Newsletter June 2019 Adventure Dolphin Race Group – Pangbourne Canoe Club

Newsletter June 2019 Adventure Dolphin Race Group – Pangbourne Canoe Club

Great start to Introduction to Race Boats Evening Course

The intro to race boats evening course got off to a great start with only one capsize so far three weeks into the course, dispelling the myth that race boats are wobbly! As well as venturing onto the river, participants have perfected their technique on the paddling machines. Amy has made amazing progress paddling a Zeta, a really cool fast boat, last session.

Dad Neil on the paddling machine with daughter Amy giving encouragement!

The next course starts on Thursday 6th June and there are still places available.  We take children from 8 years upwards, including adults. It’s great fun and you will be surprised how good you are.

Wedding Bells

I am delighted to announce that David M and Beverley H were married on Saturday 18th May.  David is one of our coaches and Beverley helps at the Pangbourne Hasler and Watersides. The reception was on the Cholsey and Wallingford Railway – a really relaxing way to celebrate.

David and Beverley -Just Married

Promotion for Daisy in Basingstoke Hasler

Sunday 19th May was the Basingstoke Hasler. Daisy was promoted from division 9 to 8, coming 4th in the race, with only adult paddlers ahead of her.  Congratulations!  She had a good start and kept up the momentum right to the finish.

Daisy off the start line

Bronze for Ruth and Vicky

Ruth S paddling with Vicky M were third in 8K2.  Talking to Ruth after the race, she told me “ I was a bit nervous off the start, but the nerves disappeared the moment we got going.  We had a good turn and were able to wash-hang another K2 easily because the paddlers were both wearing bright orange.  Vicky was good to paddle with.”

Ruth and Vicky battling the wash at the start
Ruth and Vicky pick up their trophies

Chris R completed 9K1 in 49:29 (11th/16) experiencing one of those crowded canal starts where the wash always results in a few swims – but not Chris this time!

Chris on the start line

Ian P got into a boat jam at the start of 8K1 (through no fault of his own) but paddled so hard throughout the race – you could see how hard he worked when he got off the water – well done Ian!

Ian P waiting in the start line up

In 5K2 Paul A & Steve M and brother and sister team of Fay and Stu had an interesting race with 13 boats pushing the start line and Stu determined to get pole position. Fay and Stu were 7th Paul and Steve were 9th.

Stu and Fay in perfect sync
Steve and Paul Edging the boat on a right turn

James B and Peter W were our only C2 pairing completing their division 6 race in 1:29:02.  Well done on handling that big boat on a narrow canal, gentlemen!

James and Peter- determination and skill

Owen B, sporting a new haircut, travelled up from Southampton to race in 4K1, completing the 8.8-mile course in 01:23:29.

Owen skillfully negotiates the turn

Simon TC looked on good form in 3K1 but retired before the finish. On 5th June Simon did rather better in the Wey Hasler. He was paddling out of region in a strong field completing the 12 mile course in 01:58:19.  Well done Simon!

Simon with that look of determination

What a fantastic race day, and many thanks to Basingstoke Canal Canoe Club for hosting the event! 

Come and Try

We are very keen to get more people in race boats, young and old alike!  You will be amazed at how fast you can go and how much fun you can have doing exercise!  Our next come and try session is Saturday 15th June – morning.  Contact for more information.  If you can’t make this but want to have a go still get in touch and we will try to organize it for you. 

Newsletter April 2019 Adventure Dolphin Race Group -Pangbourne Canoe Club

Newsletter April 2019 Adventure Dolphin Race Group -Pangbourne Canoe Club

Waterside Series Trophy winners: Fay, Caroline, James, Peter, Vicky and Liz

The alarm went off at 3.30am on Sunday.  Why am I getting up in the middle of the night? Well it’s obvious – Waterside D – 34 miles on the Kennet and Avon Canal with a one hour forty-minute drive and a 7.15 start! This was the last in the series of Waterside Races, the classic build-up to the 125 mile Devizes to Westminster.

