On Sunday 11th December, 8 slightly insane Nomads arrived at the St George and Dragon Pub in Wargrave on a frosty & foggy morning, with Pierre having negotiated the use of their car park and launch area. The air temperature was around -2°C and the water temperature approx. 0.000001°C above freezing. Participants were Dave Hillier, Chris Harper, Nigel Atkinson, Graham Summers, Sue & Pierre Leon, Hannah Smith (aka Santa) and Nathan Ashford.
After everyone kitting up in as many layers as possible Dave provided the safety briefing and Graham a brisk warm-up on the bank. We then keenly got on the water to start our journey, heading upstream along the Thames in the direction of Reading. Santa had a few “glove issues” but after a few rounds of glove swapping she was finally warm enough to continue. Dave however decided that no gloves were required and bravely paddled along with naked hands.
The current was fairly gentle and the scenery like a winter postcard as we headed up to our one and only portage of the day at Shiplake Lock. Here we discovered that our get on point the other side of the lock was covered in layer of thin ice! This meant we enjoyed a “cracking” 5 minutes smashing up as much of the ice as we could with our boats and paddles. This was certainly a new and fun experience for many of the group.
Pierre and Dave were then suddenly befriended by a robin. First landing on Pierre’s video camera before deciding the front of Dave’s boat was a better landing platform.
Robin-less we continued our journey upstream towards St Patricks. We collectively decided that it probably wasn’t the best day for a picnic lunch so instead opted for a floating lunch near the entrance to St Pats. Hot drinks, soups and sandwiches were consumed, although some needed assistance accessing their food from the back of their boats.
Suitably fed and watered we started our journey back down stream via the picturesque St Patrick’s Stream. We all felt an immediate drop in the air temperate as we entered the stream, so much so that Dave actually put his gloves on! Everyone expertly steered themselves along the stream avoiding the low hanging trees and other obstacles along the way, all whist surveying the “out of our price range” properties along the riverbanks. A rafted-up photo was attempted although with limited success due to the current.
As we reached the end of the stream and re-joined the Thames, the ending point back at the pub was not far away. The thought of the warmth of the pub and a refreshing drink meant an increase in speed for the final metres. We arrived back at the pub around 3 hours after our departure, which we generally agreed was a long enough journey based on the weather conditions.
As with all of Dave’s trips we then worked together getting everyone safely off the water and boats cleaned, loaded etc. Once complete we retired to the pub for a well-deserved beer, mulled wine or alternative refreshing beverage, where we found a cosy warm corner to debrief and warm up.
The consensus of the group was that it was a fantastic trip, with the weather bringing different experiences from the usual warm weather trips as well as beautiful and unique scenery. Oh, and we also agreed that it was bloody freezing!!
A great day out with great people.
Write up by Nathan Ashford