CSCC Reports 2009: Open Canoeing - Upper Thames - May 2009
On Saturday Stewart, Chris, Dan, Nick and Phil loaded four canoes with camping gear and set out from Cricklade.
They immediately encountered a partial tree blockage, the first of many, at the first tight bend only a few yards downstream of the launch point.
Fortunately the flow was fairly weak and forgiving and the obstruction was successfully negotiated by all, one way or another.
Gusts of wind occasionally made directional control difficult in the narrow channel but we made good progress and reached the Red Lion at Castle Eaton in time for lunch. The Red Lion welcomes canoeists but the get out is not very easy being a scramble up a near vertical high bank.
At St John's lock the lock keeper checked for boat licences and one had to be purchased for the one boat which did not have a current BCU sticker or membership card.
Apart from the breeze and one heavy shower the weather was good for most of the day and it was fine when we arrived at the Trout Inn's camping field to pitch our tents.
The food and beer at the Trout Inn (Lechlade) were very good although the campsite facilities are very basic. We shared the campsite with Bristol Ferret Club who were holding a ferret camping event.
Distance paddled 11.5 miles.
On Sunday morning Bridget, Beth, Alex and Luis joined us at the campsite. The morning had been fine for taking the tents down and packing up but soon after we had embarked on the water there was an intense downpour and a very strong wind sprang up. For a time it was difficult to make headway and to avoid being blown into the bank but fortunately the bad weather did not last long and we subsequently made very good progress, although it remained breezy. Nick, Alex and Luis had to share a canoe and the antics of "three men in a boat" kept us entertained for the rest of the day.
At one point we came across a large group of swans one of which was on the bank entangled in a plastic mesh fence and looking in a bad way. Stewart upheld the club's tradition of rescuing distressed animals by promptly landing and cutting the swan free. As soon as it was released it flapped away, apparently uninjured. Well done Stewart!
We stopped for lunch at the Trout at Tadpole Bridge where there is an easy landing stage. (Unfortunately the Trout at Tadpole Bridge has gone upmarket and no longer provides camping or allows canoe launching through its garden. However there is a possible get in on the other side of the river and a nearby layby for parking).
The trip was notable for the birds we saw and heard including nesting swans, ducklings, goslings and baby moorhens, swallows, swifts and martins to name but a few.
After paddling down Shifford lock cut we turned right immediately after the lock up the original course of the Thames towards the get out at Duxford. Paddling was difficult against the flow and wind and there were tree blockages although this loop is supposedly navigable up to the ford by small craft.
Distance paddled 13.5 miles.