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Thread: Uneventful bimble down the Thames from Castle Eaton to Eton

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    Default Uneventful bimble down the Thames from Castle Eaton to Eton

    Sunday 10th May - Castle Eaton – Lechlade 12 km

    We had wanted to start in Cricklade but when we arrived at the slip and inspected the water level we thought beter of it. We did not want to break our wooden paddles on day 1.

    Further downstream at Second Chance campsite where we had pitched our tent, the bank had eroded below the steps in a recent flood and the owner had first greeted us with the words “You cannot launch the canoe here”. After this statement she was actually quite welcoming.




    Slip at Cricklade



    The Red Lion at Castle Eaton allowed us to launch from their pub garden in exchange for a contribution to a local hospice.





    It was mostly overcast and a strong breeze made it feel pretty cold.

    The river was a little deeper here than in Cricklade but sometimes quite challenging. I put some scratches on my recently re-varnished boat.
    Impcanoe
    had paddled this stretch two weeks prior to our jaunt and we were grateful for the 2 recent saw cuts at one place.







    After a short paddle the river became wider and we saw the first moored motor boat.
    We stopped for lunch just above Lechlade, our first overnight stop.




    It was a short haul over a field to the campsite. The weather forecast had promised a sunny day but it was mostly overcast and a strong breeze made it feel pretty cold.






    Monday 11th May – Lechlade – Shifford Lock 21 km and 5 locks

    We had no idea how long it would take to pass each lock so we got up early and left the camping at 9am.







    We stopped for lunch at the canoe pass just above Radcot lock. It looked quite inviting but also having recently replaced some strips on my boat after an accident with some underwater concrete blocks last year we chose to use the lock.





    We paused at the Trout Inn at Tadpole Bridge for some coffee and then leisurely paddled down to Shifford Lock.



    The scenery all the way down was pretty monotonous with leaden gray skies.

    Later in the afternoon, the sun came out for the first time since arriving in the UK on Friday.

    Shifford Lock is a great place to camp with a practice pool above for Canadian style canoeing.
    After dinner we went for a short walk to Duxford Ford but had to retrace our tracks as there was too much water to cross the ford and make a circular walk.







    Evening walk




    Tuesday 12th May – Shifford Lock – Eynsham Lock 17 km and 2 locks

    The key word for today is WIND. At least it is from the WEST and blows us down the river but it is pretty unpleasant and COLD. The Kipawa is an excellent boat particularly when loaded for coping with wind. The wind was often sideways on. Morning coffee stop at the Rose Revived Inn at Newbridge and a shame it was not lunchtime as the menu looked very tempting.






    The scenery improved today with the sight of a few hills.
    We continued to be impressed by the lock keepers gardens which add to the charm of passing through the locks.








    Camp at Eynsham lock and dinner at the pub, a 10 minute walk away.



    Wednesday 13th May Eynsham Lock – Oxford 15 km and 4 locks

    Our first WARM and SUNNY day. It is a shame we have planned a short paddle for today as we want to visit Oxford.

    Ruins of Godstow abbey



    Approaching Oxford



    We got out at Donnington Bridge and trolleyed the canoe to the campsite thru South Oxford suburban streets, about a 10 minute walk.



    After setting up, we took a Park and Ride bus down to the city centre and enrolled for a walking tour. After viewing a few colleges we continued with a visit to Blackwells, a pub and some dinner before returning back to the campsite.









    Thursday 14th May Oxford - Clifton Hampden 19 km and 4 locks

    It was raining when we got up and it never ceased all day.
    In the shelter of Tesco Express I pulled my camera out to take a picture on our trek back to the river.





    Just before Sandford Lock I dared to get the camera wet once again and then that was it for photography today. We passed by Abingdon that in better weather would be worth a stop but we just kept on paddling.





    Around 3 pm we arrived at Bridge House camping at Clifton Hampden cold and wet. Our host Avril felt that it was too impossible for us to pitch a tent in the rain and offered us a caravan for the price of our tent pitch (Trail Angel). We pulled out our sleeping bags and crept into them to warm up. We dozed off but were woken an hour later feeling wet. The roof of the caravan was leaking above the bed! We took off to the Barley Mow to warm up and dry. This seemed to be a better treatment for first signs of hyperthermia.



    Friday 15th May Clifton Hampden – Wallingford 12 km 2 locks

    The sun was shining this morning. We threw our damp kit outside the caravan to dry and took a short stroll into the village. Geoff made some sketches.














