The Duke's Cut

After two weeks of snow and ice we met at the boat shed in bright sunshine. There were nine of us this week; Penny, Philip, Simon, Becks, Gwyl, Rich, Kate, Owen and myself. There was some doubt about which route to take because the flow on the river was so fast, however, after a short while we realised that the party consisted mainly of coaches and experienced white water paddlers and we decided that we would inspect the river once we reached it before making a decision about paddling it.

We loaded the boats and set off for Upper Wolvercote so that we could miss out the first section of the paddle, upstream from the boat hut until we got to the Oxford Canal. From The Plough Inn at Wolvercote it was a simple trip north until we came to the turning into the Duke's Cut. We made our way down the Cut and after the first lock we came upon a sheet of ice. Immediately we had flash backs from last week's trip where the ice was so thick we had to change our route, but luckily this ice was very thin and we smashed our way through to the other side.

After a short while we made the turning towards the Thames and suddenly the flow changed as we passed our first weir, which was open and sucking water through. We all hugged the opposite bank, where the current was weakest, and then ferry glided across to the opening for King's Lock.

At the lock we met the lock keeper who advised us of the dangers of paddling in the increasing current and gave us a warning card detailing the different stages of the current and the dangers. She strongly advised us not to paddle. Given that we were all experienced enough to paddle in the flow, and that it was not yet too strong, we thanked her and decided to carry on with our trip. However, due to the number of strainers we did realise that other paddlers may have found it difficult and possibly dangerous.

To ensure that we all stayed safe, we kept a good distance apart and Simon and I headed the group to check that the route with the other boats following our path. We set off into the current which whisked us along at a good speed and headed south towards Lower Wolvercote and The Trout. We passed another weir , which fed the stream next to The Trout. Both gates were open and again we hugged the right bank and paddled hard to ensure we weren't sucked down it. After this we went under a bridge, being careful not to hit the stanchion, past the remains of Godstow Abbey and past a second weir next to Godstow Lock.

After the lock we hit Port Meadow which was flooded and looked like a lake rather than a river. We popped to The Perch for a break and some lunch, then limboed our way under a bridge towards the junction with the Oxford Canal. After a hefty portage, we were back on the canal and the final leg was a serene glide back to The Plough and our cars. Another good outing mixing both the canal and river for some adventure.

- Jen

Photos by Jen.