On a wonderfully warm and sunny day, we started out from The Red Lion in Castle Eaton. Get-in was from the pub garden, not forgetting to pay a £5 launch fee for each boat. The river was running with a gentle current and well below the flood level we experienced in the winter where the fields on the other side of the bank had become shallow lakes.
This section of the Thames was entertainingly twisty with thick reed growth lining the river and relatively steep banks river right. Paddling with concentration was required to avoid getting tangled in the tree branches overhanging the water. A high-water paddle would make the first third of this section tricky but, as it was, the winding nature of the river made for an interesting paddle as we navigated through the reeds and rushes.
Bright blue damselflies were everywhere in great profusion, darting backwards and forwards across the river and amongst the thick growth on the banks. No herons or kingfishers were spotted even though we could see plenty of fish in the sandy shallows. But there were families of swans with their cygnets bobbing around in the water. We did wander into a couple of large gaggles of Canada geese and their goslings in the latter half of the trip. Unlike the swans, the geese were very happy to socialise in large groups sharing parental responsibilities amongst themselves and sailing down the river in, classically naval, “line astern” formation.
The whole trip was about six and a half miles long and after the first third, the intense twisting and winding of the river mellowed into gentler curves, and shallower banks. With more sunlight able to reach the water, the first buds of yellow waterlilies had started to come to the surface promising a colourful note against the total greenery of the riverbank.
We stopped for lunch just behind Hannington Bridge. That was an epic get-out with Dave lassoed to a fence post helping us out of our kayaks and we, in turn, hauling the kayaks up-bank, with a tape, onto a field; carefully “limbo-ing” under an electric fence. Getting back onto the river proved to be equally adventurous with a 40 degree “seal lowering” and Dave finally being winched down the slope and into the water with Chris as the winchman.
From this point on, the river widened and we started to see more activity on the water with kayakers and paddle boarders heading upstream and a few barges and boats moored up on the left bank. Our get-out was on the river right at the end of a path to the Riverside Car Park at Lechlade. It did mean that we had to negotiate with the ducks right at the point of exit but they seemed to tolerate us and carried on feeding around our unglamourous scramble out of the kayaks.
A wonderful day in the sun on a stretch of the Thames largely uninhabited and untrammelled by development and people.
Dave Hillier – Chief Scout
Chris Harper – Winchman
Write Up and Video by Sue / Pierre Leon