Sunday 18 November 2012

Swim 40 Track - Downstream from Marlow to Spade Oak (Bourne End)

Swim 40 Map - Downstream from Marlow to Spade Oak (Bourne End)

Swim 40: Downstream from Marlow to Spade Oak (Bourne End)

Once again a shorter winter swim that could be combined with the previous swim in warmer months.  This swim is approximately 1.75km.

We met at the Spade Oak car park here:

Note, this is the free public car park not the pub car park which you will pass on the way.

We then walked upstream to the entry point at the small beach just downstream from the start of the island:

before swimming back to the exit point just by the rail crossing leading back to the car park:

Sunday 28 October 2012

Swim 39: Higginson Park to Downstream of Marlow

Starting to wind down the distance for the winter now, this was a swim of approximately 2.75km.  We met at the Spade Oak car park here:

Note, this is the free public car park not the pub car park which you will pass on the way.

We then shuttled up to the Higginson Park car park in Marlow:

Starting at just before the man made quay where we got out before (exact location to be confirmed):

Caution:  Keep to the left at the start to stay well clear of the weir at Marlow lock.

We then swam downstream past the lock and under the A404 bridge (don't forget to butterfly) before exiting at a small beach just past the start of the island on the right:

There was then a short walk back to the car park.  In warmer weather the swim could be extended to exit at the car park but, for us, this was the next swim.

Swim 39 Track: Higginson Park to Downstream of Marlow

Swim 39 Map: Higginson Park to Downstream of Marlow

Sunday 14 October 2012

Swim 38 Map - Frogmill Spinney to Higginson Park (Marlow)

Swim 38 Track - Frogmill Spinney to Higginson Park (Marlow)

Swim 38: Frogmill Spinney to Higginson Park (Marlow)

This, the last swim of the year before winter set in, was a distance of approximately 4.5km.  We met in the car park in Marlow adjacent to Higginson Park:

Parking in Marlow costs £1.50 for 3 hours, £2 for 4 hours or £4 for up to 6 hours.  This car park gets very busy, especially on a nice day, so make sure you get an early start.  We then shuttled as few cars as possible to the small free car park in Hurley, or you could walk up to the start:

We then walked up to the small slipway that is the starting point:

We then swam back down towards Hurley lock.

CAUTION:  Stay to the right after the start as the weirs before Hurley lock make the river narrow.  This section is dangerous in a strong flow.

There is, apparently, a bye-law forbidding swimming in the lock cut at Hurley lock so the lock keeper suggested that we should get out by the footbridge just before the lock (there is a ladder about 20m past the bridge on the left) and then cut across the island and get straight back into the backwater and swim around. 

After Hurley lock keep to the left side of the river as you will soon be at Temple lock.  This is a simple out-and-in lock.  After the lock we swam down to the exit point just before the man-made quay at Higginson Park:

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.

Sunday 30 September 2012

Swim 37: Hambledon Lock to Frogmill Spinney

We met at the public carpark in Hurley next to the church:

and changed (discreetly).

We then shuttled to the Flower Pot Inn at Aston.

We walked a little way up to the lock,

and swam down to Frogmill Spinney.. Take care when starting off from Hambeldon lock as there can be strong currents around the weir. We finished at this beach at Riverside Picnic Grounds in Hurley, a distance of 4.75km

and walked back to the carpark to change. Afterwards, we shuttled back to the Flower Pot at Aston for lunch. They don't take bookings but insisted that since the weather wasgoing to be fine we could sit outside. And as it happened, they were right!

Don't forget to tell the lock keepers!

Swim 37 Track - Hambledon Lock to Frogmill Spinney

Swim 37 Map - Hambledon Lock to Frogmill Spinney

Sunday 9 September 2012

Swim 36: Marsh Lock to Hambleden Lock

This is an iconic swim taking in Henley-on-Thames, Temple Island and the site of Rewind Festival.  You can expect to encounter large amounts of boat traffic of all types so make sure you stay well to the left - except when approaching Hambledon Lock!

We met at the car park a short walk from Hambleden Lock:

We then shuttled down to the Marsh Lock car park:

Note that both car parks can be busy so make sure you get an early start if it's a nice day!

