This summer Hamptoneers intend to paddle the whole length of the Thames from its highest navigable point at Cricklade down to the Thames Barrier. The trip is being undertaken over a series of weekends.
Leg #1 : The Wild Thames : Cricklade to Bablock Hythe
31 miles; 0 capsizes (at least that’s what I heard…)
During June there was an overnight camping journey that required a sea kayak, the ability to limbo under fallen trees, step over them as your kayak floated underneath and hopefully step back in, or the stamina to carry your boat around fallen objects. Derek even showed us how to roll under a tree. The first part of the trip was quite challenging but after a few miles we were clear of the trees and shallows. The unspoilt countryside and complete absence of other craft was a real treat. After nearly 18miles, the Swan Inn at Radcott Bridge was most welcome. The camping was very rudimentary and on the opposite side of the river to the pub, but the food and drink were good and the publican waived the camping charge. Sunday was a more sedate affair and we had time for a very pleasant lunch at the Rose Revived.
Leg #2 : A comfortable stop : Bablock Hythe to Benson Lock
33 miles; 4 capsizes (1 to Peter L, 1 to Stephen, 2 to Maxine)
In August a flotilla of 12 boats paddled from Baclock Hythe to Benson Lock. The variety of boats and paddling preferences was on full display for this trip with the boats covering a wide spectrum: from a Raven, all of the Vipers, to Hobbys, Cirrus’s (Cirrae?), Tercels, to a single sea kayak, a double sea kayak, and a canoe.
The first day had perfect weather with almost no wind and blue sky. The only issue was finding a pub to stop at so we could have a drink with lunch. Luckily Oxford has many pubs, so although ‘the lunch pub’ was missed, we found one just down the river.
While this was also an overnight trip, we stayed in B&Bs which provided a bit more comfort than in Part 1. While boats could be launched from the bottom of the garden of one of the B&Bs, it wasn’t the gently sloping green lawn that many of us imagined. Consequently most boats were landed and launched from a slipway a few hundred metres away. This provided ample opportunity for those lucky (?) enough to be carrying a canoe with Dan to practice DW style running with boats- once he started running you had to run or be run over. More excess energy should have been used doing sprints on the river….
Following the example set on the Wye Canoe trip, Indian was the choice for dinner. The amount of food that was served looked huge, but the hungry paddlers managed to devour all of it. The local pub a few doors down was happy to oblige us with a nightcap of choice before the tired but happy paddlers turned in for the night.
The Sunday was windy which must have been the reason Stephen fell in at a lock and Maxine managed to fall in twice (note to self: next time don’t get back into the boat next to stinging nettles). We made good time and arrived at Benson lock with ample time for the passengers to empty and wash the boats, and have lunch ,while the drivers shuttled the cars back.
Another thoroughly enjoyable overnight trip!
Leg #3 : Benson Lock to Tilehurst
15.3 miles; 1 capsize
In September another flotilla of 12 varied boats paddled on a day trip from Benson Lock to Tilehurst. Another near perfect day for paddling with low wind and an overcast sky. Lunch was enjoyed sitting on the grass near Cleeve lock, with a variety of ‘energy enhancing’ snacks (aka slices, crunches). The pub at Pangbourne is right next to Whitchurch Lock, so it seemed essential to stop for a drink before completing our journey.
Note for next time: The boatyard at Tilehurst is actually more than a mile after Mapledurham Lock, so, as Nemo would say ‘just keep paddling’.
Ps. while 12 of us paddled together, a parallel tale was unfolding with Dan and Barnet canoeing from Benson Lock to Reading…though no-one actually saw them…
Leg #4 : Tilehurst to Henley
12 miles; 0 capsizes
With a very civilised start to the trip, that allowed for a sleep in, paddlers started arriving at the club in time to meet the very organised schedule provided by Andrew who led the trip.
Clear, not too cold weather greeted us as we got on the water within 5 minutes of the scheduled time. Peter M maintained his reputation as a light packer with a small dry bag that was only half full. Must get some tips from him.
Tamra, in the front of the K2 with Andrew, set a cracking pace as she enjoyed being at the front of the Group. Even though she wasn’t leading the trip Sarah couldn’t stop counting the boats, and she demonstrated great stability when turning around to check paddlers behind her, without turning her boat. Must get some tips from her.
Before we knew it, it was time to stop for lunch. Unfortunately the cafe at Sonning lock wasn’t actually open…luckily the nearest pub at Sonning was a short stroll away.
At Shiplake Lock Stephen found his own, unique, way through the lock? Over the lock? Not entirely sure as he went into the lock, was seen walking and then joined us on the other side. Whereas Paul showed remarkable speed across the lock and was back in before many people were even halfway across the island. Mark did his own thing at Marsh Lock, and rather than walking across the long, long, wooden bridge paddled down to the end of the trip.
Before we knew it another enjoyable the trip was over, with nothing left to do but munch on the biscuits and dates Andrew provided to sustain those waiting to be picked up.
See also Tamra’s very detailed write up with pictures here
Trip account by Peter McBride – still awaiting pictures
Leg #6 Cookham to Old Windsor
Leg #7 Old Windsor to Hampton