Mixed Craft Paddle of the Thames, St Patricks Stream, the Loddon and Hennerton Backwater.
Paddlers: Dave Hillier, Ana Tumbler, Jai, Anna, Vicky, Cathy, Julian, Claire, Sue, and Dee.
2 x Kayakers and 8 x Paddleboarders.
This trip was a joint event between Nomad Kayak Club and Stand Up Paddle Boarding with Ana.
On Sunday the 5th February 2023 we made our way to the George and Dragon pub in Wargrave that had kindly let us use the car park for this figure of eight trip. Jai and myself arrived early to find Julian warming up in stages manually pumping up his paddleboard.
Looking out at the water the Thames had a flow on it but nothing like it was a few weeks earlier. The sun was making an appearance and the sky was clear. The wind was minimal with only a slight breeze, there was quite a temperature difference between the sun and the shade so as everyone arrived kitted up and prepped for the trip we made our way to the water’s edge where we were bathed in sunlight for the usual trip and safety briefing.Once on the water we ferry glided across the flow to the other back where we grouped up and double checked on everyone’s welfare.
We continued upstream towards Shiplake lock that was our only portage of the trip. There was a strong stream current against us that kept everyone warm, with some of the group realising they had over dressed and decided to remove some layers as soon as they could.
Whilst portaging the lock the friendly lock keeper appeared and pointed the way to the toilet for some whilst nattering and showing Dave how he adjusted the flow by closing the weir gates.Back on the water we continued upstream to the entrance of St Pats where Dave called the group together for an additional safety brief due to the change of environment between the Thames and St Pats.
A few weeks ago St Pats was in flood with a really heavy and fast flow, Ana and Dave had assessed the exit of the river Loddon that we had passed on our way upstream, St Pats flows into the Loddon before returning to the Thames so it was a good indicator of the current flow.
Everyone was happy to continue so on with our journey we went, entering the stream we found that our assessment was spot on, with a normal flow that although gentle was quite speedy and after the gruelling up stream leg everyone seemed to be enjoying just steering whilst navigating the windy stream.
As we merged onto the Loddon we discussed the different types of houses whilst looking for somewhere to have a lunch stop. Dave seemed to have found somewhere but on further examination it was decided that it was too muddy so onwards we went.
A bit further on we came across a house that was being renovated and had the appearance of a building site, although it had a lovely decked area where we decided to stop, eat, drink and share brownies.
After lunch we continued under the famous St Pats Wooden bridge and back to the Thames exiting the river Loddon.
Heading now down steam we passed our launch point where Dave and Ana had a time check and discussed the next leg of the trip, The Hennerton Backwater. Due to the flow of the Thames we dynamically risk assessed the situation and decided to reverse our route as the flow on the backwater was a lot less than the Thames.
As we continued we passed Henley rowing club on our right and made our way downstream, the water here seemed really strange as we actually had waves but no reason for them that we could see.
Another strange sighting, what was first called an upside down rainbow that was seen by some but not others even after posturing in weird positions looking for it, It was later identified by Vicky to be a Circumzenithal arc on the only cloud in the sky. Yes we had to Google it
Looking at the map we found that our entrance to the backwater was just passed the third eyot (Island) on the right not too far away, so time wise we were doing really well.
On entering the backwater we found hardly any flow so paddling up steam was really easy.
The backwater is very picturesque with beautiful houses and many ornate bridges.
One of these required a laying down or ducking manoeuvre to pass under and as one of our group has a slightly weaker arm and may have found it challenging, Dave Passed under and took up a safe position and brought out his throw line, floating this under the bridge it was connected to the paddleboard and Dave pulled both board and person through easily.
Exiting the backwater and one hundred meters back up the Thames we arrived at our start point.After changing, cleaning and drying our kit, we de briefed in the pub with a very nice drink.
What an amazing day with a great bunch of people.
Write up by Dave Hillier.