Nearly Cricklade to Lechlade

It was the shout from my paddling partner Nick that made me realise the first rule of canoeing on the fast-moving upper Thames - always look where you are going. How was I to know that we had inadvertently departed from the river bank? I was still busy following Penny's instructions to make sure I safely stow the painter (=rope, I now know).

Nick and I were rapidly leaving Castle Eaton where we had just stepped into our canoe. Slightly worse was that we were broadside across the stream and heading for the first of many fallen trees. That was the moment I thought that maybe I needed my paddle. That was the moment that Penny realised her Sunday open canoe trip was not going quite the way she had hoped.

Our group of five originally met up at Lechlade for a Sunday run down the Thames from Cricklade to Lechlade. We discovered from another group of canoeists that launching at Cricklade wasn't a great idea because of a fallen tree blocking the river just downstream. So the Red Lion at Castle Eaton, "the first pub on the Thames", became our start and we launched from the pub garden (with permission of course).

The Thames at Castle Eaton doesn't seem very intimidating - it's barely more than a stream - but to someone whose open canoe experience was based on an hour on a lake, things did seem to be moving quite fast. Nick and I missed our first willow tree but not very gracefully. With intensive tuition from Penny and a lot of waiting by Barbara and Philip, Nick and I gradually turned into the dream team as we manoeuvred around countless fallen trees and other obstructions in the narrow twisting river. We continued downstream, crossing from Wiltshire into Gloucestershire, passing the village of Kempsford with its impressive church tower. Just downstream from Kempsford we stopped for lunch, sitting at a bench and seats that someone had unaccountably placed in a field by the river.

We reached Hannington Bridge shortly after lunch. Two of the three arches were blocked with guess what, more fallen trees. The remaining arch presented a bit of a challenge with a strong current flowing through it and an awkward approach. After much deliberation, and having watched the others successfully navigate it, Nick and I made our cautious approach. By now, of course, we were quite the accomplished paddling team and slipped through with hardly a bump. The cruise down to Lechlade became much more Thames-like as the river broadened out and people and boats appeared. Fortified for about an hour by talk of a cream tea in Lechlade we arrived to find that the cream teas had sold out - the only disappointment of a delightful day.

Paddlers for the day were Barbara Spencer, Philip Sowden, Nick Weir, Malcolm Newdick and Penny Terry

- Malcolm

Photos by Malcom.