Sunday 28 August 2011

Swim 11 Track: Rose Revived Inn to Northmoor Lock

Swim 11 Map: Rose Revived Inn to Northmoor Lock

Falange of Boboons

With a teacher like Tuckett, it looks pretty certain that OSS Swim the Thames will be selected to represent Team GB in the 2012 synchronised swimming display. The aquadynamic synchro instructress managed to develop a splendid routine with the novice team within minutes. Using stylised moves honed over an impressive career for one so young - from inspirations as diverse as sky-diving, the sex-lives of great apes and flood defences - Tuckett's team were ready to perform the move known as Thames Barrier, before effortlessly rearranging into the Falange of Bobboons by their arrival at Northmoor Lock. Onlookers were startled by their proficiency and the purity of their water-borne display. Captured on camera by onlookers, the synchronised display will dazzle you with its sheer expressiveness. The powerful Thames Barrier even managed to halt the flow of the river for some minutes, a credit to the rigid fitness regime that the team are following. Some experts have compared the team display to a hybrid meeting of the Spanish Civil War and the BBC's light entertainment department. Team member and swan wrangler, AdamknownasAndy, highlighted the poignant synchronicity between the synchro display's original nine members, creating ten channels, and its proximity to the tidal defence's nine piers downstream.

By all means try this at home: Thames Barrier, horny gorilla, left stroke, right stroke, left backstroke, right backstroke, left kick, right kick.

Swim 11: The Rose Revived, Newbridge to Northmoor Lock

We camped at Northmoor Lock which meant we could park at the campsite.  Make sure you arrange the camping in advance.  Heartily recommended – only one shower at the lock, but it’s a lovely shower, and Cathie Camp will bring you logs to your riverside pitch. Otherwise shuttle and walk or there is a small amount of space to park at the lock itself. It’s tricky to find – look for the small sign ‘Lock access only’ off the road to the Appleton tennis club from Appleton Village.

We walked back upstream to the start at the Rose Revived and swum down to Northmoor. We stopped at Hart’s Weir footbridge for the break. This swim is equivalent to 22 and 23 from I Love the Thames and came as sweet relief for veterans of Swim 10 which we did the day before - a mere 3.6km.

Tell the Lockkeepers!

Saturday 27 August 2011

Swim 10 Track: Shifford Lock to Rose Revived Inn

Swim 10 Map: Shifford Lock to Rose Revived Inn

Swim 10: Shifford Lock to the Rose Revived, Newbridge

Some of us camped at Northmoor lock so we went there first to set up tents.  Make sure you arrange the camping in advance.

We then met in the car park of the Rose Revived in Newbridge.

Leave your cars there and shuttle as few as possible to Chimney Pieces car park, or as close as you can get. Then walk to the start at Shifford Lock.

This swim is equivalent to 20 and 21 from I Love the Thames and comes in at 4.25km. We stopped at a bit of a difficult scramble point close to Thames Side Farm. At the finish get out right into the beer garden at the Rose Revived for a hearty feed. The pub has a big car park and is accommodating to swimmers. There are ‘steps’ to the water from the pub garden, or a platform for punts a bit beyond.

Tell the Lockkeepers!

Monday 22 August 2011

Not so early birds and performing swans

Swim 10 Shifford Lock to Newbridge throw-down
August 21st 2011

Thames swimmer Sharon took to the waters ahead of time to complete Swim 10, with shore supporter Charles, thereby demonstrating the benefits of a quiet swim. All without a wetsuit.

Three kingfisher sightings, one grey heron, three swans, three boats, one powered punt, one poled punt, one canopied rowing boat, one canoe, one magnificent sunset, one ford. One swimmer, one walker (the wonderful Charles).

We approached Shifford Lock via Duxford ford. The water was about 8 inches deep across the ford, with a slippery concrete surface.
Shifford Lock
The most original question of the day was from the canoeists, who unlike all the other boat occupants, did not shout "Isn't it cold?" but instead asked, "How far to the nearest pub?".

The third swan encountered (0.5 mile downstream of Shifford Lock) was most unusual. Firstly, it was not mute but did seagull impressions. Rather good seagull impressions, just not as loud. I kid you not. Secondly, rather than the usual swan behaviour of keeping to one side of the river as I kept to the other side to pass it, it seemed to think it a personal duty to keep fifty yards ahead of me and shepherd me all the way to Newbridge. Once we were within sight of the bridge, it turned round, started an immense flapping and ran on the water to take off, and made it, this immense bird airborne, flying back in the
direction of Shifford.
Swan escort
Two of the kingfisher sightings consisted of a bright turquoise flashin the distance as a bird shot out of the reeds area and headed for cover.  The other sighting was as I swam breaststroke gently just past
a big clump of reeds, only to find a bird with a bright orange breast sitting on a branch extending out over the water, just a few yards away. I sculled quietly in position for a while, trying not to let the
current take me further along. The kingfisher looked at me for awhile, and looked around, showing me its characteristic long sharp beak, and then after a short while, flew off.

I had started at 4.30pm for an early evening swim, and the sun made the whole thing glorious, going from bright sunny sunshine to fantastic dappled effects and long shadows as it got lower in the sky.
There was a magnificent sunset going on after I got to Newbridge and the Rose Revived.
Sunset at Newbridge
By the way, for future reference, there are a couple of getting out points at the Rose Revived. One is a small steeply-angled concrete ramp just below the grassy area with all the pub tables, which looks
feasible if you turn round and sit on the ramp with feet towards the water, then reverse up the bank. However, I didn't fancy providing entertainment for the pub-goers, so I used an exit point further along
the bank, just past the punts/rowing boats hire place. There's a sort of low concrete raft attached to the bank, which you can either haul yourself up over, if you're feeling strong, or get someone to help
you, or at the upstream side of the raft, it is thigh-deep (but muddy) there and easy to get out without assistance. An added plus is that the concrete raft is much less overlooked by people so makes a good
place to change.

