Sunday 12 June 2011

Enter Elvis...

Swim 5: Round House to Buscot Lock
Sunday 12th June

How locky we are
So here we are at Buscot Lock. Cold, because it has been raining all day, non-stop angled rain that hammers in rods into your eyes so that goggles and hats are absolutely necessary. And of course so is our new mascot, Elvis the duck, securely fastened to Jeremy's zip.

More bacon, courtesy of Chris, fueled this 3.9km Sunday swim (8 & 9 of 'I Love the Thames'). It rained all night long on Camp OSS and everyone feels so damp anyway they might as well be in the water. After a few waits and forgotten gloves, we trot down to the bridge at Inglesham and swim this wide part of the river around through Lechlade. The rain doesn't let up, and some of us are tired, from yesterday's swim and from the hovering helicopter that woke some campers while other slept merrily on, sleep arguing with their demons, or just snoring. Angela distracts the swans with bits of biscuits, at least two dozen of them (swans, not biscuits). The big bridge at Lechlade is the only shelter we get and the open pasture land of the sides of the river just add to the exposure. Officially, this is the first miserable swim and where possible Sef reverts back to extreme wading.

At least it starts that way. After we stop at St John's Lock, for cakes and sweet drinks, it's with a great summoning of energy that we reenter but everyone is in good spirits. The river beyond the lock is narrower and more enclosed despite it having been joined at the lock by the River Leach. It becomes more sheltered, with great willows shielding us from some of the rain. Nevertheless, for most of this stretch we are in head-down crawl, eager to get out and back to the Trout for lunch. We get out into the still heaving skies, pose on the lock and head quickly into Buscot where we change in machine sheds.

The Trout at St John's Lock, Lechlade, where we camped, has put us in a nice little side-room in its warreny heart and its wonderful to warm up here. Formerly known as the John the Baptist's Head, giving its name to the adjacent lock, this old hostelry has been around for a while and has a well-deserved reputation for riverside fun dating back a few years. Baskerville remarked in 1690 on it as "a very good inn for entertainment, and they have commonly strong march beer in bottles to sell, and pretty good wine." Prosaically renamed perhaps, the tradition continues and outside, a mini-music festival has drawn a lot of young folk for whom the constant rain appears not too distracting. Inside, we are tired but happy.

Swim 5 Track: Round House to Buscot Lock

Swim 5 Map: Round House to Buscot Lock

Swim 5: The Roundhouse, Inglesham to Buscot Lock

We met at Riverside Park after having shuttled a car or two down to the public car park at Buscot.

We swam down – almost all swimming so you can get away without feet. This is the stretch that Walliams started at. The distance is 3.9km, equivalent to swims 9 & 10 from I Love the Thames. We stopped for a warm up drink and snacks at St John’s Lock, Lechlade, then swam on to Buscot Lock. We then returned to the Trout for a well-earned pub lunch in a room they had kindly reserved for us.

Tell the lockkeeper ahead of the swim that you will be swimming. Usually he will call ahead to let the next lock know and magically boats in between the locks will know to look out for you. It’s just good practice and courtesy too.

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.

Swim 4 Track: Hannington Bridge to Inglesham Round House

Swim 4 Map: Hannington Bridge to Inglesham Round House

Swim 4: Hannington Bridge to Inglesham Roundhouse

We met at Riverside Park car park, across the river from Lechlade.

We then shuttled to Hannington Bridge where there is very limited parking.

This swim – and it’s mostly swimming, certainly after the first third or so – is a distance of 5.7km, equivalent to swim 8 in I Love the Thames. The Thames path does not follow the river for the duration of this swim so if you want to get out before the end, this may require a bit of field hopping and navigation. It can be done, but we were lucky and our support trespassed with permission. More reliable might be to take your picnic in a waterproof sack. Swim up to the bridge at Inglesham Roundhouse and scramble out on the right bank and walk along the river to Riverside Park.

We camped at the Trout Inn, Lechlade, which is also the third pub on the Thames (try and stop at the Riverside, Lechlade, for the full house).