This is a swim of approximately 5.5km.

Swim 36 Track - Marsh Lock to Hambleden Lock

Swim 36 Map - Marsh Lock to Hambleden Lock

Saturday 8 September 2012

Swim 35: Shiplake College to Marsh Lock

We met at Marsh Lock carpark:

Be aware that this is a popular car park.  When we arrived on a Saturday afternoon there were few parking places available.  We then shuttled down to Mill Lane, Lower Shiplake:

and walked down to the start point at Shiplake College boathouse:

We then swam down to Marsh Lock via Shiplake Lock.

This is a swim of approximately 5.25km.

Caution: Keep well to the left approaching Shiplake Lock and well to the right approaching Marsh Lock. Both locks have weirs before the exit point.

Swim 35 Track - Shiplake College to Marsh Lock

Swim 35 Map - Shiplake College to Marsh Lock

Sunday 26 August 2012

Swim 34: Thames Valley Park to Shiplake College

We did this swim on the Sunday of Reading Festival weekend but there were no issues - you would have never had known it was on.

We met at Shiplake church (there is limited parking along the road opposite the church, which is obviously a potential issue on a Sunday). 

There is alternative on-street parking available on Mill Lane, here: 

We left as many cars here as possible here. We also called the college and got permission to leave a few at Shiplake College boathouse with our dry clothes.

We then shuttled to Thames Valley Park for the start of the swim.

We swam down to Sonning Lock where we stopped for a snack, then down to a beach just past the 'Wires' for proper refuelling and stopping for anyone who wanted a shorter stretch before continuing down to Shiplake College for a total distance of just over 6km.

Swim 34 Track - Thames Valley Park to Shiplake College

Swim 34 Map - Thames Valley Park to Shiplake College

Friday 24 August 2012

A Swim #1 catchup - Cricklade to Water Eaton

Sunday the 19th was one of the most glorious days in August 2012, the temperature forecast to reach 27°C. We were four swimmers: Sarah, Paola, Sharon and Tim, plus one walker, Charles.

On the slipway at Cricklade. "So if you find a submerged log, do one of your karate chops on it, ok?"

We got in from the little slipway next to the car park at the end of Abingdon Court Lane in Cricklade, and found ourselves in 18 °C fast-flowing water that came up to our chests. Some locals informed us that the water wasn't usually this high; typically, the water came up to the end of the slipway, but today, the water at the end of the slipway reached up to our belly buttons, approximately 1m above normal.

The current was lovely! Unlike far downstream sections of the Thames which have been flowing at "can just about tell which way is downstream" speed for several weeks now, here we were whooshed along nicely, at about swimming speed, i.e. going upstream was not an option!

There were a lot of weeds, drifting along the river surface, most of which we could glide over quite happily. After a while the forwards swimmers gave up shouting weed warnings to those further behind, finding it much more efficient to only give advance notice of the non-weedy patches. As we went further along, the water deepened, to approximately 2m, and the weeds did get noticeably less intrusive, so we could spend less time avoiding weeds and more time swimming freely and enjoying the surroundings.

The sunlight on the river was just glorious, rendering the bright green weeds below shot through with gold, mixed in with occasional red-stemmed weeds. So we spent a lot of time just gazing downwards and watching the weeds whizz past...

Sharon looks down at the weeds.

...and bobbing...

Paola and Tim float along.

...and generally relaxing.

Sarah floats on her back.

We made a certain amount of entertainment for ourselves: Sarah treated us to a rendition of the song on the Battle of Agincourt. We also found several trees growing in the middle of the river that were too tempting to pass up, and so we climbed and hung off various branches. Once we were all into sloth or other interesting positions, we hollered for the photographer, who was nowhere to be found (later he claimed the Thames path didn't go near the river at that point). In retrospect, perhaps it is best that there are no photos of that part of the swim!

Halfway along, we stopped for some delicious chocolate-cherry brownies, baked by Sharon, carried by the fabulous Charles.

We all thought that this swim was the best (or one of the best) swims we'd ver had. You can tell from the smiles on our faces.

