Pub paddle to the Kings Arms, Sandford

April 2013

Full of enthusiasm and keen to get some additional practice following their recent open canoe solo skills course, Penny Ward, Charlie and Helena were on this four and a bit mile round trip along with Adam (solo canoe), and Val and Lew in kayaks.

We were lucky to have picked an ideal evening for a paddle; bright, not too breezy and, once beyond rowing territory, we were sharing the river with swans, geese and a few other kayaks. Our first challenge was to cross the river during the evening rowing rush hour. As a Thames novice, to me this looks like the canoe equivalent of playing chicken on a busy road. We made steady progress down to Iffley lock and got the boats over the rollers to continue on down to Sandford. Somewhere beyond the lock, the wind picked up and it seemed likely that I'd be up close and personal with overhanging branches once more. Fortunately, the instruction from the skills course and a few brain cells kicked in and I averted a close inspection of the vegetation on the bank. Overall, it was good to get the chance to further practice what we'd learned on the skills course and at the same time just enjoy being on the river. Having a pub as a destination may have helped to focus our efforts as well... On arrival at the Kings Arms, we sat out on the terrace and over a few beers and food had what can fairly be described as a wide-ranging conversation; the highlight of which was Penny's description of once visiting her local bank to withdraw a few quid and being trapped as an armed raid went on around her! Isis canoe club obviously attracts nerves of steel on or off the water.

The beers were finished, the sun had set and it was time to paddle home. The breeze had died off completely and it was great to be on the river in the last of the light with everything so still. It wasn't long before we were paddling along in the dark - my first night paddle and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The journey was punctuated by Adam making a check that we hadn't lost anyone on the way as everyone called out their allotted number in turn. It was pushing 10:30pm when we got back to the boat shed and the number-shouting system, simple but effective, worked just fine as we hadn't lost anyone... I managed to end the evening in the river after an unscripted exit from my canoe. The lesson learned was 'dither if you must, but not when you have one foot in a canoe and the other on the bank'. Duh!

Thanks to Adam for leading the trip, and everyone else for coming along and making it a very enjoyable evening (oh, and also for sorting out my canoe after my little mishap). I'm sold: a paddle and a pub are a winning combination. When do we go again?

- Helena

Photos by Charlie