On Saturday I headed off to Cricklade in Wiltshire to kayak the furthest upstream navigable part of the Thames. This would be my first overnight trip using my “Oru” kayak. I thought this time of year would be a good time to do this stretch of the river as the fishing season is closed and the Swans are yet to produce offspring! The flow rates on the river were also acceptable.
My journey started in South Norwood at 6am from where I took a Southern service to London Bridge followed by the Tube to London Paddington and then a Great Western train to Swindon. Transporting my folders Oru kayak and 2 x 20L dry bags was not problematic on any of the services that I used and my Oru fits perfectly in the normal luggage racks on the GWH service. The last part of my journey involved getting a bus from Swindon out to Cricklade. On arrival at Cricklade I headed down to the Thames which at this point is a very small stream and feels a million miles a way from the river that flows through London.
After constructing my kayak and double-checking everything was in order, I got underway at around 11am. This first stretch of the Thames is truly beautiful as it dances its way through the countryside. There were lots of partial blockages (including low branches – you certainly wouldn’t want to try to attempt this section during flooding) and quite a few pairs of Swans preparing to nest. The disused Thames and Severn Canal is never too far away and joins the Thames at Inglesham which I passed just before arriving at Lechlade where I stopped for lunch at the Riverside Pub. This popular pub has a fantastic riverside garden.
On leaving Lechlade I paddled under the famous Ha’penny bridge before arriving at St Johns Lock where I needed to complete my first portage. All of the portages required on this stretch of the river were fine although some could be made more friendly for Canoes and Kayaks (E.g. signage and/or specific lowered entry/exit points). St Johns was followed by Buscot, Grafton, Radcot and Rushey Locks before I reached Shifford Lock where the fading light meant I must stop for the evening. I slept next to my kayak in my sleeping system (sleeping mat + cold weather bag + Goretex bivy) which fits nicely in a 20L dry bag that stores in the rear of the vessel. The night was cold but very beautiful – a great view of the stars followed by moonshine. I didn’t sleep that well as it always takes me a few nights to climatise to sleeping outside but I didn’t mind too much after a fantastic day out on the Thames.