Misadventure on the Thames

It had been a simple plan, a night in the Wilds of Berkshire. Canoe from Pangbourne up the Goring gap and turn around at the Goring lock. Returning I would Bivibag under The canoe and a tarp for the night in Hartslock Wood.

I launched at six into fast flowing Thames (yellow flow warning in place) the sky was grey with the occasional glimpse of the dying sun. The birds sang, it was peaceful and all was well.

On the way past the woods I spotted a few challenging but doable landing spots. Onward I later stopped and cooked up my strew and enjoyed the moment.

Determined to make Goring I paddled on the current getting stronger the further I went. There was just enough light to see the stunning bankside properties, one with a steel and glass dining room at the bottom of the garden. I pittied the ‘staff’ that had to get the food down from the house a good distance up a steep bank.

Finally sighting Goring lock I turned down stream. It was now dark but just enough light to see the ripples of water as we speed on a magic carpet ride. It was a very surreal and mesmerising journey, well worth all the effort.

Approaching Hartslock Wood it started to rain and I was keen to get under the trees. Donning my head torch, it worked intermittently giving a dim beam not much past the bow of my canoe but giving blinding reflections from the paddles each time I moved them.

In the dark the band had now become an inhospitable tangle of branches and fallen trees with high banks. I tried three times to land without luck. The fourth attempt appeared possible and I needed to get out of the rain. I struggled and was just about to make it when suddenly my second dunking from Iki Wa’a. I was up to my neck in the chilly muddy Thames. Appart from a spray top and buoyancy aid I was just I regular outdoors clothes.

Bags ashore canoe emptied I considered setting up camp. I would probably be fine sleeping but the idea of donning drenched clothes in the morning had little appeal. I was travelling light so no spare clothes. I decided it was time to head home.

By now there was a stiff breeze right on the nose which not only made progress tough but adding to the wind chill. I paddled on at a hight cadence simply to develop some warmth. Finally the lights of Pangbourne appeared, I could see people sensibly sitting in their warm houses or enjoying a friendly pint at The Swan. As a approached Whitchurch Lock and blinded by the shore lights Iki Wa’a felt like he was in a tractor beam of the ever increasing roar of the weir. They don’t put any lights on locks at night.

Finally at ten thirty I put my feet on solid concrete, it started to rain again and I shuddered with cold.

I made it to Tesco just before it shut at midnight, bought a well deserved cidre which I enjoyed after a piping hot shower.

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