Sunday, 15 May 2011

The Swan Whisperer

Swim 2: Water Eaton to Red Lion, Castle Eaton
Sunday 15th May
We meet at the Red Lion in Castle Eaton. The pub is on the riverbank and we fill up the carpark with the promise to lunch there later. It is officially the first pub of the Thames, and this is going to be a long old pub crawl. We decide to adjust our plan to lengthen the route to end here, the first pub of the Thames. We walk up to the footbridge, a conspicuous train of rubberclad figures plus dog (Noodles) following the Thames path. Eleven of us slip into the river at Water Eaton and set off sometimes swimming, extreme wading, commando crawling. The commando crawl was developed by Pam and Jo in order to avoid wading. At this point there are deep schisms in the group between those who believe wading is not on and those who have set up the splinter Extreme Wading Society. We manage to find common ground. Or water. There is more water, but the level is still low after a winter and spring of drought. 'Reedy-narrows' (so termed by Tracy) offer fast-flowing flumes where the reed beds have crept across the river forcing the current to flow through thing courses. We lie down and let the river flush us through. 

The swans are still angry and as they rush at us, Sef launches herself in pure cowardice into the bank, leaving Chris and Adam (known as Andy) exposed, but here, Adam's skills as a swan-wrangler come to the fore and he calms the swans in an unwordly way that the rest of us just cannot understand. 

When we get out, most of us are a little chilly. Andrew is warmed by women who undress him, rub him and feed him cake. They are already all toasty by the time those bringing up the rear emerge, elegantly, using the canoe-launcher's ropes, into the Red Lion's garden. Melody Lyall, landlady of this hostelry, has made a strong early claim on the title of best pub landlady on the river. And the draft Otter is certainly worth the trip.

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