Thames Section 9a Trip Report – Friday 25th November 2022
6.2 miles/10 km downstream, Reading to Wargrave with a side paddle along St. Patrick’s stream. Because of the reduced daylight it was decided to split the Section 9 trip Reading to Aston (Paddle the Thames, Mark Rainsley) into two trips with a break at Wargrave. We also took the option to paddle St. Patrick’s Stream.
Paddlers: Dave Hillier (Trip Leader), Pierre Leon (Route Planner), Chris Harper (Consultant), John Murray, Phill Gent (with doggie guests FiFi and Coco), Nigel Atkinson, Dean Edwards, Conrad, Sue Leon (Report Writer)
We gathered and unloaded on the road outside the Wokingham Waterside Centre (RG6 1PQ) which had been the get-out point of our Section 8 trip. Although there are restrictions for parking here before 10 am we were just unloading, and this obviated the need to organise an unlocking of the Waterside centre gates and a £5 fee per car with the staff. Drivers took the cars to the end point The St George and the Dragon pub (with prior agreement) at Wargrave (RG10 8HY) with Dave’s trusty friend Graham bringing the drivers back to the start point.
The weather was lovely and sunny although there was a chill in the air which was a reminder of the need for some warmer clothing. Dave did a pre-trip briefing and a warm-up exercise of passing the parcel without the fun of chairs and music. It was an easy get-in point at the Waterside Centre and there were a couple of hardy cold-water swimmers just about to enter the water at the same time.
As a result of the recent heavy rain, the current was faster than on previous trips and this made our paddle easier. The first part of the trip – Dreadnought Reach – was wide and straight. Despite newly qualified Paddlesport Instructor Dave’s pre-trip instruction to stick together, the group split and passed either side of an island. As mostly more senior members of the club we reserve the right to fall back on our excuse of increasing decrepitude and forgetfulness and respectfully advise Dave to get in some practice with a herd of cats before our next trip.
We soon came upon Sonning Lock which had a red-board noticeand before opening it the lock-keeper advised us that the weir was running fast and we should expect a strong current on the other side. Dave warned us to stay on the right-hand side away from the weir and we easily negotiated any danger with a bit of extra paddling.
We next came to Sonning Bridge which has eleven red-brick arches, dating from 1775.
Dave thought the bridge would be a great backdrop for our group shot although by the time all the cats were herded the current had taken us into the sub-optimal dark of one of the arches.
Thanks to the recent inclement weather we were lucky to still have plenty of signs of autumn remaining on the trees.
By this time Dave, having had his energy supplies somewhat depleted by a set of unruly pensioners (and others in training),decided he needed a coffee break and a vape (having resolved to give up smoking the real thing). Pierre ‘helpfully’ mentioned a little side channel up beside the island where George Clooney has his mansion which he had previously navigated. However,the strength of the current was such that we had to work very hard to make it to a suitably sheltered spot where we held on for our break. What’s more, George Clooney was nowhere to be seen!
We were given a good send off by the current back into the main Thames flow.
A little further along Dave confirmed that we were all happy to take the optional route of St Patrick’s Stream for a diversion around Shiplake Lock. This was fast flowing and relatively new paddler Dean in his longer sea kayak borrowed from Phill successfully negotiated the winding course with only one crash into the bank. We had a lunch break about half-way down St. Patrick’s Stream. The stream proved to be an interesting diversion from the main river.
Those lesser mortals among us who did the last St. Patrick’s Stream trip in December when the water levels were lower, the channels narrower and weir more evident found it a pleasingly less exhilarating experience!
The remaining part of the trip passed pleasantly and uneventfully until we came to the welcoming get out point at the St. George and the Dragon pub. The strength of the current meant that we had to hold on tight to the kayak-friendlyplatform and our kayaks when getting out with help from othersas required. After stowing our boats, and purely out of courtesy to the pub landlord, we had our debrief over a pint etc. and crisps.
Another brilliant and successful day! Dave is obviously keeping on the right side of the weather gods as he always seems to come up trumps with the goods! We look forward to Section 9b in December.