannion, which had a variety of restaurants and crèperies.  We started out the first evening with a briefing and supper with Agnès.  That set the pattern:  good food, good company and a different route to paddle each day, selected by Agnès each evening.   For the record, here’s where we actually went:

Jill, paddling with the group for the first time, recorded her impressions:

This was my first sea kayaking trip with the club. I have to say that two weeks before going I was wondering if I had made a terrible mistake. Amanda Maxine and Tamra all assured me that I would be OK. Before going I tried to paddle as much as possible to increase my stamina as I was sure it needed improvement, and by the time Amanda and I got the overnight Ferry I felt I needed a holiday and would have been happy never to see a kayak again.

We met up with the group after their first day paddling, and had the obligatory galette in the evening, one of many that week. We had a fairly early night in preparation for what I felt would be the ordeal ahead.


 How wrong could I be, I should have listened to the others. Tamra and I shared a double kayak and although I felt the first day challenging I was pleased with how we managed to keep up and I found I was enjoying the paddle. We went to the Sept Iles unfortunately it was misty but was still stunning. We saw seals, puffins, and on Bird Island hundreds of Gannets. I had been there before by boat but this was so much more enjoyable as in a kayak you can get so close to the wildlife. 14.3 miles that day, I am not sure I have done that distance before. My hard work before paid off as I was not as exhausted as I thought I would be.


All the days were very good with different scenery and different conditions. Lunch each day was great thanks to Tamra and John who did all the catering every day. I cannot believe how much I ate.


Our guide Agnes was so professional, she knew the area  well, was able to work out the tides and the winds and ensure that each day we had an enjoyable safe paddle. The tides can be very tricky in this area and she used them to our advantage. She made sure that Tamra and I were able to cope with the distance, the waves wind and tide. Each morning we had a briefing and at the end of the day a debrief.


The scenery was stunning the Rose granite coast is one of my favourite coast lines you could never be bored as the scenery changes constantly. The day I enjoyed the most was from Tregastel to Plouminarch it was the shortest paddle only 7 miles (may have been a factor in my decision) but it was my first experience of coping with waves which I loved as it made it more interesting.

I was a newcomer to this group, everyone made me feel very welcome the whole group looked after each other, I was never made to feel bad that the group may have to wait for me. I felt safe and supported I was given tips on my paddling technique which has helped. Agnes our group leader commented that we were a respectful group and she was right. It was a fun holiday, thanks to all who attended.


Maxine & Peter !

Maxine : summarises the trip and covers that roll!

When we stopped for lunch near the rock house at Le Gouffre we finally felt the sun strongly –  which means it’s good weather to try rolling. Maxine had agreed with Agnes that today she would try a ‘real’ roll – in a fully laden boat, in choppy ocean (and very few people knew about the agreement). On the way back from lunch Agnes gave Maxine the nod, near a rock [which wasn’t in the agreement] so that it would be even more real, and Maxine rolled and kept her glasses and hat. And it was all over before most people knew it had begun.

With only one and a bit days remaining, time was running out to see whether a double sea kayak could be rolled this year without any outside assistance. With Jonathan in place as safety boat, Maxine and Peter  decided that not only should they try to roll the double, they should try to do so with greenland paddles.  People looked up from packing up the boats to see how many attempts it would take … and it only took one…so Maxine and Peter quit while they were ahead. 

Saturday, Day 7 – Open crossing to, and around, Ile Tomé

On the first day Agnes told us that we would paddle between 9 and 13 miles, depending upon how we felt and how we paddled. We paddled the full 13 miles, which set the tone for the trip. By partway through the week we were ferry gliding across tide races to and from Ile de Brehat, and by the last day we caught a tide race back from Tome Island. We had pushed ourselves a bit and become comfortable in different environments. 

DW : We did it our way, April 2019

DW: We did it our way, April 2019

The DW race is well-known to you all (and our congratulations to Mike and Elly for an excellent perfomance).  It travels through a pleasant part of England, but racing isn’t our thing, so we decided to take a tour this Eastertime from Devizes back to our home in Teddington.

Our expedition benefited greatly from being able to buy Bernard and Ivy’s ultralightweight canoe just before we left.  We called it ‘Darbon’ and this was its inaugural voyage.  It came with a 50 litre dry bag and a 75 litre dry bag, both well-filled with sunoil, sunglasses, pogies, fleeces, cags, etc.  – this was an Eastertime trip.  Here’s our report.

