On Sunday 9th of August Simon Pettifer led 6 Nomads on a scenic trip to the Thames and Cherwell at Oxford. The day was forecast to be a scorcher, but it was pleasantly cool when we arrived at meadow lane car park in time to get parking spaces, get changed and wait for David to arrive. Once we’d all arrived it was over to the Thames for a short safety and COVID procedures briefing before putting onto the water avoiding all the passing skulls.
The stretch up the Thames was short and pleasant before turning into the Cherwell on the right, just before several very fancy and expensive looking rowing club boathouses without a soul using them. We made good speed up the tree lined Cherwell against a very slight current through the meadows toward Oxford city centre with glimpses of gothic architecture on the skyline.
There were barely any punts to be seen this early in the day as we passed through gradually more open meadows and the Cherwell twisted and turned on the approach to Magdalen bridge. Just past the bridge the first punters of the day were starting out from the hire shop as we took the left hand channel (aka ditch) passing close to the colleges and halls of residence, but with precious little water depth for our kayaks. The ditch turned a sharp right back toward the Cherwell proper as we passed a path on the right where – according to Ben, our own Oxford student and local expert – J R R Tolkein and C S Lewis used to go for walks together. Now we know! A bare hundred yards more had us back on the Cherwell proper again waiting for Dan in his giant boat to scrape his way through.
The river got wilder (relatively) now with more fallen trees and branches in the water as we headed away from the city centre through fields no doubt owned by the colleges. A couple of weirs and chutes we passed on the right had either a trickle or no water preventing us from playing. The scenery was nevertheless beautiful with flower and tree lined banks as we made our way to the first and only portage, a large slipway type weir completely obscured by a massive tree that had fallen across it. We portaged on the left next to a long row of rollers for dragging punts up and down the weir, but which were too widely spaced for our boats.
Simon had the (closed) pub, our lunch stop firmly in mind by now as every few minutes he said ‘wouldn’t it be nice to have a pint?’. We began to suspect the real reason he liked this trip so much and felt sorry he’d be frustrated. More scenic river followed past a combination punt and canoe hire shop and restaurant on the left in a pretty, rustic looking barn type building. We didn’t feel like stopping and carried on the short distance to the (closed) pub, which fortunately hadn’t removed its riverside picnic tables of which we took full advantage.
We had a leisurely lunch pining for a pint in sight of the pub and regaling each other with paddling and trip stories.
As time went on more punts appeared so we conceded our table to a pair of punting and picnicing families and put back on to the water for our return trip. There was a lot more water traffic of all kinds on the way back with the river at Magdalen bridge practically full of punts from one side to the other. For variety we took a different route back past Magdalen Bridge School and more punters, most of them looking like it was their first time.
A short stretch and a few more beverage related comments from Simon brought us back to the Thames, where for safety reasons we bypassed the nudist swimming channel signposted ‘Dangerous’ that Martyn had started to explore. We arrived tired but happy (and maybe thirsty 😉 ?) at meadow lane after a day enjoyed by all.
Thanks to Simon for leading the trip and to everyone for coming along.
Matt, trips officer