Adventure Dolphin’s paddling trip on Sunday 22nd April from the tiny Oxfordshire village of Islip to Oxford saw our group of 14 negotiate three rivers, and see some of Oxford’s most famous sights.
We were a little unsure as to what the state of the river would be as there had been thunderstorms the previous night and the River Cherwell had been in flood the week before, but much to our surprise the River Ray, which was our starting point, was at a reasonable level.
After a muddy scramble down a bank we set off; just a kilometre on and we went over the weir which was pretty uneventful – in fact, we almost missed it as the water levels were the same on either side! Further on and we reached the confluence of the Ray and Cherwell and entered a fast-flowing stream which made for an easy and extremely pleasant journey.
This was, however, short lived as we soon came across our first obstruction and the cry ‘Send in the tree fellers’ was raised. Ian Flanders, Adrian and Sally Moon set about clearing a path through the branches. Adrian declared “the tree felling award goes to Ian who chose to tackle a bough of 20cm diameter with a pruning saw, a task made more difficult as the offending branch was underwater.”
The route took the group through the outskirts of North Oxford, paddling past Summertown, the home of Chief Inspector Morse, before stopping off at the ever-popular Victoria Arms – so popular all need to be warned that it can be extremely busy on a fine warm day.
Back on the water we paddled past Oxford colleges, Parsons’ Pleasure and the weir next to the punt rollers. We seemed to attract lots of interest from walkers and picnickers as we passed by. Perhaps it was the sight of a large group of paddlers or maybe it was the dog fishing for sticks from a canoe.
The route continued past the medieval walls of Magdalen College and Magdalen Bridge, and then on through the Botanic Gardens with the magnificent backdrop of college towers, church spires and Christchurch Meadow. Much amusement was had as the group played what Adrian described as “dodge the punter” as we tried to avoid the many punts being erratically steered.
We had almost made it when we found our way blocked by a maintenance barrier that meant that we had to portage from the Cherwell to the Thames. At this point one of our party decided that he really needed to find out what the water felt like. To put it another way one of our kayakers had an unexpected swim while climbing out by the high bank.
The final leg saw the need for us to avoid many college boats, whose rowers insist on going backwards, before we finally finished at the Riverside Centre at Donnington Bridge. It was a great paddle – we were luckier than expected with the weather and we had lots of opportunities to test our manoeuvring skills whilst chatting with friends.
Report by Ed Edwards Trip Leader with contributions from group members who were:
Ian Flanders and Ian Blatchley (additional river leaders), Adrian Moon, Sally Moon, Jane Edwards, Corinna Bailie, Alison Stephens, Ray Cook, Lizzy Feuillade, Sue Elwood, John Elwood Elaine Greaves, Colin Greaves and Tenzing.