In the last month the remaining two Waterside Races took place:

Race C Pewsey to Newbury 23 miles and 35 portages

 Race D Devizes to Newbury 34 miles and 35 portages. 

The times for all four races (A, B, C and D) are totaled to get a series result.  Pangbourne had some brilliant results:

Vicky M and partner Liz (B3C) took the Ladies C2 Trophy.

Fay B and Caroline W were second in Ladies K2.

Peter W and James B were third in the Canadian Doubles.

These series results represent a tremendous effort over four races, 87 miles and 110 portages so well done to our medal winners and everyone else who raced, marshalled, checked paddlers in, served up food, supported (i.e. fed paddlers as they ran through portages) and helped in ways too many to mention.  Thanks to the Race Organiser, Clive Williams, and his team from Newbury Canoe Club for hosting the race, to the Adventure Dolphin team who played a key role in making the series happen and to Marsport (Craig Hill) for sponsorship.

Caroline and Fay K2 Ladies 2nd place

In Series

Liz and Vicky – Ladies C2 Canadian Doubles Series winners

Peter and James 3rd Place in Series – Canadian Doubles

For those who like the stats, the Pangbourne results for races C and D are given below:

Race C

Matt W + Richard W (BSP) K2 Senior 3:33:16 14/35

Fay B and Caroline W K2 Ladies 4:07:02 6/10

David C and Jonathan C K2 Veterans 4:13:38 20/27

Robin T and Tommy F K2 Junior/Vet 3:42:50 3/8

Simon TC K1 Senior 3:38:56 10/16

Steve M Vet K1 4:15:50 14/20

Vicky M and Liz (B3C) C2 4:06:49 6/18

Peter W and James B C2 4:11:37 8/18

Race D

Fay B and Caroline W K2 Ladies 6:37:24 2/4

Tommy F and Robin T K2 Junior/Vet retired

Simon TC K1 Senior retired

Steve M K1 Vet 6:59:30 6/9

James B and Peter W Canadian Doubles 6:36:24 4/10

Vicky M and Liz (B3C) Canadian Doubles 6:50:50 7/10

Leamington Spa Hasler 

The Leamington Spa Hasler clashed with Waterside D on 7th April.  The only Pangbourne entry was Jarvis M who raced in division 2 K2 with his brother Conor.  They won the race in 01:34:25 and were the only Div. 2 paddlers – a lonely 12 miles! Well done on completing the course.

Devizes to Westminster International Canoe Race

Vicky and Liz win the Ladies C2 class

Liz and Vicky winners of the ladies C2 class.  Fastest ladies crew and second fastest ladies crew of all time

Enter your text here…Vicky M and Liz M completed the course in 25:01:14 in C2 winning the ladies C2 class, taking a massive 1.5 hours off their 2015 time.  They were the fastest ladies crew in a C2 and the second fastest ladies crew of all time.  This is the third time that Vicky has won this trophy

Gold for Tommy and Robin

Tommy and Robin – Junior/Veteran winners

Tommy F and Robin TC won Gold in the Devizes to Westminster Junior/Vet category over 4 days.  They won in a time of 19:06:04 with a lead of over an hour.  Huge congratulations to you both on a consistent effort not only over the four days but also all the training it took to get there

Simon TC came 6th in the Senior Singles over 4 days in a time of 19:05:10. This was an amazing result in a field of over 40, particularly as this is his first year as a senior.

Simon TC – 6th in Senior Singles over 4 days

Peter and James, with Caroline at the finish

Straight through race.

All other crews competed in the Senior Double (straight through race).

Peter W and James B completed in 24h 24 min, coming third in the Canadian category.  This was Peter’s 8th DW meaning he joins the list of thousand milers. It was James’ first complete DW, having unfinished business when the race was stopped at Dreadnought Reach last year due to strong flow on the Thames.

Fay B and Caroline W completed in 24h 40 min in what Caroline describes as “a wonderful cruise from Devizes to Westminster”. This was their first complete DW, again, as they were stopped last year at Dreadnought Reach

​Not everyone made it.  Our two newest members Jonathan C and David C made it to Shepperton but had two capsizes during the night and retired with exhaustion.  David has been paddling for less than a year and Jonathan not much longer, so they did brilliantly to get this far.  Congratulations to you both – they will be back next year!

