River Evenlode - Coombe to Long Hanborough

The weather was fine when Laurien, Mary, Raymond and I met at the Scout Hut. We loaded up the (small) Minuet, the Weekender and the smaller Ranger open canoe - we knew there would be some possible climbing, hauling, pushing so we wanted the lightest possible open craft.

We processed to just beyond Bladon, to meet Mike and his daughter, Sophie, at the get out (carefully chosen by Raymond) where we left Mike's car for the shuttle at the end and Mike and Sophie went with Raymond. We found the very suitable put in, again chosen by Raymond, on a green road off the Long Hanborough -Coombe road, near the station.

The plan was to go upstream for as far as possible before the Windrush became very winding and slow-moving, tending to trap debris. It was fairly easy going, getting out to push occasionally, round some shallows or after the odd hack through the undergrowth - Raymond was strategically poised in the bows, bristling with saw, loppers, pruners. He made short work of any obstacle and was swift to leap into the shallows to haul our boat along and help the others where necessary.

Sophie and Mike did very well in the Weekender - Sophie, though only quite young was very game and leapt in and out, hauling on branches, where necessary, certainly not just a passenger. It soon became apparent, however, that she and her dad needed a more resilient pusher, other than their rather good white water paddles, so Mary and Laurien lent them a spare open canoe paddle from their boat.

I suppose the biggest challenge at this stage was prising the boat up a drop near Coombe Mill - where a diesel engine was in full throttle - there seemed to be an open day on. However, we had a run at it and with feverish paddling and prising, we all eventually managed it. Time then for a coffee and biscuit.

Going down again was easy. There was a bit of a technical challenge further down when the river ran fast and shallow - negotiating a dog-leg. It wasn't too dangerous, as it was so shallow, but perilous when the river levels came up.

Mike's solution was to catch hold of the tree trunk at the dog leg and pivot the boat around it - very cunning, and at these river levels, very effective. Laurien took over from Mary at the stern and found it a really good workout in steering.

Later on, we stopped for a picnic just outside Blenheim estate walls on a really attractive grassy field, where Sophie entertained us with some gymnastics. We carried on down past the big lake at Blenheim and went up to the waterfall at the lake dam - where the River Glyme, from which the lake is formed, exited.

There was after this a rather interesting cairn in the river and a big tree trunk which we climbed over and hauled the boats. The get out was just above a bridge and drop with rapids on the downstream side just before Long Hanborough. Portage trolleys were very useful there.

We left Laurien to mop the boats out while we went to pick up the cars from Coombe! A good paddle and many thanks to Raymond for looking after us so well!

- Penny