Exploring the river

On Saturday, we took Shona to explore some of the Thames round Reading by canoe.

On Sunday morning, we both woke up with the same thought - paddle through London. I checked the tides and high tide was around noon, so we wouldn't be paddling down a little stream surrounded by slime and mud, so we set off. Twickenham bridge seemed like a good place to start - we found free parking for the van right next to the river.

The plan was to paddle through the city as far as we could, then I would jump on the tube, get back to Richmond and drive the van to pick up Kathleen. So we packed some dry clothes and set off towards the East.

It was a glorious sunny sunday and Richmond was heaving with people out on the bank, enjoying the riverside.

We saw lots of wildlife. Herrons nesting, with some fairly large chicks. Coots with chicks, Grebes, Cygnets, even a pair of parrots. When we rested on the bank for a break, a flock of Canadian geese with a dozen or more chicks wandered around us, chomping at the short grass.

Teddington lock was a surprise. The tide was so high that the water was cascading the wrong way over the wier but we dragged the canoe over the portage and continued on our way.

Kingston was also full of people enjoying the heat but we waited till a slightly quieter part of the river before tying up and having a pub lunch of marinated lamb.

There were a number of people skulling along in fast boats but at one point we passed a large rowing boat with 6 rowers and two passengers dressed as Henry the Eighth and one of his many wives. By the time we had meandered our way to Hampton Court, they had come back again. Sure enough - Henry the Eighth had been for a trip on the Royal Barge up the river, all part of a local regatta.

Hampton court looked magnificent from the river but it stuck me as odd for it to be on the right hand side - I had been expecting it to be on the left.

Then it dawned on me. We wern't going down towards London at all. We had just paddled nearly eight miles upstream. Now that I look back on it, I can't believe that we went up a wier without shaking my stuborn belief that we were going downstream.

We paddled back again. A lovely day on the river but a legendary navigational error.

Now, a day later, every part of my body is suffering in pain. To add injury to injury, I have a three-inch band of sunburn round my ankles marking the area from the top of my wet-shoes used when paddling to the position that my socks normaly cover.