Wolvercote to Thrupp

For our second foray into distance paddling we had grandiose plans about paddling up the Thames, onto the Oxford canal. After conquering a sedate part of the canal, we would then skip over onto the Cherwell at Thrupp, and speed paddle downstream into Oxford via Islip and Marlow. However, our plans were slowly put on hold as it rained quite heavily during the week, the river levels rose to increase the flags from blue, to amber, to red and we realised that part of our trip would have to be sacrificed.

It was only when Simon turned up at the scout hut and took one look at the Thames did I realise just how much our plans would change, as he refused to consider paddling upstream on the Thames despite my suggestion that it would be good resistance training. Clearly I still don't know him very well as that kind of suggestion seemed to move him to a blind panic. Instead we opted for a shuttle to Wolvercote where we put in on the Oxford canal and made our way north.

In addition to water there are two things the Oxford canal has in abundance - locks and boats. We realised how much of a pain the former could be after only being in our boats for 100 meters and then having to get out to portage round lock number one. It wasn't even worth putting our spray decks on! It had got very cold during the night and there was still frost on the ground as we pootled off with the temperature staying at a steady one degree.

It may not be a death defying river, but a trip along the Oxford canal can be a wonderful experience if you'd like to do some simple distance paddling with some pleasant scenery. You also get to share it with kingfishers, inquisitive swans, families of ducks, oh, and possibly some ice. Some parts of the canal were shaded by trees and since it had been so cold the water had frozen on top and still not thawed. We smashed through these films of ice with the bows of our sea kayaks and paddles and continued on through 4 more locks until we reached Thrupp for lunch.

After lunch we decided to have a look at the Cherwell. It was flowing fast and the number of strainers blocking the river meant that it would be too difficult to manoeuvre safely in sea kayaks. Although we considered some crazy paddling for a few seconds so we wouldn't have to go back through a myriad of locks, sensibly we abandoned our plans for speeding back to Oxford and made our way back down the canal to Wolvercote for our trip home.

Another good day of paddling and when the river levels decrease we'll be back to finish off our plans for the Oxford-Thrupp-Islip loop.

- Jen