Sunday, 14 October 2012

A Swim #38 catchup - Frogmill Spinney to Higginson Park (Marlow)

On bank holiday Monday 27th May 2013, four of us (Chris, Neil, Paul & Sharon) decided to do a catch-up of swim #38 from Frogmill Spinney (1km upstream of Hurley Lock) to Marlow, along with Charles and Caro for bank support. We met at the carpark off Pound Lane in Marlow, which had plenty of spaces at 10.30am, and cost £3 for up to 6 hours. We decided since parking at Hurley was not plentiful and we'd have to walk the last 1km anyway, we'd walk the full 4½km up to the starting point. As we did so, we checked visually where our getting-out spot was; if we overshot, we'd find it tricky to get out, as the riverbank downstream (near Higginson Park) was edged with unfriendly-looking corrugated metal. As we walked along, it was rather cool and cloudy, not to mention the brisk wind, and the Thames didn't look nearly so enticing as it can do in sunshine! Given how cool it had been recently with near-risk of frost at night, we were rather surprised to find the water temperature as warm as 13.5°C - very similar to the air temperature!

The water temperature at mid-day, taken at Frogmill Spinney.

We got in.
We swam off, sharpish!

Left: Chris and Paul already in the water. Foreground: Neil. Right: Sharon's foot.

There were plenty of water fowl around near Frogmill Spinney, including a great-crested grebe that swum casually between Neil and Paul. There were a lot of birds with babies in tow, with mallards and their ducklings, geese and their goslings,

A gaggle of Canada geese and several sets of goslings. Chris can be seen swimming.

...and a covert of coots and their, er.... cooties? Cuties the babies certainly were, despite their red punk rock hairdos.

The route towards the first lock took us past several weirs on the left:

Chris giving assistance to a motorless motorboat, near one of the weirs.

The current was slow ("slow" meaning "you can see which way it's going but you don't notice it giving you any swimming assistance"), so we had no problems. However, it was clear that with a higher water flow, that would be a dangerous section, even with much of the river near the right-hand bank being shallow enough to stand up on the gravelly bottom.

Paul, standing on the gravelly river bottom.

There were plenty of people on the towpath, many of them asking The Usual Question ("Isn't it cold?"). After grilling Neil on the subject, they took a slightly different tack with Sharon (sans wetsuit):

"Aren't you cold?", they said.
"Why? Am I making you feel cold just by looking at me?"
"YES!!!!!!!" (with fist pump and almighty splash)
(swims off)

Shortly, the sun decided it had had enough of skulking, and came out to warm us up a bit as we approached Hurley Lock. Negotiating this lock is not standard, as a local bye-law forbids any swimming in the lock cut itself (penalty £10, it says on the notice). As you approach the lock, you can see a bridge over to the lock island, and the helpful lock keeper suggested that we got out next to this bridge, and then we could go a few metres over the grass to the back of the island.

The ladder just after the bridge (from where the photo was taken), with only one handrail.
Chris can be seen next to the ladder - probably checking his Garmin!

Nearby, on the other side of the lock island, there is a short concrete ledge, from which swimmers can get back into the water.

Chris treads cautiously on re-entering the water.

Chris noticed that the rocky shelf at the edge doesn't drop off as quickly as you might think, but gives way to a second lower shelf, which is very uneven with random rocks on it. Chris turned and started to warn Paul, but - *SPLASH* too late! Paul managed to fall into the water rather sooner than he'd intended, and bumped his legs a bit. Oh well, at least Neil and Sharon were forewarned a few minutes later when they went that way.

Sharon is not trying to boot Neil up the backside, honest!

Apart from the huge volume of flies milling around above the water surface (for which is recommended headdown or a very inefficient splashy stroke!), the back water was a good route, taking us past a whole bunch of moored boats.

Back out on the main river, there were more boats moored all the way along up to the bridge just before Temple Lock, including a pub.

Chris charmed some of the people on board The Showboat pub.

Sharon got to the bridge, noticed that there was nobody watching if she didn't do butterfly under the bridge, then noticed a bright yellow brimstone fluttering around nearby on the bank, and decided that would do nicely!

At Temple Lock, there is a ladder that is decidedly askew and clearly came off the worse for an encounter with a boat. It's a bit awkward to use, with not quite as much room to put feet as you'd like, but it's sound enough.

Paul relaxes before attempting the wonky ladder.

Temple Lock did not have nearly as friendly a lock keeper as Hurley Lock, so after partaking of cake (spiced applesauce cake, this time), Chris and Paul quickly scooted off to get in again.

Chris and Paul try unsuccessfully to blend in with the other frequenters of the lock.

Sharon had a surprise waiting for her when she got to the lock: two friends (Gareth & Dolores) who happened to be taking a walk that morning. When they had walked as far as the Thames towpath, they thought "I wonder how Sharon is getting on with her Thames swim", and then two minutes later, who should be swimming along...?

Sharon with her friends Gareth and Dolores.
In the background, Neil checks his watch - perhaps the chatting went on a bit much!

After Temple Lock was a nice straight stretch, with plenty of width to accommodate assorted swimmers, rowers and boats without hassle. It was interesting to pass Temple Island, on the right-hand bank, looking like a cul-de-sac, but with every house having a boat mooring rather than a driveway!

Temple Island, with a mooring for every apartment. Sharon can be seen swimming in the foreground.

As we swam along past the abbey at Bisham, the sun tried its best to warm up the water, and we soon reached the getting-out spot. Paul and Chris arrived there first, getting back to the carpark mid-afternoon, by which time it was very crowded. Upon spotting Paul in his wetsuit, three cars hovered eagerly near Paul's car as he changed, hoping for his space, only to drive off in dismay as they realised he wasn't leaving anytime soon!

A few minutes later, Neil and Sharon were getting out. Note that at the getting out spot, there are several wooden posts and metal spikes sticking out of the river bed near the bank, which requires treading with caution.

Neil exits the water, with Sharon a few metres in the distance.

1 comment:

  1. Ah yes, the car park. Cars full of families circling, noses pressed to windows, all those impatient pairs of eyes watching my Houdini-meets-Clouseau efforts to free myself from my gimpsuit,. For some reason despite their obvious avid attention to me nobody seemed to understand my attempts to communicate 'I'm not going' through the medium of dance - although in fairness my movement was a bit inhibited by having both hands trapped in inside out wetsuit arms, and I might have been a little restrained due to wearing nothing but a pair of Diesel Supersexy swim briefs. It's strange, now you have brought it back to mind, I can still feel their eyes on me.