Sailing and canoeing on the River Thames in Kingston

Lechlade to Oxford canoeing adventure

Launching at St. John's Lock, Lechlade
Glorious paddling conditions

Travel time of over two hours to the higher reaches of the Thames renders a day adventure impracticable, so the idea of a two-day trip was born. However accommodation next to the Thames is scarce and the laws of supply and demand mean that riverside hostelries specify expensive two day stays at weekends. So a midweek trip was planned. The put in at ‘St Johns Lock, just downstream from Lechlade was not as straight forward as it looked, the concrete slipway was very steep and resulted in one damp and one very wet paddler.

Once underway the scenery was lovely, the river is perhaps 15 to 20 feet wide and very rural. All the locks are manual, so ‘someone’ had to jump out of their boat at each lock, open the sluices to fill the lock (we were going downhill) and then manhandle the gates. At one point a terrible roaring heralded an appearance by a USAAF Stealth Bomber, an amazing sight, although in this context it seemed anything but ‘stealthy’. The going was fairly slow for the first 6 miles, possibly because the river course is very twisty and paddlers were constantly adjusting their course.

Having negotiated two locks we noticed a sign at Radcot Lock offering a ‘Canoe Pass’. Steve bravely disappeared down it and some anxious moments later the rest of the group followed. It was as good as flume ride at a theme park and we vote that all locks should have one! Shortly after this we spotted a good exit point and make a late lunch stop. At this point at 16:00 hours we had covered just 6.5 miles of the sixteen miles planned for the day and we had some concerns about what time we would arrive at Newbridge – more specifically, whether the pub would still be serving food!

Kathy emerging form the 'flume ride' by-pass round the lock
Kathy and Jon rejoining the river after lunch
The following 9.5 miles were taken at a much faster pace, through lovely countryside, pretty locks and historic bridges. The group arrived at Newbridge very tired but proud of their efforts at 19:30 hours.
Paddling under the Tadpole Bridge
Bernie at New Bridge

Shenaz, Jon’s wife was waiting for us at Newbridge with a car, and she took Kathy and Jon back to the start point to collect the support vehicles and canoe trailer. Unfortunately they got lost on the way when Jon’s GPS phone gave up, but we all settled down a well earned meal and a few drinks when they eventually got back (fortunately the pub was serving meals until late).

Boats lined up on the bank at the 'Rose Revived'
I’d like to report that we all slept well – but that’s another story (it may be a few weeks before Barbara feels able to relate the story of her night in the shepherd’s hut).
Barbara sees her Shepherd's Hut for the first time
The paddlers bid a fond farewell to Shenaz and set off on what was to be the hottest day since 1976. It was, though, definitely a few degrees cooler on the river, which we noticed particularly when we had to walk half a mile to the pub at lunch time. The Talbot pub was at Eynsham, where we crossed the toll bridge, unbelievably there are two full time employees collecting, in cash, the 5p per car toll.
Launching after a night at 'The Rose Revived'
Waiting for the lock keeper (Steve) to open the sluices
Lunch partaken, the final leg of the journey took the group past the sites of Roman Fords and more recent ferries, ruined abbeys and historic pubs. Suddenly, after Godstow lock, the river broadened and became shallow, with the famous Port Meadow, flood plain to the north, a massive flock of geese were chased into the river and created a cacaphony of honking to herald our arrival at the cunningly hidden Perch Inn.
End of the rural idyll, paddling under the A34
A cacophony of honking
Emerging onto the Oxford flood plain
The Swans were more serene

Kathy and Jim set off back to Newbridge to collect the car and trailer, while the rest of the group carried the kayaks through from the riverside to the car park and then established a base in the garden for what turned out to be an excellent meal and refreshments (apart from an unwise choice of ‘craft’ beer by Bernie for Lee).

It was an epic trip (28 miles in two days) and our best adventure yet!  Next year, we will have to do Godstow Lock to Wallingford via Abingdon on the next leg of our journey down the entire length of the non-tidal Thames from Cricklade to Kingston.

Arrving at the 'Perch'
(later) refreshed after a couple of lagers and supper L-R Barbara, Steve, Jon, Kathy, Jim, Bernie and Leigh
Trip report by Kathy Collins.

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