Jonathan and David – back next year!

Sarah and Steve

Steve (me) and Sarah made it to Teddington, but we just missed the tide window.  I was ill and taken in a vehicle with flashing blue lights to hospital where they pumped saline into me, and I now feel much better.

Overall the club got some wonderful results competing in an International event against much larger clubs some with GB team members with the support of National coaches. 

The DW could not have taken place without the huge team of supporters; the people who marshalled, with such good humour and a helpful attitude and all the family and friends who suffered lack of sleep and hot sunshine followed by a cold night. All the competitors extend a huge ‘thanks’. 

Background to the DW

The race is held annually over the Easter weekend.  It is considered to be one of the world’s toughest endurance challenges.  Starting at Devizes wharf, the route follows the Kennet and Avon canal for 54 miles to Reading, where it joins the Thames. Another 54 miles later it reaches Teddington Lock, ending 17 miles later at Westminster Bridge – a total of 125 miles.

Personalities to own a DW medal are former leader of the Liberal Democrats, Paddy Ashdown, explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes, TV Presenter Steve Backshall, Olympic gold medalist rowers James Cracknell and Helen Glover, and the first British woman to climb Everest Rebecca Stephens.  Amongst famous athletes to pull out of the race is five-time Olympic rowing champion Sir Steve Redgrave who, in 2012, pulled out after 87 miles through tiredness.

The Loop

The Loop

We met on a wonderfully brisk but bright morning, ready to hit the gnarly flows of the mighty Loop. The water was set at a lovely low to medium level that allowed everything to be paddled with ease (unless your name is Boothy and mess up the weir in a canoe).

We started at New Bridge and made our way down the river stopping every now again to play. Grant decided to play too much with the foliage and learnt that hugging trees is not always the best of fun. Once this was remedied we moved on down the river on our lovely little bimble.

The group had a lovely time learning new skills and brushing the cobwebs off old ones as they passed through the different sections of the Loop. Once we made it to the Dart Country Park we started our next section on the Lower Dart. We had great fun overtaking other groups, running the river and generally playing silly games whilst also developing our skills in paddling as a group on moving water.

We finished at a wonderful cafe where we had a debrief about the day and some of us had a delightful cream tea. What a fantastic end to a fantastic day out on the river with the best of people. Thank you to all that came on this amazing trip. I can’t wait to be out the river with everyone soon.

PCC update

A busy month for Marathon

We have had no fewer than three longer distance races over the last month. 

Waterside A

Waterside A, Great Bedwyn to Newbury, on 24th February was on a glorious spring day, the first time I can remember a Waterside race where cags were cast aside by most paddlers.  Even with the mild weather it was a tough race of 13.5 miles with 21 portages.

Jarvis M had a great race coming 2nd/18 JK1 in 1:58:07;

Simon TC was 9th/16 in 2:03:46 SK1

Robin T and Tommy F were 7th/14 JV in 2:11:21,

James B and Peter W were 7th/16 in 2:28:30

Vicky M and Liz M (BCCC) were 6th/16 in 2:24.10 in C2

Caroline W and Fay B were 6th/11 in 2:27:11 Mixed K2

Steve M 15th/23 VK1 in 2:30:10

A big “Thank you” to our supporters, the organisers and marshals.

Thameside 1

Starting from Aldermaston Bridge, Thameside 1 is a time trial down the Kennet and Avon Canal, onto the river Kennet, through Reading Town Centre onto the Thames then upstream and over Caversham lock to finish at Reading Canoe Club.  A distance of about 12 miles with 12 portages.  The weather was certainly testing from what I hear (I missed the race as I was in sunny Seville) A small team from Pangbourne entered.

Simon TC in SMK1 was 6th/10 in 1:48:35.