    We made a small detour today by paddling up the Thame to Dorchester.

    In Dorchester we moored the canoe and ambled around the pretty village and abbey. Thereafter it was another very short paddle down to Wallingford. After finishing drying off all our kit we wandered into the small town visiting several of the numerous antique shops and then treated ourselves to a cream tea.


    Get out in Dorchester


    Dorchester



    Our first impression of the campsite at Wallingford on arrival was good. However we had an assigned pitch number and it is the start of a weekend. In the evening the site filled up and a noisy truck had the site next to ours.




    Visit to Wallingford



    Saturday 16th May Wallingford – Mapledurham House 18 km 3 locks


    Thames at Wallingford

    We were not the only wooden boat out today. This couple in the skiff apparently also owns a cedarstrip canoe that they commissioned someone in Ireland to build for them.


    Except for two inflatable kayaks belonging to fellow campers at the site at Wallingford, we have seen no other paddle craft on the river to date.

    Today is different. Young muscular men and woman in rowing boats are charging up and down the river being chased by slave drivers in motor boats shrieking instructions to them. Today the Thames was scenic and we dawdled taking a break to visit Goring.

    The local Brownies were selling cakes for fund raising.





    There was more traffic on the river today probably because it was Saturday and the weather was good. Still it is far less than we had expected.







    We paddled on to the fantastic location at Mapledurham where we had an enormous field for ourselves.



    Watermill at Mapledurham




    Sunday May 17th Mapleldurham House – Henley 22 km and 5 locks

    At 8.30 on a Sunday morning there were already rowing teams out on the river. This was the theme of the day. The countryside passing by Reading was nondescript but we had to keep our wits about us being passed continually by rowing boats.





    Sonning


    We stopped for lunch at Sonning Bridge and also took a walk round this village of expensive houses.




    As we approached Henley, the sun had gone and it was cold again.



    The public slip in Henley was temporarily closed due to a nesting swan.




    The campsite had given us some alternative instructions for getting to their site but this meant lifting canoe and kit over a kissing gate. 200 yards further we had to carry the boat sideways thru another gate. Getting to the campsite was not that easy.

    Dinner in town and a good nights sleep at Swiss Farm campsite.








    Monday May 18th Henley – Cookham Lock 20 km and 4 locks


    It started to rain at 7.30 and continued till lunchtime with 3 hail storms and lots of wind. We had to repeat the portage back to the river hauling everything again over the kissing gate.




    As we approached Marlow the rain stopped for a while and we tied up at the public slip and went into town to get some lunch.







    Cookham lock was a wonderful place to camp as long as you do not mind the noise of overhead planes.

    We paid a deposit for a key which allowed us to walk into Cookham and the pub.







    Tuesday May 19th Cookham Lock – Eton 16 km and 4 locks

    It is dry as we pack in but as soon as we are on the water giant hail stones bounce off us and the boat. Today we passed “secret island” bringing back memories of camping trips with my best friend and her family when I was a teenager. They had a small boat moored at Maidenhead and I thought it was fantastic to camp on a wild island with small paths between the nettle beds. It looked unchanged.

    In a short time Windsor Castle appears in view. We are nearly reaching the end of our trip.



    Just under the bridge at Eton there is a public landing. After lifting the boat and luggage out of the water, we then had to negotiate some steep steps up into Eton High Street.









    It is then an easy trolley for about 20 meters to the Crown and Cushion, our home for the evening.



    The owners were very welcoming to the two drowned rats who arrived with a mass of wet luggage and they carried the stuff for us up to the room.




    The canoe stayed outdoors in the beer garden.




    Wrapping up
    So that is the end of our tale of a trip down the Thames.
    We had been promising to do this for 20 years and it is now ticked on our bucket list.
    We were a little disappointed as the scenery was less interesting than we had expected and the weather could have been better. On the other hand there was hardly any traffic on the river.
    The most scenic part seemed to be the lock keepers gardens which were magnificent.
    Despite the weather we did enjoy ourselves but are now glad to be back home in a warm house.

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    Excellent ! Thanks for posting.

  3. #3
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    The weather could have been better, how?

    This is Britain.

    A memory lapse maybe?

    MB
    Last edited by Bonarmbj; 24th-May-2015 at 01:55 AM.

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    I don't mean to be rude here, and forgive me if it comes over that way, but as a hard working trucker that works 60hrs plus a week, just to put some decent bread on the table for my family ...with a few shillings set aside to go off paddling on the odd week-end of course!

