River Thames Kayak Camping Trip

22-23rd April 2023


Dave H, (Organiser, Leader, Weather Expert and Report writer).

Graham  S, (Leader and Bat Expert).

Conrad C. (Historian and Harmonica Expert).

Jai A. (Comedian, Bug out/in and anti moan Expert).

Hannah S. (Nutrition, Breakfast, Snacks, Brunch, Snacks, Lunch, Dinner, More Snacks, Evening meal, Supper and more Snacks Expert).

On 22nd April 2023 five Nomads with fully loaded kayaks set out on journey down the River Thames that involved an overnight camp. About 10 miles in total as the crow flies split into 2 x 5 mile sections. We wanted to pay respects at Sandford Lasher and explore Sutton Pools along the way.

We initially met up at the McDonalds for a chat, breakfast and coffee.

After the usual safety briefing, warm up and discussions we were ready to get on the water.

Loaded with kit and supplies we noticed how heavy the kayaks were straight away with grunts and groans and everyone calling Dave ‘Jesus’. But with good teamwork and preparing to sing “yellow submarine” when Graham entered the water, soon enough we were all afloat and moving downstream quite comfortably.

The Thames had dropped to a “flow decreasing yellow warning” meaning it had a good flow and paddling was easy, although noticing we were all stern heavy.

A few hundred metres and we came to Iffley Lock, with its punt rollers that obviously have not been used for sometime our first portage was a smelly one, with rusted rollers and a lot of debris that had gathered at the other side.

After a few more comments referring to myself (Dave) as Jesus we were all back on the water and heading in the direction of Sandford Lock.

We paddled along noticing how the trees were all budding up and how the banks were now showing signs of spring, at last.

At Sandford Lock, Dave was quick out of his kayak and operating the lock like a true professional, to save everyone from the hard work of portaging.

With his kayak left in the water and being towed in the safe hands of Conrad, light and speedy progress was made.

River right as we left the lock was the Sandford Lasher, a weir that has taken many lives in the past, mostly people swimming above the weir not realising the dangerous currents and being swept over, we wanted to pay some respects here as there is an obelisk dedicated to the many.   The Lasher also now has  3 hydro electric turbines generating power.

An hour further downstream we reached our campsite. Dave and Jai expertly helped everyone off the water to assess the campground,

As the bank was a little slippery, Dave and Jai working as a team made sure everyone exited the water in the safest way. Keeping it simple Jai braced Dave using his Tape and we were all slipped up the muddy bank backwards in no time at all.

Once we were all on the bank we assessed to campground and due to a nesting Goose not too far away we decided to look for somewhere else as not to disturb her.

Again Dave and Jai set off looking for another suitable spot as Graham stayed with Hannah and Conrad.

After a short while on the water they found somewhere that had much more room, no nesting birds and a few trees for Grahams Hammock, an ideal spot.

Dave stayed and Jai returned to direct Graham to the location.

An easy get out with lots of room the whole group found areas for the sleeping arrangements, 3 small tents, a bivvy bag and a hammock.  All placed in a semi circle around an area we could light a small campfire.

As the sleeping and shelter arrangements went up, everyone commented on how the weather has always been remarkably good on Dave’s trips. This was followed by Conrad reminding everyone that the last one he was on was horrendous weather, and Dave replying with it was just a shower that lasted all day (and got worse!)

Meanwhile Jai the bug out/in king had his digs all set, went about our fire pit and soon we had something to cosy up to whilst watching Hannah go into Chef mode and make a curry, whilst we all sat around cooking our various dishes. Dave just sat and ate his Sausage sandwiches he had made before he left home to save cooking on the first night.

Once we were all fed and nourished, the sun was going down and the temperature started to drop a bit, the fire was in good form and the light was fading, it was getting dark.

Comforted by the fire, Graham had to re arrange his hammock as he had noticed something on the top of a dry bag that was not there before, maybe Bats in the trees above?  Who knows?

This led to Conrad surprising us all with his harmonica skills. And as music was playing Graham went all party mode and decided to confuse any wildlife by looking like a Christmas tree that had fallen over.

As the evening went on, we all grew a bit tired and the temperature was dropping, Jai had mentioned a meteor shower eta 1am, but as the skies looked cloudy  we presumed we wouldn’t be able to see any anyway, so we all decided to turn in for the night.

Then it started, 11.30pm, bang bang bang bang bang,  every 2 mins.  All night, with a 30 second gap.

Further conversations suggest this may have been MQ’s ground works, just to disturb us. But it looked more like Network Rail shoring up the banks of the Abingdon viaduct.

Dave was up at 5 am, as he had discovered his gas bottle didn’t fit his cooker, so had to wait for the rest of the group to arise. 

6.30am Hannah appeared, followed by Jai and Graham wondering why the noise had stopped.

Breakfast beans and sausages all round, in the various cookers. (Hannah thinking about lunch)

Back on the water we headed downstream to our first portage, Abingdon lock.

Past the burnt out boat in the middle of the channel, the entrance to Swift Ditch on the left we arrived, Dave again out of his boat and disposing of the refuse from the campsite in the skips provided operated the lock and saw the group through safely.

Exploring the river below Abingdon, we discovered another arch to the bridge,  this one went around a bend and we couldn’t see the clear exit, so as Dave scouted around followed by Jai and Hannah, Conrad and Graham decided to take the Bat cave  (Previously named by Dave in the section 5 write up) a safer route as the exit was visible, apart from having to move a few small moored boats out of the way.

Onwards downstream we saw some native geese with goslings,

The junction off the Thames to the jubilee river and the Culham cutting, like a cross roads, but with Sutton Pools straight ahead.

As our get out was Culham lock, we decided to use the cut as we didn’t want to be upside of the weir.

We didn’t paddle for ages, we just drifted, relaxed, chatted and enjoyed the moment,  The sun was shining, (as it does on “almost” all of Dave’s trips)  so we took in the vitamin D, refreshed, and headed towards the lock, Our get out point.

Sutton Pools were just after the lock on river right, and as usual Dave was out of his boat and talking to the lock keeper before you could know it, all set, we, even Dave this time were going through the lock, with the lock keeper operating it for us.

50 metres below the lock on river right was the entrance to Sutton pools from below the weir. But on exiting the lock and on riverbank right was a strange sight, a Mangle and many other strange objects dug deep in banks of the Thames,

We attempted the upstream paddle to Sutton pools, and made good progress. The flow was very strong against us, and as a group we decided to make an eddy, discuss, and after the discussion we decided to turn back, and ride the current.

Back at the lock we disembarked.

All in all, a great trip.

And the weather was exceptionally good, as always.

Write up By Dave Hillier.

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