Robin T and Tommy F in JVK2 were 5th/8 in 1:54:06 and

Jarvis M paddling with Rachel (Reading CC) was 2nd/18 in Mixed K2 in 1:51:00 – a really good result!

Many thanks to Reading Canoe Club for staging this event.

Waterside B

March winds and April showers Make way for sweet May flowers”

Well let’s hope that this is true after being buffeted by strong winds with gusts over 30mph on Waterside B.  This race is 17.5 miles/19 portages from Newbury to Aldermaston and back.  The outward leg with the wind more or less behind us was not too taxing but the return leg, into the wind, was a real challenge.  At times I was paddling and felt that the boat just wasn’t moving forward at all.

Fay B and Caroline W had a fine race coming 3rd/5 in mixed K2 in 3:10:00.   Robin T and Tommy F also claimed a Bronze in Junior/Vet 3rd/8 in 2:55:40T.  Simon TC, K1 Senior was 6th/12 in 2:46:48 in a strong field.  In Canadian doubles James B and Peter W were 4th/10 in 3:15:21 despite taking two swims.  However, they now know that their boat is easy to empty!  Vicky M and Liz M (BCCC) were 5th/10 in 3:16:11. Vicky had not been feeling well all week so did well to compete at all. Steve M came 14th/21 in 3:21:28 having argued with a low bridge and lost, resulting in a swim.

Wedding Bells I’m pleased to announce that David M and Beverley H have announced a date for their wedding. They are getting married on 18th.  Congratulations to you both. 

PCC Update

Happy New Year
A Happy New Year to all paddlers! The race group celebrated the festive season with a post paddle feast and presentation of the Senior and Junior Lynn Francis Club Trophies.  This year the senior trophy was awarded to Hazel B for her helpfulness with the Club and determination in the boat.  Hazel did the intro to race boats evening course in summer 2017 and raced with her son in the Nationals in 2018.  The junior trophy was awarded to Daisy for her consistent effort in both marathon and sprints and moving up to a Cougar from a beginner’s boat.

Frank Luzmore Race
On 6th January we competed in the Frank Luzmore Race.   This was a 20.5 km race with three portages.  About 150 boats K2s and C2s took part. The weather was fine, and the flow slow compared to recent years, so no records were broken.  The fastest boar on the water was the Chelmsford crew of Keith Moule and Matthew Johnson who completed the race in 1:25.13 in an exciting finish with Matthew Bowley (BPR) and Tim Pendle (NOR) only three seconds behind them. 

The fastest Pangbourne paddler was Jarvis M who completed the U18 men’s in 1:40.25 paddling with a partner from Devizes.  James B and Peter W had a solid performance in their C2 missing the third-place podium for Senior Mixed B by 30s. Fay B and Caroline W had an impressive race breaking the 2-hour barrier by three seconds.  Vicky M and Liz from Basingstoke had an interesting start with boats colliding, but their skilled paddling kept them afloat. 

They were the top all female C2 crew, also beating the 2-hour barrier.  Steve M and Paul A came in in 1:53.18.   I spotted a seal in the water just after Teddington but cannot claim that this slowed me down. 

Charles Hicks Canal Challenge
The next race is the Charles Hicks Challenge at Mytchett, home of Basingstoke Canal Canoe Club on Saturday 26th January.  13 miles and 10 portages.  

Watersides and Devizes to Westminster
If you are not competing and are willing to help, marshals are needed for the Waterside Series (contact Bill Whittaker) and Devizes to Westminster, particularly the Bruce Tunnel (contact Adrian Wheeler).  Any help gratefully received. 

AGM Chairman’s Report

This has been a momentous year. The site that we are on is owned by the Pangbourne Parish Council and the building we are in is leased by the District Council from the Parish Council.

The District Council, along with most other local authorities, are in severe financial difficulties and they tried, unsuccessfully as it turned out, to run the Centre on a break-even basis. They then looked to the private sector to take over the running of the building but there were no takers. One Company would have taken the building but they wanted to install a gym on the first floor and subsequent testing showed that the floor was not strong enough to take the weight of the equipment and potential users.                                

