High Water on the Bullstake

A gentle amble down the Bullstake...the Isis way!

The sun had heard that we were planning to go for a paddle on Saturday 8th January and decided to make an appearance, which was nice! So Paul, Hilma, John, Penny, Ishy, Sheena, Jen, Malcolm, Mark and Joe jumped into a mixture of open canoes and touring kayaks for a bit of a gentle paddle up to Osney Lock and round the Bullstake Stream.

Within a couple of minutes, though, we realised that the Thames was flowing a little more than we expected so the paddle up to Folly Bridge got us nicely warmed up. What we weren't to know was that was where the fun would start. A long hard slog later (and much ferry gliding at bends!) we made it to Osney Lock, where the water on the downstream side was around a foot higher than normal. Still, once we got over the lock it'd be easier...

Aha, ok, so the water up on the up-stream side seemed to be moving too! Following a safety plan by Jen, which involved hugging the shore for as far as possible on the opposite site of the weir at the top of the lock, then paddling like fury, before ferry gliding across the river for a well-earned rest while the others shouted lots of encouragement and Jen stood ready with a throw line, we powered off upstream once more, now very much looking forward to breaking out of the main flow and onto the Bullstake Stream.

Tumbling Bay started with a bit of limbo fun under the chain (which was more fun than usual due to the higher water). We got out above the steps at the swimming pool and went to have a look at the water flowing over it. It was really flowing! The second step had disappeared completely and become a nice little wave. John donned his lid and shot the steps in style to a round of applause from all those who either didn't want to risk it or had not taken a lid! The little drop at the bottom of the pool had completely gone and the water flowed cleanly over it (only a bit quick for some who met the tree at the bottom).

Paul and Hilma took the lead through the obstacle-littered upper Bullstake, and much banter was had on the easier downstream flow. The return route was a quicker and a much more relaxed affair and gave everyone a chance to do some of the chatting that we were too out of breath to do on the way up! Right up to the point where Mark decided that he hadn't had enough fun on the route so far and went for a little swim on the way out of one of the tunnels at Folly Bridge, luckily Mark new his own reputation and decided to wear a dry suit.

Finally a rather more tired looking bunch arrived safely back at the watershed and agreed that it had been yet another epic Isis adventure along the quiet backwaters of Oxford!

- Paul