Oxford to London: Part 4 - Henley to Old Windsor

Arriving at the boathouse at 7.30, the group: Simon, Jen, Chris, Malcolm, Niamh, Val, Lewis, and Tim, loaded up the boats and paddles and set off for the long drive to Henley. Arriving at Henley, we discovered that we only had seven boats for eight people. Simon nobly drove back to Oxford with Tim to pick up another boat. Meanwhile Malcolm and Lewis were doing ingenious things with cars to ensure that there was a car at the day's finish, so we could get home at some point. The weather on Saturday was fantastic, and paddling through picturesque Henley, along the regatta course, it was easy to de-stress and become one with nature. We soon bumped into some swimmers, who were on a three kilometre swim, and saw lots of other wildlife, such as cormorants, and boggy slimy weed, which Jen and Simon threw romantically at each other for many hours during the afternoon. Stopping for lunch, at Hurley, Chris dished out the Penguin bars, and soon the group was being entertained by the jokes on the wrappers. Simon impressed us all by being able to answer many of them. We fed the ducks and one cheeky fowl, pinched Simon's roll from his hand.

Paddling on we gazed on in awe at the impressive gardens, some built on steep gradients that lined parts of the river leading up to Cookham Lock. At Cookham, we set up the tent on an island guarded by a lock keeper, who kept a ferocious hound locked in a compound by his cottage. While we set up the huge tent, Simon, Malcolm and Lewis did ingenious things with cars. Then we met up at 'The Ferry', having changed out of grotty clothes and transforming ourselves into respectable pillars of society, i.e. we were a little bit less smelly and dirty. The Ferry serves magnificent food, and I cannot recommend it too highly. I particularly enjoyed the rustic bread, apple crumble and pasta dish. It was getting dark, and so Val and Lewis set off back to Oxford, and the campers set off back to the campsite, giving the beast of Bodmin (the lock keeper's dog) a wide berth. En route, we passed drunken revellers, intent on playing loud music, swearing loudly and shouting aggressively. They seemed to be having a great time. Fortunately, they were camped a long way from us and they didn't disturb our night's rest. Soon the group was tucked up and enjoying some well deserved shut eye after our day's exertions.

Up with lark the next day, after the usual ablutions and car manoeuvres, it was go, go, go. The temperature was wonderfully mild, and we were soon on the water, travelling at a great pace. We were soon in Maidenhead, where we made notes on the many desirable riverside properties that we intended to move into, as soon as they came onto the market. The houses were enormous and impressively grand and expensive looking. Some had stone crocodiles with hands in the mouths. Malcolm saw a mink, and parakeets were spotted fluttering around squawkily overhead. We found a muddy stopping place for lunch, where Chris dished out the Penguins and soon the group was being entertained by the jokes on the wrappers, for example, why did the two penguins jump up and down? To break the ice! In the afternoon we arrived at Windsor, and admired the fine castle from the water. The Queen's garden at the back had strict instructions about not mooring, and threatened dire consequences if people audaciously attempted to do this. The garden went on and on and on and on and on and on, but eventually we arrived in the Elysium paradise of the Harvester in Old Windsor, the end of two great days paddling.

- Tim

Photos by Jen.