Paddle to the Perch

May 2013

Completely against the run of form lately, the early May Bank Holiday weather was brilliant - bringing to mind phrases like "scorcher" and "lashings of ginger beer" and "how come this spray-deck is still wet?"

The plan was a leisurely paddle to the Perch pub but the weather clearly affected our judgement for no sooner had we got the boats in the water than we were already talking of diverting back down the Bulstake Stream for the return trip. There were four of us in total so a "bijou" trip it was. Rach, Sue, Chris JB and Bridgo made up the party. Touring kayaks were the order of the day as 15km was the distance planned. It seemed as though the world and his wife had decided to get on the water that day - in some very interesting and precarious craft too! We reached the lock at Osney in good time though about two minutes later would have been perfect as it would have enabled us to hitch a ride in the lock rather than portage around it. Nevertheless, the narrowboat occupants were very friendly and happy to chat about the relative merits of our differing craft. So on to the Perch at Binsey and the always impressive sight of Port Meadow opened up to meet us. As did about twenty horses that were free to roam the meadow but had decided to visit the river for a drink...and a paddle too. Weird seeing horses at very close quarters from the very low perspective of a kayak.

With the boats safely stored on the field next to the pub garden (well within sight of our table in the garden) we enjoyed ale and alcoholic ginger beer (hey - it got into the story anyhow. And genuinely too!) together with crisps and some very welcome chips. Funny how the other pub customers just don't seem to bat an eye at four people wandering into the garden wearing quite questionable clothing for a bank holiday lunch and carrying what appear to be paddles!

We did indeed take the Bulstake on the return trip and were soon facing some considerable obstacles by way of fallen trees completely spanning the stream. Sadly, Rach injured her hand in trying to assist Chris get past one of the trees. Sue came to the rescue with some pretty nifty reverse paddling towing of Rach's boat for all of 100m; though by the time we got back on the Thames Sue insisted her gargantuan effort was at least a mile long! Well done Sue anyhow for a sterling effort in assisting your friend. A final small diversion through "the tunnel of death/doom" (Isis vets will know exactly what this is - for those new club members in training, you'll soon find out!) and we then battled with the circus of other craft on the popular stretch from Folly Bridge back to the Watershed. And that was it! My first trip this year and as enjoyable as ever. Now bring on the Summer!

- Bridgo

Photos by Rach