There are also lots of points along the route where there are shallow entry/exit points so if you are getting fed cookies from walkers this is easy to manage.

The river temperature felt slightly higher than in previous swims, and I made it to the endpoint half an hour earlier than expected, compared to previous swims. I don't think I have improved my speed that much, so I think the current must have been a bit faster in this stretch of the river - possibly due to the rain a few days ago?


Sunday 21 August 2011

"Don't I know you off the telly?"

Radcot Lock to Tadpole Bridge Swim 8 catch-up
Sunday August 21st

Platypus Pam reports on an eventful day on the river...

17 fishermen, two exceptionally hospitable boats, three very undignified exits and one rude, hateful landlady.  Four fabulous OSS swimmers in wetsuits and three supporters. (Tracy, Chloe, Paul and Pam plus Vicky, Silas and Bob). The first acknowledged use of training fins

The dreaded Swan landlady shouted at us across the river as we set off to the lock that
     "You can’t swim in the river”
     “Why not” (Tracy)
     “There’s a fishing competition today downstream” (Swanlady)
     “Does that stop the boats coming through then as well” (Pam)
     “Well in any case there was a sewage leak up at Faringdon yesterday” (Swanlady)
     Muttered “Nothing’s stopping me”  (Pam)
     “and you can’t leave your cars in my car park.”

Naturally we ignored all the above.  However, there were three fishermen near The Swan but they were from the Radcot angling club and not part of the competition.  Tracy made it her business to chat up every one of the 14 competing fishermen who were spread out along the riverbank downstream of the lock and even asked to inspect the organiser’s catch of tiddlers.  They were mostly very chatty and no one accused us of ruining the river. 
Swimmers fleeing sewage
While we were being abused at the Swan we saw a boat with a lady with very blonde hair.  The boat passed us and, later, was moored with another boat. I nearly fell off my perch when Tracy asked the blond lady to make us a cup of tea. On went the kettle, out came the mugs and biscuits on a plate and we spent a happy half hour chatting to them all about why they were cutting up the river bank with a rusty saw. Hiding bodies was my theory. No, they were trying to dig up worms to fish with!  Tracy refused to get out of the river and entertained us with a demo of aquaerobics and how to fall backwards off an underwater ledge holding a mug of tea without spilling a drop.  Photos will be coming our way.  She exchanged details with one of the mad sawmen. Tracy also uttered the unoriginal line "don’t I know you from the telly” to the blonde lady.
Would you invite these people to drink tea while you worm? (Note: evidence of fins)
Thus fortified, we were further cheered to find Bob, Vicky and Silas waiting for us near Rushey lock.  More tea and Mars Bars and choccy biccies. Fins put on by one swimmer (my lips are sealed) and a pleasant final pootle to Tadpole Bridge where we couldn’t find anywhere to get out. Eventually, despite intending to make a low key exit, we were so hysterical that the whole garden at the pub was watching as Paul helped three ladies heave ourselves seal like on to the jetty.
These swimmers are crazy (tap tap tap)
Lunch at the Rose Revived.

We were anything but fast but we kept together, saw the birds, the flowers, the cows, the reflection of the sun dappling the willow leaves and just had a wonderful day.


[Ed: allegations have been made that fin-wearing was widespread at this event. A steward's enquiry will take place.]

Sunday 14 August 2011

Swim 9 Track: Tadpole Bridge to Shifford Lock

Swim 9 Map: Tadpole Bridge to Shifford Lock

Swim 9: Tadpole Bridge to Shifford Lock

This swim is from Tadpole Bridge to Shifford Lock a distance of 5.6km and is equivalent to swims 18 and 19 of I Love The Thames. We parked some cars at a car park at Chimney Meadows Nature Reserve and shuttled to Tadpole Bridge. The carpark is a mile walk or so from Shifford Lock.

We swam down to Tenfoot Bridge where we got out – on the right bank – for a warm-up stop. The next stretch is shorter and more doable. All in all this stretch is one of the most beautiful, with woodlands and wildflowers coming right up to the bank. And then you get to the Shifford Lock Cut which is a long straight stretch – don’t be fooled by the sign for ‘Lock’ – you’ve still a while to go.  Make sure you know the way back to the car park!

Tell the Lockkeepers!

Saturday 13 August 2011

Swim 8 Track: Radcot Lock to Tadpole Bridge

Swim 8 Map: Radcot Lock to Tadpole Bridge

Swim 8: Radcot Lock to Tadpole Bridge

This stretch is 4.9km, a combination of swims 15, 16 and 17 from MW. We parked in the layby at Tadpole Bridge.  Despite booking for lunch at the Trout we weren't allowed to use their car park.

We walked up to Radcot Lock for the start and swam down. We had a break at Rushey Lock, with about a third to go. When you finish, you can have a pint at the Trout at Tadpole Bridge for your collection. If you’re allowed. And if you can get out. We were able to scramble out where there are some underwater rocks by the pier of the bridge at the right bank, into the garden of the Trout. There is a slightly easier exit on the left bank before you get to the bridge.

Tell the Lockkeepers!