Oxford to London: Part 1 - Oxford to Abingdon

Having been looking forward to this trip for a few weeks the weather forecast for the weekend was duly unwelcome, however, there was a reassuring email from Jen at the last hour that said that the show must go on. The weather forecast may have put a few people off from braving the elements (and rising from their pits), but a hardy core of Isis Canoe Club members decided that nothing would stand in their way, and we were rewarded with the weather forecasters again getting it wrong! Importantly the river flags were also in our favour.

The crew for the day consisted of Kate, Owen, Simon, Naomi, Niamh, Jen, Penny, Helen K, Gwyl, Lewis, Val, Mike, Malcolm, Helen and Glynn.

The crews prepared a mixture of open canoes and sea kayaks Kate, Penny and Simon prepared the trailer at the other end, at Abingdon, ready for the journey home. As true to form the local Isis cat came on the scene presumably to be fed, but yet to have its first voyage – maybe next time. Everybody came prepared for the elements and the boats were loaded with barrels and dry bags just in case, but mostly they would not be needed on this trip.

As we set off we made it through to Iffley Lock in record time thanks to the rapid flow of the river. A quick portage meant we would continuing our onwards journey towards Sandford in good time. At about this time there seemed to be no sign of the rain or sleet we had been promised the night before and so we needed to cool our selves down fairly soon. The runners on the tow path were out in force and showed us their skills in striding over puddles that were in their way.

Thanks to Gwylim and this trip I am now much wiser about strainers and eddies and we went as close as possible to every part of the river that would ease our journey with minimal effort, and we got as close as we dared to the higher currents given the weather conditions.

At Sandford Lock we elected again to portage around due to the time taken to fill the lock. Later on we would learn that we would have easily had more time to spend at Sandford, although we would get to go through a lock later in our journey.

Carrying on towards Nuneham Bridge we could see the impressive Nuneham House in the distance. Google maps estimates our journey to be around 7.5 to 8 miles, and we arrived through Abbey Meadows sooner that expected after a 2-3 hour journey. This was our chance to go through the lock and get as close as we dare to the adjoining weir.

Along the rest of the route it was a case of avoiding the various rowers (8s) and their trainer vessels, who I found pretty much like to control the water at our expense. There was lots of banter on route which helped to make the whole journey an enjoyable experience.

With the end in sight everybody was ready to load the boats back onto the trailer after a short portage back to the car park. Everybody mucked in tying boats onto the trailer and these proved to be successful later on when Penny turned up back at Isis CC with a full load.

The time we made up on the river journey meant more time at the pub, and the food at the Nags Head was really good, really well priced, and comes recommended. For some reason Jen didn’t get to finish her chips (something to do with sitting next to Simon and Gwylim) and also the leftovers were somewhat over keenly removed back to the kitchen.

This was my first journey where we wouldn’t arrive back outside the scout hut on the river. Instead we all managed to get lifts back ready for when Penny would arrive with the canoes and kayaks on the trailer. It didn’t seem to take very long to put the canoes and equipment back from where they came from, thanks to the guidance provided by Jen and Co.

Following this excursion I am now looking forward to the next leg of the Oxford to London sequence of trips, which is going to feel more like an expedition.

- Nick