Canoe Adventure - Laleham to Weybridge (May 2014)

posted 13 May 2014, 04:52 by Oli Howson

RV at Pentook Marina

The weather forecast for Saturday 10th May was particularly discouraging, so a fairly short section of the Thames was selected for our latest monthly “Canoe Adventure”. The choice had been between a start at Runneymede (National Trust car park charges and a £2 per boat launching fee) and Penton Hook Marina (standard £13.95 fee for use of slipway) and the latter seemed prudent.

Having loaded the trailer with 9 kayaks at the dinghy park, the two cars of group B set off for Penton Hook via The Old Crown at Weybridge, leaving one car here for the return journey. Group A duly arrived at Penton Hook, to be met by a concerned duty officer who reported that the exit to the marina, past the weir stream of Penton Hook lock, was pretty wild. Having consulted the lockkeeper  it was agreed that a start point of Laleham was a safer bet… but where would we park the trailer?

Before group A could depart, they needed to rendevouz with group B. Penton Hook is a very large marina - there are five gates and some are isolated from the others. Group A were waiting patiently on the road outside Gate 1, when they heard Jim’s voice… from over a six foot wall!

Once the entire party were reunited we travelled in convoy to the pretty riverside location of Laleham. A convenient car park  with toilets was soon spotted, but the 2.1mtre height restricting bar prevented the trailer from entering. Luckily the Warden of the adjacent Laleham Campsite kindly allowed us  to push the trailer through the gate and leave it safely there for the day (refusing payment).

Soon everyone was on the water and making their way under the M25, past the newly established Surrey Canoe Club and up to Chertsey Lock. The portage was simple, an up and over entering the water just downstream of the weir which was running pretty fast. Some of the party took the opportunity to poke their bows into the white water!

Once under Chertsey bridge the river carried us past The Meads and on to Shepperton,  past pleasant houses, houseboats, a splendid duck house and Pharoes Island.

The banks at the lock looked uncomfortably steep, but a friendly lock keeper appeared and asked us if we’d like to go through the lock. We certainly did and appreciated the brand new chains placed at regular intervals to hold onto.
Exiting the lock with cheery thanks to our new friend the lock keeper (what a contrast to his immediate neighbour on the Wey, who refused to let kayaks in her lock the month before) the group were immediately hit by a very strong weir stream current and a vicious wind. We battled across the open water towards the back creeks which we knew led to the garden of the Old Crown.

It was a happy party that helped each other out onto the pub jetty and filled the lower lawn with our kayaks.

The welcome was warm and just as the food arrived on the table, the heavens opened and the first of the forecast “heavy showers” fell. The weather gods had indeed favoured us, as it was dry when the shuttle drivers returned to the Crown where the rest of the party had brought the kayaks to the roadside for loading.

Let’s hope that we are as lucky next month for our foray downstream, below Richmond half lock (lunch at the London Apprentice, Isleworth).

Paddling downstream towards Chertsey

Atousa in white water

Atousa and Lee in white water

Shepperton Lock

'Old Crown' beer garden

Team Photo

All canoe adventures end with lunch in the pub