So the Council then offered our Charity the opportunity to take over the running of the Centre. We then prepared a Business Plan which showed that we had sufficient reserves to ensure that come what may we could run the Centre for at least 3 years. The Business Plan was a joint effort by all Trustees but thanks are especially due to David Appleton for undertaking most of the spadework and to Sarah Westall for giving the Plan a presentation polish.

So we took the plunge and told the Council that we would be prepared to go ahead and since April 2018 we have been running the Centre. The Council, who will need the approval of the Parish Council, have promised us a lease for an initial three years, which will be extended indefinitely if we make a financial success of running the Centre.

I did see and commented on a draft Lease in June but unfortunately have heard nothing since. I would add that the Parish Council have been 100% in favour of the charity taking over the running of the Centre, so no problem there. And just for the record can I say that I have a 30 year background in local government and I know where the bodies are buried but I can assure you that no deep-seated skulduggery is afoot. I don’t see the delay as a cunning ploy by the Council to see if we make a success of running it and to then flog it off. We will get our Lease eventually.

The figures that we were given by the Council showed that they were spending over £50K a year running the Centre. Here I want to pay the warmest of tributes to Trustee Steve Ellis, who heads up our Facilities team, comprising Nick Hatchett, Chris Whitehead, Bill Whitaker,  plus Jonnie London and Robin Tilbury. Thanks to their heroic efforts the cost of running the building has been greatly reduced – one can not be precise because until we get a lease the Council are still picking up the utility bills, and the cost of some of the work that is needed on the structure should in our view be picked up by the Council rather than ourselves. But in very broad terms we appear to have reduced expenditure by as much as 35-40%.

Turning to income we have our membership income of around £5K and again a warm thank you to all those Club members who run our evening courses, which bring in £10K. We have discovered that letting income – thank you again Sarah Westall this time for handling the bookings, generates an income of £16K, so with an existing income of around £31K we are close to break=even. That is an incredible result in such a short timescale and it would not have been possible without your efforts .

However at the moment the Centre is inactive during the day as regards outdoor activities. We did not rush into filling this void because of TUPE (Transfer of Undertakings) legislation. If TUPE had applied to our takeover we would have had to take over existing paid staff. We are past that potential problem now and I am pleased to say that we have reached agreement with Dave Hopper of the Outdoor Academy who from this April will hire the downstairs of the Centre and our equipment on weekdays and holidays to run a schools programme of activities.

The additional income will of course secure us financially and if Dave Hopper makes a success of his new venture, as I am sure he will, that will benefit us even more. Dave will now be approaching schools who formerly used the Activities Team, West Berkshire and will also be recruiting instructors. So if any Club members know of schools who might be interested or are personally interested in becoming an Instructor could they get in touch with Kevin in the first place.

The upstairs office is much larger than we need and another proposal, which is being investigated, is the possibility of Pangbourne Physio Centre paying us to use part of the office area as an exercise Centre.

I mentioned how supportive Pangbourne Parish Council have been. I chanced to meet their Chairman Rob Holden in the street two days ago and he told me that the Pangbourne Business Forum had raised over £500 at the Xmas festivities and that sum, generously topped up to £1000 by local MP Alok Sharma was being donated to us.

In addition Pangbourne Rotary Club have made us their nominated charity for receiving the proceeds of the Pangbourne Art Exhibition – April 12-14th. This is held in the Village Hall, as the Centre is not big enough, but I hope you will support the event as the more support there is the larger the donation to us. We expect that donation to also be around the £1000 mark.

 It has always been one of my maxims in life that buildings don’t make organizations, people do. Ensuring our Charity is successful is very much a team effort. It is no point having a magnificent Centre if it is not being used.

Just by becoming a member you contribute to that success but as this Charity is entirely run by volunteers, there are some among us whom I want to mention by name. You probably know the famous saying by Napoleon, the pig in George Orwell’s  ‘Animal Farm’ – all animals are equal but some are more equal than others – I have already mentioned Nick, Chris and Bill on the Facilities Team. They have done tremendous work. Step up for a small liquid recognition.

