Private Paddle Report – River Thames: Culham Lock to Wallingford

River Thames: Section 6 – Culham Lock to Wallingford

On Friday 26th August, 5 Nomads – Dave, Phillip, John, Chris, Sue, and not forgetting Coco and Fifi,  continued Paddling the Thames. This leg of our adventure took us to Culham and we would be paddling 11 miles downstream on the river to Wallingford.

The weather was in the low to mid 20’s, and although the water levels were down about a foot, all the gauges for our section reported no problems.

Our get in was just above Culham lock, and our plan was to wait for a boat to use the lock and we would share, as getting in below would have been difficult  for some due to the pontoon being quite high.

Our plan was to be on the water at 10am, but due to height restrictions at the get in and get out, we were a little late and the shuttling took a bit longer than normal. Thanks to Graham (Dave’s Friend) for attending all of our trips and helping with the logistics. So after a detailed safety briefing, warm up and equipment check we were on the water at 10.45am sharing the lock with not one, but three boats.

After exiting the lock we made some progress downstream. Chris was asking how far to lunch almost from the off, but I am told that he started asking that before we had even set off. Coco and Fifi were settling down and as the sun had emerged Phillip was paddling in the shade where he could.

After 4.5kms we approached Clifton lock, where the lock keeper was waiting for us with the lock filled and the gates open. I must say on our journey down the Thames, what nice people the lock keepers are. Always greeting us with a smile and a chat, asking about our journey and where we are heading. They are also a wealth of knowledge giving any advice as to any hazards we may be approaching etc.

The next pound took us under Clifton Hamden bridge and along the back gardens of some wonderful (massive) Mansion houses, one of which was a respite care home that had 2 elderly residents and their carers sat by the riverside enjoying the weather. As we always do, we said good morning and they replied but they then noticed coco and fifi in Phillips boat and seemed to get quite exited. As a group we decided to paddle over and say hi, and we think we made their day.

9.4kms down about 5 miles we reached Days lock, Lunch, this lock was unattended due to the keepers lunch break, so we had our picnic on the lock island rested and chatted in the sunlight and contemplated how if we portaged, we would get back in.

After lunch and suitably kitted up again we decided to go through the lock and a helpful soul who was waiting for the lock keeper operated the lock for us and we were on our way again.

Our next pound took us to Benson Lock and I must say what fantastic scenery, we saw a pair of kingfishers on river right going from tree to tree, the Thames was quite straight at this point with many different shrubs and trees lining the banks, we all commented on how pretty it was and the water looked almost like a mirror.

Again there was no need to portage Benson Lock as we shared it with a motor boat that had kindly waited for us,  also the lock keeper saying that as of that morning and due to the water levels they was now not allowed to operate the lock more than once every 15mins. At 16.5kms about 10 miles we passed RAF Benson and saw 2 Chinook helicopters in flight and a lovely Pill box that had been painted white with a portrait of Dame Vera Lynn on one side and a spitfire on the other.

Wallingford bridge was our next stop and our get out, 11 miles done and all in good time, arriving at about 4.30pm and exiting via the riverside park with swimmers and plenty of people enjoying the water.

It has been a pleasure organising these Friday paddles and we hope more of you can join us at some stage.

Sections 2-6 done, that’s 50 miles!  Section 7, Wallingford to Pangbourne Friday September 30th.

Write up by Dave Hillier

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