We also did a fair bit of diving down to look at what was to see under the surface. Sarah got down close enough to the sandy bottom to be within arm's reach of a crayfish. She was going to bring it up to show us, and then realised that as crayfish had pincers, maybe she'd better not risk it. So she told us about it, and got the impression that we didn't believe her. On the contrary, we believed her all too well, and when diving down, took a good look around and kept our hands to ourselves!

Later on, Sarah shouted to the rest of us, further ahead, and she seemed to have got something. We thought she might have got another crayfish for us to look at, so we all grabbed hold onto weeds to stay still for a bit whilst Sarah caught up, and she proudly displayed her catch: a golf ball!

Sarah with her trophy.

We also saw a few swans along the route. Unlike the swans I had encountered on Swim #2, who had all panicked upon seeing us and fled down the river, these swans were much better trained, and knew exactly what to do. We had no trouble easing past them quietly and gently, keeping close to the opposite bank.

The well-trained swans let us slip past.

That is, until we got to just shy of Water Eaton, where we encountered the first daft swan from Swim #2 again, who, despite being in a very wide part of the river, as far away from us as it could possibly get, again could not get the hang of letting us past and fled away from us downstream.

The swim ended all too soon, and we got out, in the glorious sunshine, and walked the couple of miles back to Cricklade.

On returning to the car park, most of us couldn't resist the blackberries that were growing nearby, and went picking. As a result, I can now offer these top tips for Thames blackberrying:

  • There are lots of nice blackberries growing near the car park in Cricklade.
  • The locals know about them too.
  • You look silly picking blackberries in swimming gear, until you pick the blackberries that are only accessible from the water.
  • With swimming gear on, you are better equipped to reach the water-accessible blackberries than the locals are.
  • Some of the locals don't mind getting their clothes wet in the slightest.
  • If it stings you, it's a nettle. If it stabs you, it's a bramble, but at least you're on the right plant.
  • Try bending down and looking upwards to spot more blackberries hiding under the leaves.
  • A "I love the Thames" swim hat makes an excellent impromptu container for blackberries.
  • Swimsuits are less resistant to thorns than silicone swim hats.
  • The box you brought the cookies in makes an excellent blackberry container to keep tipping the contents of your hat into.
  • The Thames itself is very handy for rinsing out the silicone hat afterwards.
  • Silicone hats rinse well, with no purple-black berry stains left at all!
  • Try to choose fellow swimmers who aren't interested in picking blackberries, that way you get more for yourself.
  • Blackberry and apple jam is The. Most. Delicious. Jam. Ever.

Sunday 12 August 2012

Swim 33: Tilehurst to Thames Valley Park

As per swim 32, this swim is also longer than usual at 6km due to our desire to make it through Reading before festival weekend.

We met at this carpark at Thames Valley Park, Reading:

We left as many cars as possible here at the end spot and shuttled up to the start at River View in as few cars - leaving dry gear at TVP.

We then swam down past the site of Reading Festival which was being set up. At the first bridge, we made sure we went through the left hand arch as the main channel is through the right. After the bridge some people went under the pedestrian bridge leading to a restaurant and others went to the left of the island through the little marina.

There was then another island. Again, some people went to the right which is the shorter route and the main channel and others went left which is longer but with less boat traffic.

Immediately after the second bridge we swam to the right of the river to aviod the weir and stopped for a break at Caversham Lock.

We then swam on and got out at the car park at Thames Valley Park.

Caution:  We encountered significant numbers or large river craft on this swim.

Swim 33 Track - Tilehurst to Thames Valley Park

Swim 33 Map - Tilehurst to Thames Valley Park

Saturday 11 August 2012

Swim 32: Pangbourne to Tilehurst

Swims 32 and 33 were slightly longer than usual as we needed to clear Reading before the festival weekend. This swim is just short of 7km.  We met at Scours Lane:

We then left as few cars as possible at here - which is the end of the swim - with all dry gear and shuttled the rest up to the beginning of the swim at Pangbourne River Meadow Carpark, as per swim 31.

