MYC on Tour - Cricklade to Lechlade (St John's Lock)

posted 25 May 2016, 01:32 by Sailing Secretary   [ updated 25 May 2016, 01:55 ]

The weather gods and forecasters were not in tune with the MYC Paddlers’ plans for the weekend of 21/22 May 2016, the forecast for Saturday was truly vile so plan B was implemented.

 The main party rendezvoused at Lechlade, lunched and bravely set out on a circular walk, which revealed an individual and quirky Cotswold village. The group manfully opted for the extension to the ‘abandoned’ church of St John the Baptist, which was well worth the effort. Returning to Lechlade via a figure of eight route, some of the party were lost, when the scent of the pub drew them back over the bridge, whilst others manfully completed the walk and discovered an alternative finish point at St Johns Lock and the Trout Inn.

 Saturday evening and night were spent in ‘The Lydiard Beefeater and Premier Inn at Swindon where we received excellent service and spent a comfortable night.

Sunday morning saw the group successfully meet up with three more paddlers at Cricklade, the navigable head of the Thames for unpowered craft. The mighty Thames is a mere five metres wide at this point.  

As the paddlers took to the river one by one the nature of the river became immediately apparent. At Kingston we occasionally get a strong stream, but nothing like this. Paddlers hung on to overhanging branches and began to appreciate how to spot quiet areas where there were back eddies.

 The group had not gone far when the first obstacles in the form of fallen trees and branches appeared, there were many more. In some cases an advanced guard found routes through and advised and helped the subsequent paddlers; at other points, the way through was not totally blocked but fast flowing, beware of not getting the right line first time or you ended up sideways on to the obstacle.

 It was hard and challenging work but the sense of achievement was great.

 By the time we all arrived at the Second Chance campsite at mid-day we had only covered 3.9 miles and two of the team had been swimming. Spirits revived by lunch and use of facilities at the apparently deserted campsite the team set off again, optimistically predicting that the river was wider now and unlikely to be blocked again. WRONG! Paddling under the Hannington road bridge a passer-by judged us to be about two miles from Lechlade; another capsize, this time in dreadful slow motion and a freshly fallen willow proved to be the final throws of the adventure dice and, once recovered and negotiated, the remaining miles were smooth and scenic.

Our support driver greeted us enthusiastically at Lechlade and the team were all game to go the extra mile to the first lock on the Thames at St. Johns, where the friendly lock keeper insisted that we go through the lock (curiously clean and free from slime) and extract into the camping field at The Trout.

 Eleven miles, seven hours and a lot of energy expended.

 Our accompanying driver, who had walked ten miles while we paddled, ferried the other car drivers back to Cricklade, whilst the rest of the group checked out the pub (good beer but no food until 19:00, well we were “out in the sticks”). So once the trailer was loaded the team returned to Kingston. Supper was partaken at the GBK with a sense of achievement and not a little relief.

 Reflections from the group included:

“Suddenly finding myself upended in the water, the speed with which it happened with very little recollection of how, ….. The total dependency on your companions without which would have been in an irretrievable situation. A strong bonding experience with the group.”     

 “A fun get away and a great adventure. … I went to bed last night feeling that I was still rocking in my kayak!”

 “When the flow is strong you have to be assertive in your paddling. If you need to hang on to something, find a place along the side where the water is quieter. Otherwise the flow tugs at your boat. I found it would tug at the back end and if I had let go, the boat would have gone sideways. Avoid the overhanging trees along the side. Unless of course it is the only way to go through. Then be sure to line up your kayak so you get through going straight. Otherwise the flow tugs at your boat and you can end up sideways on.” 

 “A great experience of 'team spirit ' in action, great company and good laughs.......what more could you ask for?”