Saturday, 11 June 2011

Pirate's picnic

Swim 4: Hannington Bridge to Inglesham Round House
Saturday 11th June
We are camping this weekend at the Trout Inn, St John's Lock, near Lechlade. After we've pitched Camp OSS, by the river, and scoffed some bacon sandwiches, we head to Riverside Park, Lechlade. We then shuttle to Hannington Bridge. This is swim 8 of 'I Love the Thames' and a long old 5.7km. Angelina B is again diverted with the Thames Path and our pit-stop might require a little inventiveness on her part. The swans are out in force: Adam wrangles a whole team of them who decide to follow us for a while like menacing hoodies. Or maybe that's what we are. There's much more swimming and very little extreme wading or commando crawl. We swim by mostly lightly wooded banks, quite steep and very lush. Just as we're getting cold and hungry we come across a man in a rowing boat trying to fish out a log.
Logs in the river are apparently worse downstream
Chris and Adam help with direction and the log is pulled out by a tractor. Beyond, a skull and crossbones is flying from its pole, and Angela is beneath it with our lunch. There's a party going on for the farmer and they seem happy for us to join for our picnic. A proper pirate raid of 11 swimmers.
When we get back in, recovering from the cold takes a while, but we start to meet boats coming up from Lechlade - we are approaching the reaches of other leisure-users of the river. We pass the meetings of the River Churn and the Severn and Thames Canal and form here on the river begins to resemble the Thames that we are more familiar with. In fact, we have entered the Middle Thames. The infant Lower Thames with its adventurous crawling, wading, swan attacks and nice landlady is behind us. What awaits us beyond its pirate-infested banks.
Have you seen our boat?
A well-spoken landlubber greets us from the bank. He owns the former mill we are swimming by - a beautiful vernacular property in Inglesham. We invite him in. 'Good god no. I haven't been in for 30 years, not since I built my swimming pool.' He declines our offer to join him in that. Some of our number are heard to mutter that riverside properties should be confiscated from non-river swimmers.
An house that is round
Then the Round House is visible, the cylindrical dwelling of the canalmen. It is a startling property which seems to have a wedding in it today. The tired swimmers get out here, pose by the no-swimming sign, and head back to camp.
You can't swim here. Where these swimmers were swimming.

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