Monday, 21 May 2012

Swim 24: Abingdon Lock to Culham Lock

Sharon reports on a swim that had it all: swimmers as superheroes, angry oarsmen, nature unleashed (and releashed by the Health & Safety Executive, thankyouverymuch)

Previously, we had postponed the swim from Abingdon Lock to Culham Lock, because in early May, the Thames had been in spate, with high water levels and a current way too strong for even experienced swimmers. On Saturday 19th May, the river was no longer at red but green flag status,
and Jenny had kindly done a safety spot check on the entire route the day before.

The day was, if not exactly sunny, then at least dry and not too cold (14C). After meeting at Culham and shuttling to Abingdon, Adam took on the role of chief organiser and gave us all a safety briefing, because the current was still pretty strong (up to Michael Phelps speed in places). Unlike the relative disorganisation of previous swims, we were to swim in three groups, with each group having firm instructions to stick together. We were also to keep a very sharp early eye out for boats, because with the current, we'd have much less time to get out of the way of any boats bearing down on us.
The 'triathletes' set off
 The slow group set off first, followed immediately by the triathletes group; meanwhile the medium group enjoyed an extended safety briefing from Adam.
It's official: the temperature at Abingdon Lock.

The water temperature was 12C. Some of the wetsuited swimmers thought this was tropical but the non-wetsuited swimmers begged to differ.

At first the current behaved very strangely, presumably due to the effects of the weir to our far right. As we in the slow group started off, we seemed to be hardly making any progress at all, being almost stationary with respect to the bank. But looking ahead, the triathletes group who had overtaken us only a couple of minutes before were tiny specks several hundred metres in the distance, so we figured this fearsome current ought to be around here somewhere, ...and then it was! We were being carried along at a very fast pace, and it was wonderful!

    "So this is what it's like to be a competent swimmer!"
    "Fastest breaststroke in the worrrrrrrld!!"

Members of the medium group chose to enjoy the current's assistance by doing Superman impressions: think one arm extended in front, the other arm down the side of the body.

After less than a kilometre, we were going through the centre of Abingdon, which was delightful, with an old bridge and church right on the riverside. However, we had little time to enjoy the sights, due to the current. Not only did it whisk us along fast, but we had much less time than usual to avoid the several coxed eights boats and narrowboats coming upstream to us, so we paid a lot of attention to the boats, and stuck close to the left bank to avoid them.

The slow group, going through the centre of Abingdon.
The midway break in the swim occurred at a little beach just past the marina. Alas, the bank support term arrived at the beach only just in time to see the triathletes rapidly disappearing off into the distance, so they didn't get any cookies. This was fine with the rest of us; we found alternative arrangements for the disposal of their cookies.
The medium group begin the second half of the swim.

After the refreshments, and a change of membership for the slow group, the second half of the swim started slower, due to the river being wider and therefore the current less strong.  This got even more disappointing once we'd turned left into the cut leading to Culham Lock, as the other section of the river leading to the weir was larger and hogging all the current. So we were forced to actually swim for a change. The medium group celebrated reaching the cut with a little synchronized swimming.
The medium group try (and fail) the 'Falange of Bobboons' manoeuvre.
THE swan (it's ok, Adam briefed him too)

The cut, although being less free flowing and more insect-infested, made up for this by being rather pretty, festooned for much of its length in white flowers from hawthorn and Queen Anne's Lace.

Before too long, we all reached the lock. Stanley and Paul kindly gave Sharon some assistance in putting on her sandals so she could climb up the lock ladder.

Afterwards, several of us went to the George and Dragon pub in Sutton Courtenay, where the food was delicious!

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for protecting me from those nasty swans guys.