Afternoon Teashop Trip

It was with the promise of a really hot day that Steve, Louise, Robin, Penny, Anthony, Adam , Enico, Graham and I met at the Sea Scouts at the civilised time of 10am. We loaded up the trailer with three open canoes, a Weekender- open tandem kayak and my solo open canoe. Having lined up the boats carefully on the trailer so they would not dent the car on sharp turns and everyone having a go at tying the straps we manoeuvred it from the trees and finally attached it to the car. Luckily I had tested the lights and pumped up the tyres on Thursday, only to find my boat had been pushed into the river. Luckily the new and friendly barge owner retrieved it for me.

We were away and in full flow of conversation so we went the pretty way to the put- in at Lower Heyford! Luckily Steve's car had stopped at his house to collect a paddle so we arrived at the same time! The first obstacle, having unloaded, was to get the boats down a steep slope and, using one painter under the seat to secure the whole boat, everyone gradually sort of abseiled down the painter into their boat. A very short way along was the bridge. As there was a shallow rapid, we went in single file, two boats spaces apart. Straight down the middle was the best route, which everyone eventually managed, although there was some getting out and pushing. After that, a fallen tree, with some flow underneath then another small rapid which we managed with a little forethought and foot power. Then we had some fairly straightforward sections. Steve and Louise went ahead, for Steve to clear and negotiate branches, giving sound advice to the group.

Everyone was vigilant and kept looking back to make sure the trailing parties (usually me) were all keeping up! There was some really good teamwork. Steve was the hero of the day, plunging fearlessly into the water to assist tandem crews where necessary. Gradually people got the idea that they were not permanently rooted to their boats for such a trip, but had to move about in it or get out and push/pull/lift. Graham and Enico got the hang of it very well and were soon choosing their own route through or round obstacles.

Then lunchtime was when we got to Northbrook Farm. We got out before the bridge, then in teams we heaved the boats up the steep bank. It was then plain sailing up to the teashop and Lower Heyford. We were very hot by then, so most opted for an ice cream! Two people, however, had afternoon tea!

After refreshments, we sleepily launched again, to look for a way under the railway line to get back on the Cherwell for the final loop. Here came another opportunity for group therapy with another steep slope with fairly narrow access. I slid down first and got in my boat, chopping some branches for easier access for the bigger boats. Steve and Louise then came into their natural calling by attaching a painter to a tree, they coordinated the group to abseil down the painter into their boats two at a time. Finally, we all made it. There were further branches and a log to negotiate, but people had got more into the swing of things and before too long, we were back at the start, a climb up the bank, rapid loading, then back to the Sea Scouts to unload.

It all took rather longer than anticipated - 9 hours from opening the shed to finally shutting it -but all did very well and had a good time... I hope!

- Penny

Photos by Jen.