Botley Stream and the Victoria

Thanks to the wonders of the new forum, five of us met up on Saturday for a gentle afternoon paddle: Jen, Bridgo, Paul, Tim and Karsten. There was a route which I had taken at night over a year ago which I thought might be a nice change (if I could remember it) so we launched and then set off into the heart of the Oxford Regatta. Our resident rowing expert, Tim, explained there was a lane marked for passing traffic so we headed for that and watch the drama unfold as two rowing boats collided mid-race, dirty tactics! We made our way up to Tumbling Bay, portaging around the top weir while Paul and I shot the smaller bottom weir, then we made our way closer to deepest, darkest Botley. We eventually came to the half-remembered turn off to Botley Stream on the right and then made our way past the golf course and allotments, only to come face to face with two swans. Isis members don't have much luck with swans but this pair a) looked quite young and so hadn't lived long enough to develop a grudge and b) were clearly also just out for an afternoon paddle too. They headed off in the opposite direction and we followed at a distance. They swam faster...we followed. There wasn't really anywhere for them to get out, and we all know it takes a lot of water for swans to get enough of a run up to fly off, so we slowly ambled along behind them until we came to a wider section and then paddled past on the right.

Then the fun started and the reeds closed in around our boats. We started paddling, then turned to punting with our paddles, but eventually even that didn't work and so we literally had to pull ourselves along using the reeds. We pulled, and we pulled, and we pulled some more. We even had to stand in our boats at one point to get a better picture of the horror that awaited us. There were a couple of sections of water which gave us false hope that we were through, then we found more reeds waiting for us. Just as we were starting to get tired the water opened out and our boats were afloat once more, only to find three hay bales blocking the stream. I jumped out and hauled the lads over one by one, before nipping back into my boat and making the most of being afloat finally. Under Botley Road bridge we found a pub waiting for us and celebrated with a refreshing coke and packet of crisps before we set off for home past The Fishes and down back to the Thames. A really lovely and very warm paddle which we'll have to try again during one of the winter mystery tours, it'll certainly be a challenge!

- Jen

Photos by Jen.