Sunday 14 Apr: unloaded boat and luggage at Devizes Wharf.  Parked the Yeti as close as possible to the headquarters of Wiltshire Police.  8 miles, no portages to lunch at the café at Honey Street.  7 miles, no portages to Wooton Rivers.  Here we discovered we’d left the canoe wheels in the Yeti!  Portaged 400 metres north of Bridge 108 to The Royal Oak at Wooton Rivers, supper booked for 7 – 7:30, bed and breakfast.

Monday 15 Apr: 6 miles, tunnel, 13 locks to lunch at Great Bedwyn.  Walked into village, freshly-baked Cornish Pasties and Lardy cake from the village shop for lunch (best lunch of the trip).  3 miles and 6 portages to Froxfield.  150 metres north of Bridge 90, 150 metres west along the A4 to The Pelican Inn, Froxfield.  Supper included superb roast venison.  Bed and breakfast.

Tuesday 16 Apr: 3 miles and 4 portages to lunch in Hungerford.  Lovely café just 30 metres south of Bridge  84.  4 miles, 4 portages to Kintbury.   Supper, bed and breakfast at The Dundas Arms, Kintbury, right by Kintbury lock.

Wednesday 17 Apr:  6 miles, 7 portages to lunch in Newbury.  2 course set lunch at Cote Brasserie, about 50 metres north of Bridge 59.  4 miles, 5 portages to Thatcham.   Supper, bed and breakfast at The Swan, Thatcham, 200 metres north of Bridge 42.

Thursday 18 Apr:  5 miles, 5 portages to lunch at The Rowbarge at Woolhampton, beside the canal by Bridge 31.  One mile further, after Bridge 30, by prior arrangement, left Darbon at Froud’s Marina.  Half day.  Trudged half a mile along a busy road to The Hind’s Head, Aldermaston.  After supper, bed and breakfast, pleased to find a footpath across the fields to get back to the marina.

Good Friday 19 Apr:  6 miles, 7 portages and too many low bridges to lunch at The Cunning Man in Burghfield, before Bridge 14.  Table booked for 2 at noon.  4 miles and 3 portages to refreshment stop in Reading.  Then 5 miles and 3 locks to Wargrave.  Landed on a slipway, about 400 metres to The Bull on the High Street, for supper, bed and breakfast. 

Saturday 20 Apr:  7 miles, 2 locks to planned lunchstop at The Flower Pot at Aston, but we were feeling full of energy and pressed on.   9 miles, 3 locks to Cookham; we were through Marlow Lock 2 hours ahead of the DW race!  Stayed two nights at the Crown in Cookham to let both parts of the race pass us by.  On Sunday we enjoyed a pleasant walk across the fields to Boulter’s Lock, where we had an ice cream with our picnic, and strolled back to Cookham alongside the Thames and Cliveden Reach.

Easter Monday 22 Apr:  3 miles, 2 locks to Maidenhead:  lunch break evaded again.  11 miles, 4 locks to Old Windsor. Landed 200 metres upstream of the Bells of Ouzeley, so that was our lunch stop.  Bed and breakfast was 500 metres along the road at McMillans B&B in Old Windsor. 

Tuesday 23 Apr:  8 miles, 3 locks to lunch at Thames Court (Shepperton).  On to tea with Carole in Hampton (a welcome break mid way between Shepperton and Teddington).  Then on home.

Wed 24 Apr:  train from Hampton Wick via Clapham Junction to Salisbury, then a bus via Berwick St John, Shrewton and Market Lavington to Devizes.  Collected Yeti.  Drove home.

Paddlers and scribes:  Andrew Wallace and Norma Morris

Barley Mow to Greywell Tunnel, March 30th 2019

Barley Mow to Greywell Tunnel, March 30th 2019

Our select band (Tamra, Jana, Phil, Frank and yours truly) assembled at 8.30 at the club to collect our chosen boats pausing only for Tamra to complain that she should have bought her heels to get the boat on top of her car and for me to explain that due to over-indulgence the night before I was in less than fine form.

