On Sunday 12th of December 9 Nomads, 3 of them on their first trip with the club travelled to Wargrave to paddle the Thames and St Patrick’s stream led by Matt. We were to have been 10 but unfortunately Pierre’s COVID booster had knocked him out for paddling, so he helped launch and took photos and videos. Unlike previous weekends the weather could have been generously described as bordering on warm and though cloudy no rain was forecast, so the paddle could be looked forward to. There had been some rain and the Thames had a good flow without being in flood, so a good bit of exercise was to be had on the upstream leg.
Matt gave a quick safety briefing then, according to our confidence, we either seal launched from the grassy edge or climbed in down the highish bank, which all passed without incident this time. Dave shows how its done and best not try this on a sit-on-top!
Once we were all on we started upstream and out onto the Thames toward Shiplake lock, the hardest leg of the trip physically. Boats were very few given the season so we had the river mostly to ourselves. We paused for breather just after the railway bridge to let Joe recover before crossing and paddling up the weir channel to the floating pontoon to portage Shiplake lock. Once back on the Thames above the lock the current was slacker and we could experiment with the whole river width passing Shiplake College and the island to find the easiest route.
Turning the corner past the school we crossed over to take the loop on river right and chatted with a solo kayaker in a brand new touring boat also enjoying the day. We were making good time so decided to push on past the usual lunch stop in the field on the left to make St Patrick’s stream and stop there.
Just one more stretch against the river past more new houses on stilts on the left brought us to the mouth of St Patrick’s stream where Matt gave another brief about tree hazards and maintaining spacing before we started down the stream. Not far down we paused briefly for Rafael to surf the tiny play wave, which was working nicely with the higher water. Reeds and fishermen were few and trees the only obstacle for our newer paddlers as we proceeded down to our lunch stop.
We had a nice lunch and the usual natter, but didn’t linger too long as a wind started to get up and lowered the temperature considerably. Once back on the trees soon multiplied and with the quick current good, positive steering was needed to avoid them. Unfortunately for Alex this didn’t quite work and a tree had him in the water just above the small bridge and weir coming from the Thames. Matt, Rafael and Dave acted quickly to rescue Alex’s boat, himself and his paddle respectively and quite soon he was on the bank and his boat emptied for him to get back in. Suitably chastened our newer paddlers proceeded with more caution now, but we’d already passed most of the trees 🙂 Well done everyone for the rescue.
The stream widened out now for the straighter return leg as we coasted and commented on the architectural stilt and glass monoculture lining the banks. Though Rafael wasn’t impressed he declared he wouldn’t turn one down if it were given to him. Soon we passed under the footbridge and back out onto the Thames below Shiplake lock. With the strong current on the upstream leg it had felt like a good paddle, so we were welcome of this current in our favour as we gently paddled back to Wargrave.
Pierre was waiting to record our return. Thanks to everyone for coming, to Dave for boat transport and Pierre and Chris for photography and well done to those on their first club trip. You certainly got some exercise!
Matt, trip leader