From Pangbourne we swim down to Mapledurham Lock (which is on the right side of the river) for a munch stop, and then on down to a little dock just short of the meeting point.

We then got changed and shuttled back up to Pangbourne for lunch.

Caution: On this swim we started to encounter significant numbers of large river craft.

Swim 32 Track - Pangbourne to Tilehurst

Swim 32 Map - Pangbourne to Tilehurst

Sunday 29 July 2012

Swim 31: Gatehampton (Almost) to Pangbourne

This swim took us under another of Brunel's Great Western viaduct masterpieces at Gatehampton and continued down past the Beale Wildlife Park.  After that we headed to the pedestrian inaccessible Whitchurch lock where we walked around and jumped back in for a short swim under the second of only two toll bridges on the Thames (Remember the other Toll bridge at Swinford on Swim #14?) to jump out at Pangbourne Meadows where we parked.

We then repaired to the Greyhound pub in Whitchurch for lunch.

We meet at the car park at Dolphin House in Pangbourne which is free on Sundays.  If you are in a large group, be aware that there are a number of car parks in the area and make sure everyone goes to the same one!

We shuttled to Goring and parked at the same car park we finished at on the last swim:

Parking is free here on Sundays as well.  We then walked down Ferry Lane and along the Thames Path to the beach entry point that we exited at on the last swim:

There is no access, pedestrian or otherwise, at Whitchurch Lock so we swam to the lock, walked around, got in and swim under Whitchurch Toll bridge and exited in Pangbourne River meadow here:

CAUTION:  Keep well to the left as you approach Whitchurch Lock as the weir is very close.  You would be unwise to attempt this swim when the flow is high. 

There is a challenge for walkers as the Thames path leaves the river at Gatehampton and heads for the Chiltern Hills only to rejoin at Whitchurch. The tow path crosses to the other side at Gatehampton via a long defunct ferry. We were unable to find a suitable place for our support team to join the river for a half way break.  We used a keysafe to keep our car keys safe rather than having the support team carry them.

Swim 31 Track - Gatehampton (Almost) to Pangbourne

Swim 31 Map - Gatehampton (Almost) to Pangbourne

Sunday 15 July 2012

Swim 30: South Stoke to Gatehampton (Almost)

With the Thames in full spate we continued with our current assisted swims and had another 4.9km (feels like 3km!) swim from South Stoke almost to Gatehampton. Swim number 30 – was it really that many since we started at Easter last year? – was a momentous milestone as we crossed the half way mark shortly after starting on our non-tidal Thames journey from the Source to Teddington. We also swam through the famous Goring Gap via Cleeve Lock (keep to the right) and then Goring Lock (keep to the the left). Walkers started along the Ridgeway at South Stoke on the left bank and joined the Thames path at Goring, which crosses the river to the left bank to meet the Ridgeway and the ancient Icknield Way. Goring was a major crossing point of the Thames in ancient times. This swim is swim 43,44 and some of 45 in the I ♥ the Thames book.

We met at the swim entry point at the end of Ferry Lane in South Stoke at, where there is limited parking:

Parking is also available at the Perch and Pike, where we had lunch afterwards, which is a 5-10 minute walk away from the start point at the end of Ferry Lane:

We swam down to just before Brunel's Great Western Gatehampton Viaduct (A bridge with several equally spaced arches for the less pretentious.) We exited at the beach on the left:

and walked back along the Thames path and Ferry Lane in Goring to cars that we had shuttled down to the car park in Goring:

We then shuttled back to the Perch and Pike for Lunch

Swim 30 Track - South Stoke to Gatehampton (Almost)

Swim 30 Map - South Stoke to Gatehampton (Almost)

Sunday 1 July 2012

Swim 29: Carmel College to South Stoke

This is a swim of 4.9km and is approximately swim 41 and 42 in the I ♥ the Thames book.

We met at the hard standing at Carmel College. This is private property and you should, like we did, seek permission before parking there. The gates may be locked without warning, so don't say you weren't:

The entry point is at the old Boat House at Carmel College. There is an alternative entry point on the bank opposite (not fully scouted by our team) in case you fail to secure permission to enter at Carmel.

