Sunday March 13th 2016: Isleworth to Putney Bridge
Our group comprised Andy, Charles, Dan, Jenny, Maxine, Andrew, Norma and Andrew Geen [a friend of Andy’s from Tower Hamlets Canoe Club].
We found plenty of parking space between The London Apprentice and the wall that marks the south-eastern corner of Sion House so the unloading of boats presented few problems. We carried the kayaks down the slipway to the water’s edge whereupon Andrew announced with authority that this was the largest gathering of sea kayaks in the short history of Hampton Canoe Club. After Andy’s team talk, which was tolerated with bored indifference, everyone managed an uneventful entry into the river to begin our journey.
Although the ebbing tide was nearing the end of its cycle the flow was quickened by the effect of heavy rainfall in the period leading up to our voyage. Run-off water from the land and stronger inflows from tributaries such as the Mole and Wey helped the group to maintain a brisk speed averaging just over four knots.
The normal rule of keeping to the right/starboard side of the river seemed not to apply to rowers on this part of the Thames. Andrew explained that they have acquired, through strength of numbers or the acquiescence of others, the local right to cut corners on the left/port side. At least I think that’s what he said: most of us were too busy avoiding rowers to really listen properly!
In truth, apart from one close encounter with an Eight from Mortlake Rowing Club our journey was uneventful. The Thames takes-on a changing character and appearance as it makes its way from its source to the sea and, although not as attractive as at Hampton, this section has its own rewards. Houses to die for and bridges to admire as well as wildlife we don’t always see upstream of Teddington.
We landed at Putney earlier than planned, carried our kayaks to the top of the slipway and retired to sit outside The Boathouse for lunch and a pint. When the afternoon sun faded and the wind picked up we moved inside and took advantage of Weatherspoon’s offer of free coffee top ups.
Slack water seemed to last an age but the tide, possibly delayed by the strong gravitational flow of the river mentioned earlier, eventually turned and we headed for Isleworth.
When we reached the northern bank opposite to Kew Gardens we met other kayakers who reported seeing a seal in the vicinity. Blimey!
Any journey home always seems harder and longer but a glorious compensation awaited us as we approached Isleworth. Sion House was clearly visible from the river in a way not possible in the summer when it is obscured by trees.
An energetic paddle of fifteen miles completed, we loaded the boats onto cars and made our way to The London Apprentice. Don’t you wish you’d joined us?