River Thames: Tadpole Bridge to Bablock Hythe (write up by Sue Leon)
Thames Section 3 – 9.6 miles/15.5km downstream, Tadpole Bridge to Bablock Hythe. The remotest part of the entire Thames.
Paddlers: Dave Hillier (Organiser), Chris Harper, John Murray, Pierre Leon, Phil Gent (with doggie guests FiFi and Coco) and Sue Leon.
Dave had issued a detailed briefing on which the information in this report is based.
We gathered at the Trout Inn (SN7 8RF) which was where we had finished Section 2 last month. Equipment was unloaded and the drivers took the cars to the end point The Ferryman Inn (OX29 5AT). Dave’s good friend Graham (as usual) kindly took the drivers back to the start point. Logistics sorted!
The Trout Inn opened at around 9am and they serve breakfast. Apart from coffee, we didn’t partake but we were able to make use of the toilets.
We had an easy get-in to the water from some steps around 10am. The weather was already starting to get warm but there was a bit of a cooler breeze. We headed off downstream away from the Bridge which dates back to 1789 but looks like it has been recently renovated with its yellow sandstone.
The whole trip was very scenic and gently meandering. We soon came across Swans, Ducks and Geese with their recently hatched offspring and it was delightful to watch them from a distance. This was a feature at many points along the Thames. At one time there appeared to be a creche with one adult Goose standing guard while the other mothers were having a paddle. We were also lucky enough to see a kingfisher flitting along and it felt such a special time to be out on the water in such glorious weather.
After 3km of paddling we came to Tenfoot Bridge, a footbridge on the bend of the river. 2kms further along brought us to The Shifford lock cut. This was originally dug in 1896-7 and although man-made it is a gorgeous tunnel of greenery passing below another footbridge before the river splits again. The river to the right falls over another weir and so we kept left. The lock keeper was already helping to let a small motorboat pass and we had arrived at a wonderfully opportunistic time.
After a further 3 km of paddling the River Windrush joined us from the left just before a bridge and it was at this point we stopped for lunch at the Mayush Inn, Newbridge. Again we had a very easy get-out as the pub had provided a platform and gate into the large pub garden where there was plenty of room to pull up our boats while we sat at a nearby picnic table to eat. It was also an opportunity for Dave and Pierre to continue discussion about their pill-box counting competition and, although the photo may appear to indicate that this led to arguments and us all falling out, we really are still good pals and very contented and happy!
The bridge at Newbridge has 6 arches and dates from around 1250. Its name only makes sense in relation to its older neighbour Radcot bridge. The bridge was used to guard the approach to royalist Oxford and in 1644 was certainly involved in a civil war skirmish.
Another 2 kms brought us to Harts footbridge. So far, we had been traveling East but now the river tended more northward in a loop around the Cumnor Hills.
Our second and final lock was Northmoor Lock, dating back to 1896. On this occasion the self-service sign was out and were expecting a portage but, thankfully, a dog-walker took pity on us and operated the lock. A few kms further downstream we reached Bablock Hythe, where we had another easy exit. The Ferryman Inn provided a much-needed rest and beer (or coke/coffee) before we set off for home.
A fantastic day which was thoroughly enjoyed by everyone. These Thames stretches have all been superb – many thanks to Dave for brilliantly organising them. We can’t wait for Section 4!