Private Paddle Report – River Thames: Lechlade to Tadpole Bridge

River Thames: Lechlade to Tadpole Bridge (write up by Pierre Leon)

The project is to paddle the length of the River Thames in sections.

This paddle, on Friday 29th April, was a section starting in Lechlade-On-Thames in Gloucestershire and ending at Tadpole Bridge in Oxfordshire. A distance of just over 10 miles on the river and nearly 8 miles as the crow flies.

On the route there are five locks, four of which we passed through thanks to the volunteer lock keepers and one we bypassed via a lively canoe pass. So no portages – hooray!

Our get-in point was from Lechlade Riverside Car Park.  After carrying the kayaks about 100m from the car park, the entry point is an easy step-in from the north river bank.

The Team L-R Sue, Pierre, Philip, Chris and Dave
Turn right from the get-in point

Heading downstream, the river meanders and curls with switchbacks and even the straightest of sections is not that long, so you don’t quite know what you’ll see around each bend.  Reeds and tall grasses grow around each bend with big swan’s nests amongst many of them.  And so of course there were swans on the river as well as the usual suspects, ducks and Canada geese.  RAF Brize Norton provided the biggest and loudest of the flying birds, crossing over at low level as the airbase is just 7 miles away.

The Route
No Portages – Hooray!

Along the route there are many World War II pillboxes.  At least 11 or maybe 12 or even 13 depending on whose eyesight is best.  They are all on the north bank of the Thames, on the basis that the river offered a natural defensive “moat” in case of invasion via the south coast.

One of many pillboxes along the way

The following gives a guide to the distances between points on the route:

Get-in to St John’s Lock0.9 miles
St John’s Lock to Buscot Lock1.1 miles
Buscot Lock to Grafton Lock3.2 miles
Grafton Lock to Radcot Lock2.1 miles
Radcot Lock to Rushey Lock2.2 miles
Rushey Lock to Tadpole Bridge0.8 miles

At the get-in, we met a woman who was hiking along the Thames Path.  She took the photo of the team and we met her a number of times along the route and finally at Rushey Lock.  She easily kept pace with us (although she did say she could cut off the meandering bits)!

Lunch was had at Ye Olde Swan where there’s a convenient but compact dock to clamber onto and tie up the kayaks.  They had a barbecue going with loads of tables and chairs in a lovely garden overlooking the river to the glamping site on the island opposite.

The next lock down is Radcot but the get out here is pretty high and would need an athletic climb to get out if you had to portage.  Fortunately there’s a canoe pass that bypasses the lock.  It is signed up for intermediate users, but the flow in the pass was not rapid and provided an entertaining slalom water course that rapidly dumps you out on the other side of the weir.  Good fun and Philip’s dogs enjoyed the ride as much as the rest of us.  (Note: the pass may be closed from time to time).

Entry to the Radcot Canoe Pass
Exit back to the river

Get-out was at Tadpole Bridge with The Trout pub next to it.  The get-out is at the edge of the pub garden with a bit of a steep slope.  We hauled the boats up and trundled them into the car park, where we’d ferried our cars.  Chris had to dash off for dinner, but the rest of us relaxed in the afternoon sunshine with drinks in the garden.

Get out at Tadpole Bridge
The Trout at Tadpole Bridge

It was a lovely day out planned and organized by Dave Hillier.  Thanks Dave.

So what will the next section be?

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