Communication with the membership as well is vitally important in any organisation and particularly in one such as ours with no paid staff. So step up Donna Hatchett and Corinna Baillie with grateful thanks for all that you do.

Of the Trustees I have already mentioned David Appleton, Steve Ellis and Sarah Westall. I have not so far said anything about our Treasurer, Tony Fitzgerald, but we would be lost without him. He has a full-time job and really busts a gut for us. Ed Edwards, Bob Feuillade, Alan Brown and Kevin Dennis are our activity squad – liaising with our many leaders – ensuring that we are an active charity and all our activities are safe.

Sadly we are losing two of them, who are stepping down.  David Appleton has been a tower of strength to me as regards the business side of running the Trust. He came with detailed knowledge of the inner workings of West Berks Council and that too has been tremendously helpful. Tim Metcalfe is also going as he is standing down from the West Berks Council after many years. To be honest, with David and Tim on our side I sometimes almost felt sorry for those on the other side trying to argue the West Berks case! Tim it was who organized the very successful Race night on September 7th, which raised £1100 for the Trust. Step up David and Tim for some more liquid refreshment.

When David Appleton steps down at the end of this meeting I shall be losing both a friend   and a Vice-Chairman. It is a matter for the Trustees rather than this meeting but I just wanted you to know that I shall be nominating Steve Ellis to succeed David as Vice-Chairman. He has done a magnificent job heading up the maintenance team, and I am sure he will be a worthy successor to David .

I am also very pleased that Joy Jamieson has volunteered to become a Trustee – that makes two lady Trustees and as Joy has agreed to act as our Secretary that is another load off my mind.

I will finish by mentioning the Adam Vaughan fund. Adam used to be a member of Adventure Dolphin. When he was at Cardiff University and Vice-Chairman of the University kayaking club, he went on an expedition to the Andes and was accidentally drowned. His parents then donated £1600 to us to set up a fund in his memory to fund either white water safety and rescue training  and/or kayak coaching training- aimed at young people who would both benefit from but would find it difficult to fund it themselves .

Thank you all for your support. 

Clive Williams

10th January 2019

A team to be proud of

A team to be proud of

Congratulations to all of our volunteer members who received awards at British Canoeing’s Southern Region (Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Berkshire and Hampshire) award ceremony on Tuesday 20th November, held in Pangbourne.

Attended by various clubs throughout the region, our members received awards for long service, impact and volunteering.

Club Impact Award for 2018
Jointly to Ian Blatchley and John Bethell

Young Volunteer Coach of the Year
Ellie Hatchett

15 Years Service Award for Services to the Southern Region

Kevin Dennis

Outstanding Contribution and 25 Years Service

Adrian Moon
Alan Brown
Cliff Coombes
Ed Edwards
Ian Blatchley
Ian Flanders
John Bethell
Ken Tomkins
Maggie Dennis
Sue Harris
Vicky Metcalfe

15 years service
Andrew Middleton
Bill Whitaker
Claire Hardwick
Colin Greaves
Mark Edwards
Ian Palmer
Kevin Dennis
Lizzy Feuillade
Paul Atherton
Penny Tomkins
Steve McCluskey
Tim Metcalfe

Well done to everyone

Adventure Dolphin launches new Paddlesport Section

Jack Hulse, one of the Paddlesport Team Leaders said: “We are keen to create new opportunities for our younger members to come together and try something new. The sessions will be split into two groups, and following Adventure Dolphin tradition, they have been named “The Penguins” for our 11-14 year olds and “The Dolphins” for those aged 15-18 years.

Each session will enable participants to develop their skills as we prepare for a special Halloween Spooktacular event on Saturday 27 October 2018, where Paddlesport members will compete against each other to win prizes.”

Session times
The sessions will run fortnightly on Sunday mornings. Sign-in is from 9.30am, to be on the water for 10am, with a 12noon finish.

Don’t forget, the Sunday morning paddle is on at the same time, so Paddlesport members could leave their adults (1 star holders +) with Nick, Chris and Don for a paddle too!