We shuttled dry changing kit to a small car park at the exit point before setting off. We stopped for coffee and cakes at a jetty at an abandoned ferry crossing:

We then continued down to South Stoke and got out at the the slipway:

We then repaired to the Perch and Pike for lunch.

Swim 29 Track - Carmel College to South Stoke

Swim 29 Map - Carmel College to South Stoke

Saturday 30 June 2012

Swim 28: Shillingford to Carmel College

This is a swim of 5.1km and is approximately swim 39 and 40 in the I ♥ the Thames book.

We met at the hard standing at Carmel College. This is private property and you should, like we did, seek permission before parking there. The gates may be locked without warning, so don't say you weren't:

We then shuttled up to the road opposite the Benson Cafe:

From there we walked upstream to the entry point near Shillingford:

We then swam downstream, being careful to avoid the weir at Benson. At the bridge in Wallingford there is a small beach where we stopped for coffee and cakes:

The exit point is at the old Boat House at Carmel College. There is an alternative exit point on the bank opposite (not fully scouted by our team) in case you fail to secure permission to exit at Carmel.

Swim 28 Track - Shillingford to Carmel College

Swim 28 Map - Shillingford to Carmel College

Sunday 17 June 2012

Swim 27: Day's Lock to Shillingford

This is a beautiful stretch of the Thames with no specific hazards and is about 5.4km long. It constitutes Swims 37 and 38 and a little bit of Swim 39 from Michael Worthington's I ♥ the Thames.

We met at Shillingford Bridge Hotel:

We parked in the hotel car park, changed and organised shuttle cars/personnel carriers, but if it's a nice day you can walk to the start.  We left our dry clothes in a vehicle that stayed at the hotel.  We then shuttled cars to the lay-by on Henley Road, Dorchester:

We then walked to the start at Day's Lock (a little under 2 km) but if you are feeling lazy, you can try to find a parking place by the church at Little Wittenham close to the start:

Please wear appropriate foot protection for the walk.  Days Lock is the main gauging station for measuring the flow of water in the Thames. Overlooking the lock is Little Wittenham church. Twin hills rise above the church which are known locally as Mother Dunch’s Buttocks or locally as Berkshire Bubs (from I Never Knew That About The Thames by Christopher Winn).

We stopped for tea and cakes at a small beach near the shuttle parking.  Note that this is the final getting out spot before Shillingford Bridge:

We then continued on to another small beach opposite a prominent stone built wall approximately 500m downstream from the bridge:

We then walked back to the hotel to change and stayed there for a spot of lunch. 01865 858 567

Shillingford Bridge, built in 1827, is exactly half way between Windsor and Lechlade and between Reading and Oxford ( from I Never Knew That About The Thames by Christopher Winn).

Tell the lock keeper!

Swim 27 Track - Day's Lock to Shillingford

Swim 27 Map - Day's Lock to Shillingford

Saturday 16 June 2012

Swim 21: Kennington to Sandford Lock. 25 march 2012.

Another beautiful sunny morning saw us meet at the Kings arms car park near Sandford lock for our last winter swim. Allegedly it would be spring next month, but apart from the freezing waters, it has been a wonderful winters swimming.

We walked to the beach near Kennington where we exited swim 20 and took a little time to enjoy the setting, which was beautiful.

The sun was shining and we could feel its heat, so some swimmers were wetsuit free today, although the water was in a double figure number finally. A cool 10 degrees. Dave the Shark, joined us again to protect us from those nasty swans.

                                                      Off went most of the group.

                                       Dave the Shark is doing his job. No swans anywhere.

                           Just look at this gorgeous day and location. This is why we come.

As we passed the Four Pillars Hotel, we all feel a stream of warm water and a familiar smell of washing detergent and a suspicious wholesome stink. No swallowing at all guys. BLURGH!!.
The proper authorities were notified instantly.

                       A strange looking Joe 90 summer house distracted us from the stinky bit.

And at last we arrived at the Kings arms where one of our  swimmers makes a very entertaining exit at the steps with help from fellow swimmers.  Well done Sharon.

                              And finally we change and have another wonderful lunch and natter.

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.