New Year paddle - Sunday 7th January 2007 - River Ock

Eleven club members took advantage of a welcome break in the rain to set out on the River Ock on 7th Jan - 4 of us in two open canoes and 7 kayakers.

Unsurprisingly, following the weather we've had, the river was full and fast flowing. We put in at Marcham Mill and it was immediately clear that the challenge was to stop ourselves from flowing away too fast, rather than paddling hard to make progress! In the first few yards we encountered obstacles in the form of overhanging trees and branches and a lot of steering and ducking was needed. This was to be the shape of things to come. Luckily for me, I was in the open canoe with Penny behind me & my very novice 2* skills would not have coped otherwise!

Soon after that we came to a small bridge, which ordinarily we would all have passed under easily but with the river being so high, most of us had to get our boats out, Gabriel being the exception. He capsized and went under upside down & very impressive!

At this point we were close to our first weir, so Rob went on ahead to investigate. He came back declaring it far too risky, so most of the group set off walking with their boats to get back in again on the other side of the weir. Gabriel and Penny however braved the weir (yes, you're right, Penny did that one on her own, and picked me up on the bank beyond!) & much to Rory's annoyance, who was miffed at missing out on the best weir of the trip!

Onwards then, through more trees and bushes, and we had to get the saw out on many occasions. Rory got impaled by branches at one point, and I managed to take a scratched face home as a war wound (just to prove I'd done the trip!) Then, as we approached Abingdon, another bridge posed a challenge, this time due to the fast current in front of it. Catherine and Barbara in the other open canoe tried to go under the right hand arch of the bridge, but twice got whisked to the other side, so needed Penny's help to get back far enough to try again & this time successfully. Learning from their experience, the rest of us tackled the bridge by edging gingerly along the right hand bank and paddling quickly under the bridge to avoid the current.

After this and two other fairly straight forward weirs, which we all managed to paddle down, we eventually joined the Thames at St Helens Wharf & only to discover what hard work it was to paddle upstream in a big fast flowing river. After a lot of effort we finally reached the pub (hurray!) for a well earned drink and lunch. And after several failed attempts, Penny finally got most of us together in the pub garden for a group photo!

- Dawn Ingram