With lockdown starting tomorrow I decided to take a day of holiday to go sailing.
Well the forecast wasn’t fantastic so I decided to do a canoe trip I had heard of. To the East of Reading; the plan was to join the St Patrick’s Stream cruise down to the River Loddon and take the Thames upstream back to St Patrick’s.
Access was OK today, midweek, at the end of the very bumpy Milestone Avenue is St Patrick’s Stream with roadside parking for three cars.
Putting in was easy, the narrow stream flowing very swiftly after days of rain.
The steam weaving its way through fields is edged with snap willow and fishing platforms. The snap willows created the first excitement, with branches bridging the stream.
Despite the high water level there was just enough air gap to limbo under the tree branches. It was a fisherman next, I only realised his presence when he said something I didn’t catch. I back paddled to assess the situation and saw his rod as he reeled in his catch, a very small fish. More fallen trees navigated followed by a bridge with a polite sign about canoeist to beware of fishermen. This was near a large car park in the middle of no where, this isn’t the place to come at the weekend mid fishing season.
Next a brace of fishermen at a junction in the river. They politely asked me to come close the their bank under their rods. I was in a dilemma now though, which branch of the river should I take and would I have to embarrassingly go back past the fishermen? On the left bank was the first of numerous interesting designer houses that would become a feature of the next part of the trip. I pulled alongside their dock to check my map (Phone). All was good and I could carry on.
Carrying on was like a leafing through a copy of Architects Digest. Spectacular boxes of glass on stilts with quivers of luxury cars sitting underneath.
Enjoying the rapid escalator of my down stream ride a reached another junction in the river. I had found the Loddon.
I went upstream a bit but was making little progress against the flow and decided to head down steam saving my energy for the Thames, good call in hindsight.
Quickly the properties started to straddle both banks, some multi million pound pads, some tiny holiday homes and some tired properties ripe for development. As I floated by I became a brief distraction to men sitting in their offices with quite a view.
Despite all the temples to wealth Mother Nature was supreme in her Autumnal dressings
The Thames came upon me quickly and some what of a surprise. I only released where I was when I saw the sign for the lock.
It was now time to paddle against the stream which was a shock to the system. Brief paddle and a moored at the portage quay and had lunch.
Keeping things simple, and not expecting a lock, I hadn’t brought my trolley. Tying everything to me, my rucksack or Iki Wa’a and him over head portage was easy.
Being down steam of the weirs the current was minimal and I enjoyed the paddling. This was short lived as stream became stronger the more progress I made. At this point the Thames winds between farmland with the odd island to add some interest.
The none channel side of the islands is home for a hotch pot of liveaboard vessel. Some moored to the island requiring a dinghy to get ashore. I doubt this life was as idilic as it should be, the basic of life requiring enormous effort. The stream here was too fierce to take any photos.
I was now head into a blindingly low sun with every dip of the paddle making minimal progress as inched forward, arms becoming lead.
It the distance there looked like a fork in the river and a post with a sign. Eventually I reached the post and I was suddenly rocketed past it and under willows tickling the water, St Patrick’s Stream once again. Then all too soon I was swept under the bridge and had to turn hard to tie the knot and beech where I had put it.
With the rest of the year an unknown this was certainly a great way to enjoy the twilight of liberty.