Paddling the Thames: Day 4

Near Mapledurham to Mill End

Gmaps route: 16.6 miles

Day 3 campWe were up fairly early and particularly well rested. Although I could have easily crawled back into my warm sleeping bag and enjoyed a lazy morning with a cup of tea. Our campsite was visited by the super cute and rather musically chatting English Robins. They were pretty bold, sitting on our canoe right next to our tent, we must have been in his territory that he was trying to defend or chase us away from, but we just thought he was insanely cute.

The wind was in our faces most of the day and there were far more boats on the water creating a lot of chop which slowed us down. The locks were also time consuming today, we were near more populated areas with larger numbers of boats, not too mention the ferry boats where only one would take up the entire lock, making us wait through several cycles. We lost a lot of time at the locks.

English Robin on our canoeToday we passed through Reading. Here the paths along the river and half a dozen large ferries were riddled with ASBO’s coming from the Reading Festival over this Bank Holiday weekend. It was interesting to note that we were paddling faster than the rocked out campers. On the surface and from the way the paddles and canoe seemed to be moving through the water, we thought possibly we were paddling faster and stronger than we had all weekend. Or maybe the river started to actually have a current. Standing on the bank of the Thames in Bourne End, it really seems like the river is raging past you, surely we’ve reached a point where there current finally has picked up. Alas, I don’t think this was the case at all with the wind coming directly at us and the heavy chop, this really wore us down, as evidenced by the day total of 16.6 miles.

Still no sign of cream tea. I was completely fixated on the idea of having cream tea and scones with clotted cream today. At the Sonning Lock where we ended up waiting through multiple cycles, Mark got out of the boat to see what was going on, he comes back to show me the photo he took on his phone, a picture of a sign saying, “Now serving cream teas!”

We had a special mini-goal of meeting friends at the St. George and Dragon for lunch. After hours of paddling with no breakfast and passing up the lock’s cream tea, and then the waitress telling us they had stopped taking food orders for the next twenty-five minutes and then nearly having an aneurysm at the news, lunch was so well earned, an entire pizza and a steak was quickly inhaled by the two of us. Henley-on-Thames was a particularly lively and festive town, I enjoyed the band and dancers on the upper deck of one of the larger ferry-like boats.

Mark with the River ThamesAfter paddling a couple more hours we started talking about what time or where to stop. We had a number to call to get picked up, we could stop short of our goal if we stopped at a lock and called from there. Not five minutes later, we get a phone call from one of the canoe folks wondering how far along we were and when we thought we anticipated reaching our original goal of Bourne End. It was after four pm and at that point we had about ten miles to go. Paddling around two miles per hour would put us home much later than we would have liked.

We decided to stop early and arranged a pick up point a half mile beyond the next lock. Those last few miles seemed to be the longest and hardest to paddle, the instant we set our end goal short it became so far away.

91.8 miles is an impressive amount and I’m incredibly proud of both of us for what we accomplished. It’s 11.8 miles more than we thought we were getting ourselves into, so it’s a win and quite the accomplishment no matter how we look at it.