More than a dozen of us met at 10.30am at the car park near Boulter's Lock, on Sunday 14th April 2013. There is a 1.9m bar on the car park there so poor Bertie was banished to what parking could be found elsewhere.
There was some discussion of how cold the Thames would be, and we weren't sure whether the temperatures listed by Maidenhead Rowing Club were accurate - 6°C throughout the whole of March? Then a sudden leap up to 9°C two days ago? Really? But when Charles took the temperature,...
The water temperature at the lock: 8.9°C
...we had to eat our words. 9°C it was. This was certainly warmer than the river has been lately, but still firmly in the category of FLIPPIN' COLD. The sun, however, smiled on us and the air temperature hovered around 17-18°C, positively tropical!
We shuttled up to Cookham, and walked over the common towards the lock. At this point, Angela (one of our fabulous bank support duo) noticed that the Thames path deviates somewhat from the lock here, and she started back to Cookham itself to rejoin the Thames path and get a headstart on the swimmers. Meanwhile, our other fabulous bank supporter, Charles, walked over with us to the lock and busied himself taking pictures of the 15 swimmers getting in.
Ready to get in: note Lindsay in his spiderman costume.
We got in just after 11.30am:
Neil gets in. Meanwhile, Claire is still posing for the camera.
No, this isn't Susan, despite the neoprene abundance, yellow hat and orange float, it's actually Lesley:
Lesley plays with her new inflatable toy.
Below we have Carol starting the swim:
Carol starting to swim from the lock.
Well it might be Carol. Difficult to tell really, many of us were difficult to identify, what with the goggles and all the neoprene we had on!!
Sharon was the only one not wearing a wetsuit. Sparkling in the sunlight, the river looked too tempting and she decided that it had to be tried. Determined not to shriek too much as the cold water met skin, she started down the ladder, got to thigh-level, and then stood there gasping for a bit, hoping to get the gasp reflex mostly out of the way before getting in the water.
Sharon starts off, just near the lock.
Our beloved leaders, Sef and Jeremy, were last to get in:
Sef and Jeremy, leaving the lock.
A few metres down from the lock, we rejoined the main Thames stream, where the current was very "Wahey!" and "Wheeeeeeeeeeeeee!"
The start of the swim. Susan is in the foreground, leaving the lock,
with Carol, Chloe and Rafael further off, about to reach the current.
The current made the whole swim very fast, leaving us scarcely any time to look at the pretty cottage in the Cliveden grounds that featured in the Profumo scandal of a few decades ago.
However the river wasn't so fast that it deprived us of the opportunity to be asked "Isn't it cold?" by bank-dwellers, several times. Jeremy's reply: "Warmer than last time!"
Other things noticed during the swim included a kingfisher, which Susan spotted as a little turquoise arrow making for the safety of the swimmer-free zone.
Sharon found some trolls. Well, they were under a bridge! Underneath the bridge over a little slipway were two adult and two child trolls. Sharon waved and shouted "Hello trolls!!!!!" They waved back and shouted "Hello!"
The brisk upstream wind and even brisker downstream current combined to provide a fair bit of chop for us to contend with, and there were even waves in several places, despite very little passing boat traffic. But even the chop and waves didn't prevent all the swimmers from being ahead of both bank supporters.
Even with Angela's walking headstart, she only arrived at an easy wade-out getting out spot (a little over half-way, on the right, just past the long thin island in the middle of the river) after Sharon got out there, but soon enough to offer refreshments and a hot drink. Combined with the warm sun beating down, circulation was soon restored to fingers and toes that had started to get a bit numb.
Meanwhile, the rest of the swimmers were approaching the lock, keeping to the right bank to avoid weirs on the left. Near the lock, however, the current that had provided so much assistance earlier suddenly got the huff and abandoned us, making it very hard work to swim up the lock cut.
Charles had had a very brisk walk and only caught up with us all at the lock, just after the last swimmer got out at 12:30pm. Having managed not to take any photos of the middle of the swim, he instead photographed us standing around and guzzling delicious post-swim nosh.
Chatting and munching at the lock. The air was too warm for us to feel much urgency to change.
The gastronomically-inclined may be interested to know that the (delicious!) home-made fare included Sef's special hot spiced apple drink, Sharon's orange choc chip cookies, and Jeremy's florentines. Yes, Jeremy. No, not Mrs. Wellingham. Jeremy. Jeremy would like full credit for the florentines he stayed up until midnight making, thankyouverymuch!
Afterwards we went back to the carpark to change, and then most of us walked over to Jenner's cafe (a few hundred metres down the road from the lock) for lunch in the warm sunshine.
The daffodils were in full bloom near Boulter's Lock.