How to become a Paddlesport member
To be eligible you must:
– Be aged 11-18 years old from 1 September 2018
– Be a current member of Adventure Dolphin
– And have attended at least a Paddlesport Fun course or above

If you meet all of the above criteria, please register your interest by emailing:

Paddlesport Spooktacular event
To enter the Spooktacular event, you must be a Paddlesport member (or an associated family member). So, don’t forget to put the date in the diary and further details will follow nearer the time.

Paddle boarding comes to AD

It was a warm Sunday afternoon. The ducks quacked and the swans preened.

The sun was out and 13 people turned up to our inaugural Stand Up Paddle Boarding sessions. We had a fully booked session. We had both families and individuals participate.

We toured around the Mill Pond, Lock Cut and went up to the islands. We covered how to paddle stroke, reverse paddle turn, and the tricky step back turn.

All participants did very well. We had a 100% success rate where everyone stood up on their paddle board; and this includes some who previously had not been able to do that.

We had a great day paddling amongst the ducks and the swans.

Thanks to The Outdoor Academy for the SUP loan and to Claire and Penny for their support.

We are set to hold another session on 30th September. Visit our online calendar for further information.

Abingdon Round and Swift Ditch

On Sunday 1st July a group of 21 Adventure Dolphin members met at the paddler friendly Abingdon Marina to sample the Thames, the River Ock and – a perennial favourite of the club – Swift Ditch (this latter always known as Swift Ditch by paddlers but more boringly identified as merely “Back Water” by the Ordnance Survey on their maps).

The group met with a typical mixed bag of craft – kayak, OC solo and OC tandem – and the paddle was ably lead by Ed Edwards assisted by Claire Hardwick, Ian Flanders and Adrian Moon. Ed doubled as our tour guide for the day with enlightening snippets about the buildings and entertainment opportunities of Abingdon appearing to know a great deal about Abingdon jail and which pubs were best to impress girlfriends.

After the obligatory faffing, and Claire’s comprehensive “A to G” briefing, we left Abingdon Marina and set off upstream on the Thames but soon left the major river by passing under the old iron bridge at the entrance to the River Ock. The name Ock apparently originates from a Celtic word meaning salmon – a useless piece of information from Adrian.

The Ock was at a better level than might have been expected after the dry spell of weather and after a few hundred metres paddling and wading upstream we reached the spot at which a portage took us over onto the Wilts and Berks Canal and our return via a small shoot back onto the lower Ock. Back on the Thames Ed put on his tour guide hat and took us on a small diversion into the mill stream requiring some undergrowth removal by Claire (quicker on the draw with the pruning saw than Ian on this occasion).
Having passed up through Abingdon Lock (far too hot for all that portaging business) we headed across the top of the weir into the upper mill stream (more pruning work) and on to a suitably shady spot in the Abbey Gardens that happened to be in striking distance of toilets and an ice cream van – what more could we want.

Our numbers swelled (by 1) after lunch with the arrival of Jane Edwards who hadn’t been able to join us earlier as she had been otherwise occupied with the latest addition to the Edwards clan, one Quinn Alexander, born to son Ash and partner Kate in the early hours of that morning.

Lunch having been duly consumed we headed back across the top of the weir and on up the Thames towards the highlight of the day, Swift Ditch. The entrance to this gem, and the original course of the Thames, involves a 2 metre high drop over a weir at the former flash lock. A number of our group entertained us here by taking a cooling swim – their maiden swim in some cases, no names mentioned. Having restored all parties to their respective boats the paddle down Swift Ditch went without further incident and provided some welcome shady trees and respite from the sun and high temperatures that we have become accustomed to in recent weeks. Unusually for Swift Ditch no pruning work was needed.

Just a few hundred metres below Abingdon Marina Swift Ditch re-joins the Thames and the circuit was completed – a varied trip just a little different than the conventional downstream paddles we are more used to taking. Thanks to Ed who manged to stay awake all day despite having been involved, like Jane, in the early morning run out for that Edwards family addition.


To see all the pics click here.