    Don't give me: "We were a little disappointed as the scenery was less interesting than we had expected and the weather could have been better".

    From your blogg you appear to have education, whereas to be honest, I have none that I know of!
    You could have, and most probably did the recce for this trip well in advance...knowing of the 60-75% chance of the outcome.....and then ended up moaning some!

    For some of us, well, me anyway...I would have loved a trip like that if I'd had the chance, whatever the weather...and without half the moaning! (There would have been some though! )

    Born in Britain 53yrs ago... when it was most probably raining and damn cold to boot...and over the years I've learned to live with it...

    This is Britain.

    Sat now on the naughty step with my rant over!

    C'est la Vie!

    MB
    Last edited by Bonarmbj; 24th-May-2015 at 03:05 AM.

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    A great Thames trip. Mixed weather but, you found some excellent pubs.. a bonus. Scenery? everywhere looks better in sunshine.
    Well done for doing the trip you waited 20 years to make....

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    Great blogg and an interesting trip. I've still to do a trip with proper campsites and pubs within walking distance. It certainly has appeal. Hopefully worth the trip over from the Netherlands.
    John

    I started at the bottom and I like it here

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bonarmbj View Post
    For some of us, well, me anyway...I would have loved a trip like that if I'd had the chance, whatever the weather...and without half the moaning! (There would have been some though! )

    Born in Britain 53yrs ago... when it was most probably raining and damn cold to boot...and over the years I've learned to live with it...

    This is Britain.
    MB
    Bonarmbj
    Sorry that I seem to have offended you by commenting on the weather. Most of the people we met, bar tenders, lock keepers, shop staff, fellow campers, narrow boat captains, motor boat skippers etc. all seemed to comment on it without being asked.
    I am sure most will agree that the weather often makes the difference between a good trip and a great one.
    PS I was born and grew up in London where I lived for 28 years. I have since lived another 36 years in the Netherlands where the weather is very similar. However you do always hope for a warm and sunny May. Saturday night we had ground frost here!

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    Actually the weather that weekend was b---- awful. We were on the Thames at Oxford and did not paddle as much as we had planned due to high winds. Being May I was expecting tee shirt weather.
    So we beat on,boats against the current,bourne back ceaselessly into the past.

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    I dunno. Plenty of scenery, cute villages, quaint universities etc. Quintessentially English, I would say. And very nice.

    And you got some sunshine.

    So a very nice blog.

    But Valerie, there are loads of pictures of HWMNBO, but none of you! That's no good. Make him earn his keep and take a few!

    "I stepped up on the platform. The man gave me the news. He said - you must be joking, son, where did you get those shoes?"

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    Lovely blog and beautiful scenery. Gives a good guide to the campsites along the way,too.Thanks for sharing ,Nederlander ( sorry -that should be altwee Nederlanders )

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    Nice to see you managed to work in an impressive amount of pubs on the way down too. Interesting to see that trip and pleased you managed to get round to it and complete it. Thanks.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bonarmbj
    I don't mean to be rude here,...
    Not had a good week then ? I personally didn't think there was too much on the whinge front there. Weather (hot or cold) appears to be a default subject for most Brits anyway.
    MarkL
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    Canoe outfitting packages in the Massif Central


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    Glad to see you had a good trip. The weather has been pretty mixed, you seemed to make the most of it, and to find time to explore the nice towns and villages you came across.

    The upper Thames is lovely, but when you're fighting the wind it can seem pretty bleak west of Oxford. When its still and calm, its lovely, but in a quiet, non-spectacular way.


    One of the wheelie bins in the background of this photo is my brother's , they live in a nice old cottage in Clifton Hampden, just above the winter flood level! Where you were is often underwater a few times in winter, even though its 50 metres or more from the river. Hence the "walkway" that HWMNBO is sitting on.


    Covering as many malmiles as possible before being distracted by the pub!

    Paddle Points - where to paddle

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    Quote Originally Posted by jimmi View Post
    Well done for doing the trip you waited 20 years to make....
    Reflecting back, I am very glad we did the trip. My first paddling experience was with Putney Sea Rangers, paddling every sunday morning at Thames Young Mariners at Ham in my teenage years. A few years later I made further aquaintance with the Thames at Teddington and Hambledon Weirs paddling round slalom gates in kayak but had never made a journey on the river. It was nice now to paddle the complete river (or nearly) and enjoy good old England.

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    excellent i really enjoyed looking at this trip

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