Slipping down the Thames – Trip Notes

Trip Notes

  • Just four locks on the whole river Thames have roller portage for canoes and kayaks: Iffley lock in Oxford, Romney (Hampton Court), Teddington and one other (Culham I think). So if you’re travelling heavily loaded, then at all other locations you have to use the full-size boat lock, which can be slow outside of normal daytime business hours.
  • Accommodation that is easily accessible from the river is difficult to find. In normal times the Environment Agency offers simple camping at several locks on the Thames, but with Covid-19 these sites are all closed. If I were to do the trip again, I’d probably choose a boat with room to sleep on board.
  • In general, accessing riverside facilities like restaurants and cafes from a canoe or kayak is quite difficult. At the locks you can usually find steel steps that continue underwater, which are really useful. Otherwise the height difference bankside to boat makes any transition quite risky – an embarrassing capsize and wetting is all too possible. You’re not going to risk trying to get out a smart restaurant in such circumstances ….
  • My longest day was – wake at 05.30, on the water about 06.00 and paddling until 21.00. So about 15 hours total paddling, including breaks. This is making maximum use of the light, but I wouldn’t want to do it every day.
  • Kayaking and canoeing seem predominantly to be a young person’s sport – I hadn’t considered it before, but certainly balance is a critical issue when getting in and out of the boat. I doubt that I could manage some of the racing kayaks that I saw without getting it wrong and falling in.
  • I often felt that I was the oldest person on the river. Indeed, sometimes after a few days I must have looked like Old Father Thames himself. Perhaps this explains some of the courtesy I received at the locks. But thank you people anyway. Most of you didn’t guess just how far I’d come or was going.

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© Philip Hunt 2020

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