After the short hop down the M3 to Fleet we parked in the public car park next to the Barley Mow pub luckily avoiding any unfortunate business with the restricted height barrier. From there a good heave and we could literally have thrown the boats straight into the canal. By this time the weather was warm and sunny so we took off most of the layers we had donned and got going.

The first section of the canal has lovely wooded countryside to both of sides of it which did mean a fair bit of debris in the water but really that was the only thing to complain about. Jana impressed us with her ornithological knowledge. Examples; “Oh that’s a really cute duck”, “Are those two birds mating whilst they’re flying?”

We paddled straight past King Johns (Odiham) castle and dodged several overenthusiastic “yoof” in hired canoes / kayaks / rowing boats before coming to the only real obstacle in the trip (no portages on this part of the canal) the low bridge at Greywell. Apparently the canal was unusually high and it was touch and go whether we could slip underneath it. Tamra got the award for the most elegant transit, a gentle limbo action that saw her through in seconds.

We soon neared the end of the canal (a collapsed tunnel now a bat sanctuary) at this point the water was very shallow and choked with a red-brown weed that made our progress more like punting than paddling. It was impossible to turn around so we had to reverse through the channel we had ploughed through the weed like mini ice-breakers.

After the turn we arrived back at King John’s castle and stopped for snacks (Thank you Jana for the banana bread) and a short history lesson, apparently the castle was once the home to Kings but it is now little more than a few rough stone walls and some signs promising certain death to anyone foolish enough to climb up them.

Refreshed we pressed on again dodging some even more “merry” and out-of-control folk in a row boat. By this time my head had cleared and I was enjoying the lovely weather, scenery, cute ducks and non-existent flow.

Arriving back the at the Barley mow we loaded out boats and headed to the pub for food. There was almost a rebellion when we found that the wait was an hour. The possibility that we might not be entertaining enough company for this extended period of time was voiced by one of our number but in the end we only had to wait for 25 minutes or so.

Thanks to Phil for organising the trip (and transporting my boat and I), to all concerned for the good company and to the weather gods for being kind to us.


Selsey to Pagham Harbour, March 23rd 2019

Selsey to Pagham Harbour - March 23rd 2019

With Dan, Andrew, Derek, Frank, Peter, John S, Charles, Andy, Norma, Maxine, Michele S, Amanda and Tamra

Advertised as 8 miles but turned out to be 11 miles….maybe we wiggled around the coast a lot more than expected.
We departed from the club about 8:30 am…unless you were Dan who set off about an hour earlier as he couldn’t sleep! This was Dan’s second sea kayaking trip as a leader; aided by Andrew and Michele S who are thoroughbred sea kayakers.
The weather was mild enough that Frank and Andrew were happy enough to strip down to underpants on Selsey beach…
OK they were in the process of getting on dry suits but that ruins the story. Dry suits probably ended up wetter inside than out (sweat, not lack of toilets)
Conditions looked to be pretty flat when we set off though there did turn out to be quite a lot of head wind and sea eddy to battle against.
We did have a time window to get into the harbour area before high tide and as I was dragging along at the back Derek then Andrew kindly gave me a tow.
Just before we entered the harbour things hotted up for me when Andrew released the tow line and yelled “Go, Go, Go!!! Assuming I might have a shark on my tail I promptly parted his company into some turbulent water that saw me disappear several feet momentarily. Happily no sharks and no capsizing for me on this trip.
Pagham harbour is supremely quiet…or at least is was until we got there. Not a lot going on there; though there was a pub. We had a picnic lunch a few photos and pee’s in the bushes…then we set
off on our return leg.
Returning was a lot less effort and faster; but that may have been because I then had about 3 people towing me by this stage. Hopefully more of an exercise than an necessity?! 
Lots of people got to use ropes and clips on this trip (I’m sure there is an S&M joke to be had there somewhere?)
We got back to Selsey all in one piece and still smiling. Only person that was wet was Peter L who threw himself out of his boat as the sea hadn’t. He just can’t help “Loying about!” . Sadly no ice-cream van or beach bar to greet our return; just Franks soggy donuts.
Time keeping was pretty bang on we set-off 10:30 am and arrived back 3:40 pm. Back to the club for about 6 pm, sipping a G&T by 7 pm.
All good in the world 🙂
Tamra Cave