Ice Paddling

It was an optimistic idea for a trip - after a week of snow and ice we would paddle up past Hinksey Park to Seacourt Stream and then paddle down to Hinksey Stream. Simon and I did a recce on Saturday to check that it would be paddleable and after managing to walk the majority of the first leg and seeing mostly water and some thin patches of ice, we were confident that Sunday's paddle would be a fun adventure.

On Sunday morning we found that it was much warmer than it had been all week. We loaded the boats and launched in a record 30 minutes (with minimum faffing). There were eleven of us in total - Simon, Penny, Philip, Kate, Owen, Andy, Lizzy, Gwyl, Becks, Niamh and me. We headed upstream on the Thames until we came to University College Boat House. Our first task was to clear the stream next to the boat house, which was blocked by a selection of old punts. Simon and Penny did a good job of loosening the main punt which was then pulled clear by Gwyl from the bridge. Swinging the punt aside we set off in a crocodile down the small stream.

Despite the increased temperature, our worst fears were realised when we saw that Penny, at the head of the group, was struggling to break the ice in the stream. Those of us foolish to think we were stronger decided to take the lead and start smashing the ice with our paddles and Simon's machete. However, we soon saw that the ice was seriously thick. We tried smashing, Simon and Andy tried poling, Penny tried lining, and Philip cunningly waited at the back for the ice to be broken and then sailed through. There was no end in sight and we decided that, although at Isis CC we never give in, we should probably give in just this once as long as we A) didn't tell anyone and B) made sure we enjoyed the rest of the day.

We reversed back out onto the Thames, and then set off for The Waterman's Arms in Botley. We made it to Osney Lock, and rather than walk around on the icy path we decided to go through only to find the lock gates were frozen shut! So we portaged around and those at the back had an impromptu snow ball fight. Sadly, Lizzy came off worst, and ended up covered in snow.

We eventually made it to The Waterman's Arms and warmed up with a Sunday roast, some snacks and a few games of pool. It turns out that Becks is a bit of a pool shark and Gwyl is quite fond of potting the cue ball, so we made a forfeit of using an umbrella for the pool cue, which turned out to be quite difficult.

After sufficiently warming up we made our way back to the moored canoes and paddled downstream to the lock where more snowball fun was had. The trip home became a giant snowball fight as our canoes were turned into battle ships laden with snow from the banks, and with one crew member paddling and steering, the other was left free to make ammunition. After some quite solid snowballs from Gwyl the other boats decided to join forces and annihilated his canoe.

A fantastic first outing for the club in 2010, it's going to be a good year!

- Jen

Photos by Jen.