Saturday 26 May 2012

Swim 18: Folly bridge to Donnington bridge. 11 dec 2011.

As we drove over from Banbury, I remember thinking as I looked at the frozen puddles, this is going to be a very cold one.
We arrived at the car park off meadow lane in Oxford, to find a healthy turnout of swimmers looking quite keen and raring to go.

group pose.

We set off on a longish walk back to the starting point at Folly bridge which was a welcome opportunity to warm up a little.

striding out chatting away.

We reached Folly bridge and prepared to get in. Water temp was mid single figures and the memory of freezing fingers and toes suddenly came to mind. The chap in the speedo's was an inspiration and just proves it's possible to harden up. Wouldn't want to do it myself though.

Vlad the magnificent.

onlookers marvel at the sight.

                        We put on a smile for the onlookers who were suitably impressed.

We set off downstream past the moored boats and barges keeping an eye open for the rowing 8's which were zooming up and down this stretch of river.

you can tell how cold it was as we were doing breast stroke.

even the pleasure boats were parked up.

please god, let me be warm.
made it.

We arrived at the rowing club at Donnington bridge not a moment too soon as the cold was beginning to take its toll on us.

even reindeer need a hot drink after a cold swim.
                     Back in warm clothes again after our compulsory cake and coffee feast.

Sharing a finger joke with Steve.

That's better.
Although this was a very cold swim, we were very thrilled to have had the river practically to ourselves on such a lovely sunny day yet again.

The proud and warm again OSS thames group.

Friday 25 May 2012

Swim 17: Danger bridge to Folly bridge. Sunday 13th Nov 2011.

Meeting at the Hinksey pool car park on the Abingdon road in Oxford, we changed and began our famous "faffing" shuttle to the start point of the swim, a car park at Walton well, port meadow.
A short walk took us to Danger Bridge where we finished swim 16 and in we went. This was a very chilly swim with temp well down to single figures, but the swim more than made up for this as it took us through the centre of Oxford including such sights as the station, and yes folks, the allotments, where a lone gardener marvelled at the strange aquatic creatures which glided effortlessly past him.
Notice the blue marigold gloves.

There was a brief stop for cakes and sun worship, before continuing on our way.

We passed through a very quiet and deserted osneymead industrial estate which was like going back in time, it felt desolate, but you could imagine the activity that must have once taken place using the river for cargo.

Occasionally we swam under road bridges with groups of people peering down wondering if they were seeing things, especially our under bridge butterfly rule.
Eventually, and not soon enough for some as it was very cold, we arrived at our destination, Folly bridge and the Head of the river pub where we were going to have lunch later on.

After scouting for an exit and making sure the coast was clear.

An exit point was found to the walkway back to the Abingdon road.

 A 5 minute walk through busy streets in rubber suits caused a little bit of traffic meanderings, but we arrived safely back at hinksey pool car park where the sunshine made the outdoor changing bearable.
Another wonderful sunny and totally enjoyable day. Marvelous.

Thursday 24 May 2012

Swim 16: The Trout pub to Danger Bridge. Sun 23rd oct 2011.

It was with some trepidation that I arrived at the Perch pub car park on a sunday morning, armed with my friend Steve for moral support, to join the OSS swim the Thames group.
I suspected, but didn't know just quite how addictive this pastime was going to become in my life. I had been following the groups progress for a few weeks on the facebook page, but until now, work commitments had stopped me joining the group. Sods law, my first swim also coincided with the first official winter swim. Brrr.

The group immediately greeted us very warmly, and once changed into our wetsuits ect, we walked upstream to the start point of the swim at the Trout pub. A very loud expression of shock resonated from a young lady upon entering the water, who was wearing marigold gloves held on with elastic bands, which  made me think is this such a good idea. The water was cold, but very inviting and off we went. I was not sure how the group were going to approach the swim and was pleasantly surprised to find the attitude was enjoyment rather than pace and technique. The faster group shot off and I was happy to amble along chatting and swimming a variety of strokes without the pressure of having to keep up with anyone unless I chose to. Marvelous !!.

