Paddling the Thames: Day 1

Cricklade to near Carswell Marsh

Gmaps route: 21.5 miles

Just about to set off from CrickladeAs we set off this morning, our spirits and morale were high, we were excited about this adventure in true Denovich style. One that sounds, and probably is, a bit insane. Planning to paddle 80 miles of the Thames in four days.

Although technically we were starting on the River Isis, the Thames wouldn’t really be called the Thames until the Thame (with no “s”) River joins the Isis 59 miles down stream. But we are in the headwaters of the Thames starting in Cricklade. We are only able to start this far up stream at this time of year due to how excessively wet this summer has been. The Isis can be a dry trickle normally this far up in August. Where we put in, we could almost reach both banks with outstretched arms, it’s not so much a river as it is a shallow stream.

The first several miles were riddled with fallen trees and debris from the flooding. It was slow going at first, we paddled straight through some branches before getting the knack of maneuvering around these obstacles.

Taking an early break on the bankI also must mention we lucked out on the weather for all four days we were out. Summer really just never happened in England this year, we had that one day that reached 84 degrees, but since then it’s been chilly, gray, drizzly sweater wearing weather. These four days were all sunshine and warm 70’s. We couldn’t have asked for better weather or temperatures for what we were doing.

We had “Canoing the Thames” guides printed out with conflicting distances. The spreadsheet the Thames Canoe folks provided us gave us 80 miles vs. the 100 miles on the detailed mile by mile guide Mark had found online. Twenty miles is a huge margin of error and caused us some distress considering we can paddle maybe 2.5 miles per hour.

Deb and another bridgeThese guides also had listed inns, canoe friendly pubs and camp sites along the way. We anticipated having plenty of places to stop to eat, so we didn’t provision ourselves with a lot of food. Just snacking bits. We did not anticipate nor know the flooding from recent weeks had closed down many of our expected stops for repairs. What does this translate into? For our first day we only ate one meal. When we are paddling for 10 hours a day, not being properly fueled is a problem.

Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea)We were not disappointed with our wildlife sightings. Cormorants, herons, Great Crested Grebes galore and flashes of electric blue Kingfishers skimming the water’s surface ahead of us. We frequently had the white swan sentinels of the river gliding gracefully in front of us as if we were in a chariot and they were our steeds. Fluttering emerald and sapphire jewels of Banded Demoiselle damselflies were ever present clouds around us. Paddling along we were in a meandering maze lined with Great Willowherb, forests of Phragmites and towering Typha (Common Reed and Cat Tails, I just enjoy the alliteration of the genus names).

We more or less had the river to ourselves for the entire first day. A couple kayakers here and there and more smaller boats as we got closer to our campsite. We set up camp just past the Tadpole bridge. We were out for the night quickly, day one was exhausting. Several times in the night I awoke thinking someone was shining a light on our tent only to realize it was the moonlight from the nearly full moon.

Pill Box along river

Jaunty looking Deb