Islip to Victoria Arms, Sunday 21 January 2007

As the weather seemed to be improving and the water levels were high I decided the run from Islip to the Victoria Arms would be an ideal relaxation for the weekend, and sent out a last minute invite. I invited Barbara Spencer to join me as I know she is always on the lookout for someone to paddle with and Russel and Elwira joined us at 9am at the 22nd Sea Scouts. As there was a number of cars parked already, Barbara and Elwira went of to the Vickie Arms whilst we loaded up a kayak and locked up. When we arrived the ladies were waiting outside as the gate was locked. However, they parked outside and we set off for Islip, thinking we were about to be joined by two kayaks which pulled out as we arrived, but they went somewhere else! As did I, automatic pilot took over and we went on a detour along the by pass and back!

I had heard that the normal put in by the electric substation before the bridge had been purchased by the adjoining landowner so decided to put in just past the pub. Although the meadow was partly flooded we parked by the side of the road and unloaded. A passer-by who claimed to be a parish councillor suggested we used what we thought was the pub car park, as it was open to the public, a much better place to leave the vehicles. The River ray, though high was surprisingly slow running, and we passed several very attractive houses, one had had the most enormous shed put up since I lat did this stretch, it must have been 40 ft long!!, but quite attractive.. One garden had a couple of very nice canoes in the garden, and the lady of the house stood at the window and waved at us as we went by. The weir just before the junction with the Cherwell, normally a 3 ft drop was level and the stream picked up pace as we joined the Cherwell.

The sun was so strong and reflected of the water, making us wish we had brought sunglasses, quite an unusual event for a winter paddle! Although wildlife was much less than usual, we were rewarded by the flashing plumage of a kingfisher, and we made very good progress due to the speed of the current. I was wary of strainers, but we did not find any trees down across the river, though many were down close to the banks. This stretch really meanders and is quite heavily wooded, so we had to carefully navigate through the narrow gaps between the branches. Just past the W Manor the cattle bride proved too low to get under- Russell and Elwira seemed reluctant to try my suggestion of capsizing, waiting and rolling up on the other side ( a trick we used to do in Longbridges Swimming pool) so an easy and short portage got us by, and we soon approached the ring road. Just outside one of the riverside mansions there was a sunken fibreglass punt and I tried to rock the water out. The owner came down and we had a pleasant natter, though he did not seem at all concerned that the punt might get waterlogged. He said it took him 30 minutes to punt to the Vickie Arms, but we managed it in about 10 minutes, and arrived before the pub opened! Barbara ran Russel and me back to Islip to pick up the vehicles, and we were soon inside the pub enjoying a well earned drink and Sunday Lunch.

A good end to a great paddle!

- Philip Sowden