River Cherwell

“The Fellowship of the Spring” or Nomad Kayak Club’s River Cherwell 2023 Trip Report.

On a fine Easter Sunday morning an intrepid band of a dozen adventurers assembled on the bank of the Thames near the Riverside centre in Oxford (OX4 4BJ). As had long been foretold the sun would shine, no rain would fall and temperatures would reach a balmy high of 15 degrees, making for very pleasant paddle conditions.

After our merry band had assembled the necessary craft, equipment and provisions, our leader Dave H the Dauntless briefed us for the journey ahead. River levels were high however the anticipated dangers were only a few passages of fast-moving water and the possibly variable ability of passing amateur punt pilots.

Paddling upstream on the Thames we passed “The Kidneys” (a couple of islands on our right) and Maryam, David and Rach took the faster flow in their stride with some strong paddling. At Magdalene college’s brick boathouse after a brief pause, we entered the mouth of the Cherwell.

Its tree-lined channel had some spectacular scenery with Christchurch college in the distance and other Harry Potteresque buildings alongside wider meadows and playing fields.

Thanks to Pierre for providing the route map, which after a brief unplanned reconnaissance we decided to follow. But this did give the chance to recommend the club to an enquiring student looking on from their apartment window.

Business at the punt hire place was picking up as we reached it. The nearby bridge had swapped its troll for a tourist trying out rowing for the first time; with whom the hirer was trying to exchange tips and tricks with limited success. We weaved our way through.

There was some lovely scenery on our travels with this floral river bank being one of the highlights.

The warmer Spring weather was bringing students, tourists and other strollers out and it was a pleasant passage as we raised smiles and even the odd wave here and there from those on the banks or bridges. Philip’s kayak getting the lion’s share of admiration for two obvious reasons.

Further up river, we wended our way by the first two, of three weirs, with some faster moving water which with a bit of care caused no trouble. More than could be said for the path to the 3rd weir, which was barred by a tree, seeming to say – “You shall not pass!”, so a portage was called for. We combined this with the planned portage to the third weir and with a heron watching on decided on this as our lunch spot.

With bellies fuller and a quieter contemplation of life’s greater mysteries (when is a sausage sandwich, not a sandwich?), we embarked on a little further exploration of the Cherwell before turning round for our return journey.

Thanks to Maryam for the group photo…

Ever alert for avenues of adventure, Dave took the opportunity for two “side quests” on the way back. Firstly, a smooth descent of the third weir.

Followed by exploration of the bottom of the river, presumably in a search for sunken treasure, and then a detailed look at the muddy river bank, which apparently resembles the North face of the Eiger.

Paddling with the river flow on the way back meant a return journey in around a third of the time.

Thanks to Dave for organising and to everyone for taking part in a most enjoyable trip. See you on the water soon!

Write up by Graham Summers.

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