Sunday, 10 June 2012

Swim 26: Clifton Lock to Day's Lock

After meeting in Clifton Hampden, a cloudy but initially dry day, we trooped off along the Thames path in the upstream direction towards the lock. Neil, meanwhile, bearing in mind the difficulties of yesterday's swim, took a shortcut, heading downstream early to make sure he got to the midway refreshments point in advance of the fastest swimmers.

At Clifton Lock, at twenty-five past eleven, we got into the water, which produced assorted yelps and gasping, mostly from the hardy three without wetsuits: Adam, Lesley and Sharon.

The swimmers get in at Clifton Lock. Lesley and Adam can be seen near the steps, in only speedos and rash vests.

Although we didn't know it when we entered the water, the river temperature had dropped significantly from yesterday, and was now down to 14.2°C.

Somehow, Colin managed to get his toe injured. I hasten to add that this was not because it got bitten by a pike (Adam's rumour); the latest and best rumour is that it was the result of a particularly vicious concrete wall at the lock.

The current was still flowing nicely to assist us, and we half bobbed, half swam through Clifton Hampden, admiring the strong lines of the fine red brick architecture of the bridge rapidly disappearing into the distance behind us.

The view from the bridge at Clifton Hampden, from the point of view of the bank support crew.
The last of the swimmers can be seen vanishingly rapidly in the far distance.

A little past the bridge, a flotilla of Canada geese swam purposely into the middle of the river as if to claim all of its full width, and then suddenly they all took off! Quite a sight, a row of geese bums with furious side flapping, all in synch. I hate to admit it, but they made a better Thames barrier than we can manage.

There were some swans out too, but the river is much wider than in the Upper Thames, where we had problems with swans a year ago, and we could circle to avoid them easily enough without recourse to Adam's swan wrangling skills.

Further on, Pam pointed out to us her dream house, a beautiful old redbrick house with cream roses climbing up a trellis, in a lovely garden backing onto the river, even with a metal ladder on the bank for swimmers.

Later Pam managed to find a large log, and bumped into Tracy with it; cue lots of jokes about Pam's floating log and how big it was.

Meanwhile Neil had found a good midway spot for a refreshments stop, and he and Angela busied themselves with copious coffee delivery, cookie dispersal and chocolate doughnuts distribution (thanks for the doughnuts, Naoko!).

Chloe gets coffeed and cookied, whilst Neil looks on.

This beachy spot was better than Neil had initially realised: not only was there a shallow mud shelf near the bank to assist getting out, but when getting back in again, the mud shelf's sudden steep drop-off made for some comical swimmer re-entry trajectories. We hope the bank support crew were amused as much as our dignity was lost.

Freshly fuelled, off we all went again, initially quite speedily, but then the pace started to flag a bit for the last kilometre or so, until Harry spotted a tennis ball floating along in the current. Anyway it turns out that it's surprisingly feasible to play piggy-in-the-middle even whilst you're all (Claire, Chris, Harry, Sharon, Tracy) swimming downstream. However you might like to note that if the upstream participants keep throwing the ball so that it falls short when tossed to the downstream participants, then the downstream participants (Tracy, in this case) are likely to complain that you are making them swim further. Ahem.

Throughout the swim, we had seen a fair few boats, many decked out with Jubilee bunting, and we said hello to many of the boaters. At one of the last of the narrowboats encountered, Tracy spotted some more people, shouting out "Hello narrowboat dwellers!!". Trying to cadge tea and cakes again, our Tracy. But this didn't look promising when one man yelled back "Hello, crazy people!!". Then Tracy pointed out that he was the one with an axe in his hand... "Fair point.", he said.

This time, the current stayed with us until right up to Day's Lock; unlike yesterday, there was no horrid canal without a flow for the last part of the swim.

Day's Lock is as pretty as folks say. However on the upstream side of the lock, it only had one ladder, which looked like it had lost a heated argument with a narrowboat. We were recommended to get out the other side instead.

Katia arrived first and instinctively chose the muddiest spot to get out at:

One of the newbies got out, put his shorts on and ran across the fields, was he perhaps training for the Blenheim triathlon? The rest of us clambered up a grassy bank without getting too muddy in the process.

Jeremy arrives at Day's Lock. Behind him, the Thames Piggy-in-the-Middle team are approaching the lock after a hard training session.

Afterwards, we repaired to the same pub as yesterday, for more good food and company.

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