River Thames section 10b and 11. Marlow to Windsor

Thames Sections 10b and 11 Trip Report – Friday 3rd March, 2023

13 miles/21 km downstream, Marlow to Windsor. Lighter days meant we could finish off Section 10 and complete Section 11 (Paddle the Thames, Mark Rainsley),

Paddlers: Dave Hillier (Trip Leader), Pierre Leon, Sue Leon, Phill Gent (with doggie guests Fifi and CoCo

We assembled and unloaded at Marlow slipway in St Peter’s Street in good time for a long day’s paddling. We had become used to short ½ section Friday trips whilst daylight hours were reduced and were now set to do 1½ sections – a long day ahead. The weather was cold and overcast and stayed that way all day but at least there was no rain. 

As usual Dave’s friend Graham came along to help with shuttling the cars to the end-point while Sue stayed with the boats. This would have been an hour-long round trip except that Graham (who doesn’t use SatNav) lost the convoy on the way to the end-point and ended up some miles away; consequently the round trip was extended to a good 1½ hours.

We finally set out towards Marlow Lock which was just a short paddle away. Our usual Friday routine is for Dave to volunteer to open the self-service locks while we paddle through (an opportunity for Dave to have a quick nicotine recharge!). However, on this occasion the lock was closed for maintenance, which involved lots of bags of sand and cement being trundled in on wheelbarrows, and so we had to portage.

We continued our trip for the next 4 miles past the Gibraltar Islands and Bourne End Marina and came to where we were to have our first short break at a slipway beside The Ferry gastropub.

As we were eating our first mini-lunch of the day Phill’s boat decided to go walkabout and was soon out of reach. Dave did some quick thinking and retrieved his throw line which he threw out over the renegade boat and managed to ease it back to shore.

Once back in the boats we continued for another ½ mile before coming to Cookham Lock which had a lock-keeper on duty who kindly opened the gates for us after some smooth talking from our leader.

The journey continued in the same fashion and, although this is supposed to be a beautiful section of the Thames, the weather and lack of greenery made it all rather grey and so some of the longer sections were a bit of a slog. However, signs of Spring were there with some blossom and it shouldn’t be long before things look up.

At 6 miles from the start we came to the northern edge of Maidenhead and another ½ mile further on was Boulter’s weir and lock. Dave did his self-service duty and let us through.

An opportunity for some serious rapids kayakers…

A few miles further along we came to Bray Lock which was another undergoing maintenance and so we portaged. A swan was perched on the steps at the get-in point and seemed to be expecting some food before it would let us pass.  It took some patience and gentle persuasion to move him on and then Dave taught us the raft method of side entry back into the water. (We will have to work up to Conrad’s more dynamic method of launching in sideways!)

We had to keep a lookout on this section for teams of rowers from the various clubs that were getting into training for the coming season. Synchronised kayaking anyone?

About a mile from the end of our journey we came to Boveney Lock. We decided to portage this and use the rollers provided for the purpose. Phil’s longer boat had no issues here but for the other shorter boats the rollers were too far apart to make it straight-forward and we had to help things along.

The roof of Windsor Leisure Centre, where our cars were parked, was a welcome sight in the distance but we still had a deceptively long distance to go as the river wound back and forth. We finally got to the end just as daylight was starting to wane. A long and tiring but successful day and we are now on track for Section 12 on the 31st March.

Write up by Sue Leon.

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