The swim was fantastic and unlike earlier stages I had done in the summer, the boat traffic was light, the water was cleaner than I imagined, and we were able to relax. I was in my new heaven and even when my fingers and toes lost their feeling, was still grinning from ear to ear when we exited at Danger Bridge to a variety of cakes, hot drinks, biscuits, and some very puzzled onlookers who thought we were insane.

The group changed and retired to the Perch pub for lunch. On this occasion Steve and I were unable to join in but what a brilliant way to spend a sunday morning.
It took my toes a long while to regain feeling and I bought myself winter gloves and socks for the oncoming swims.

Monday 21 May 2012

Swim 24: Abingdon Lock to Culham Lock

Sharon reports on a swim that had it all: swimmers as superheroes, angry oarsmen, nature unleashed (and releashed by the Health & Safety Executive, thankyouverymuch)

Previously, we had postponed the swim from Abingdon Lock to Culham Lock, because in early May, the Thames had been in spate, with high water levels and a current way too strong for even experienced swimmers. On Saturday 19th May, the river was no longer at red but green flag status,
and Jenny had kindly done a safety spot check on the entire route the day before.

The day was, if not exactly sunny, then at least dry and not too cold (14C). After meeting at Culham and shuttling to Abingdon, Adam took on the role of chief organiser and gave us all a safety briefing, because the current was still pretty strong (up to Michael Phelps speed in places). Unlike the relative disorganisation of previous swims, we were to swim in three groups, with each group having firm instructions to stick together. We were also to keep a very sharp early eye out for boats, because with the current, we'd have much less time to get out of the way of any boats bearing down on us.
The 'triathletes' set off
 The slow group set off first, followed immediately by the triathletes group; meanwhile the medium group enjoyed an extended safety briefing from Adam.
It's official: the temperature at Abingdon Lock.

The water temperature was 12C. Some of the wetsuited swimmers thought this was tropical but the non-wetsuited swimmers begged to differ.

At first the current behaved very strangely, presumably due to the effects of the weir to our far right. As we in the slow group started off, we seemed to be hardly making any progress at all, being almost stationary with respect to the bank. But looking ahead, the triathletes group who had overtaken us only a couple of minutes before were tiny specks several hundred metres in the distance, so we figured this fearsome current ought to be around here somewhere, ...and then it was! We were being carried along at a very fast pace, and it was wonderful!

    "So this is what it's like to be a competent swimmer!"
    "Fastest breaststroke in the worrrrrrrld!!"

Members of the medium group chose to enjoy the current's assistance by doing Superman impressions: think one arm extended in front, the other arm down the side of the body.

After less than a kilometre, we were going through the centre of Abingdon, which was delightful, with an old bridge and church right on the riverside. However, we had little time to enjoy the sights, due to the current. Not only did it whisk us along fast, but we had much less time than usual to avoid the several coxed eights boats and narrowboats coming upstream to us, so we paid a lot of attention to the boats, and stuck close to the left bank to avoid them.

The slow group, going through the centre of Abingdon.
The midway break in the swim occurred at a little beach just past the marina. Alas, the bank support term arrived at the beach only just in time to see the triathletes rapidly disappearing off into the distance, so they didn't get any cookies. This was fine with the rest of us; we found alternative arrangements for the disposal of their cookies.
The medium group begin the second half of the swim.

After the refreshments, and a change of membership for the slow group, the second half of the swim started slower, due to the river being wider and therefore the current less strong.  This got even more disappointing once we'd turned left into the cut leading to Culham Lock, as the other section of the river leading to the weir was larger and hogging all the current. So we were forced to actually swim for a change. The medium group celebrated reaching the cut with a little synchronized swimming.
The medium group try (and fail) the 'Falange of Bobboons' manoeuvre.
THE swan (it's ok, Adam briefed him too)

The cut, although being less free flowing and more insect-infested, made up for this by being rather pretty, festooned for much of its length in white flowers from hawthorn and Queen Anne's Lace.

Before too long, we all reached the lock. Stanley and Paul kindly gave Sharon some assistance in putting on her sandals so she could climb up the lock ladder.

Afterwards, several of us went to the George and Dragon pub in Sutton Courtenay, where the food was delicious!

Sunday 20 May 2012

Swim 24: Abingdon Lock to Culham Lock

This was a swim of approximately 4.15km - #34 in Michael Worthington's I ♥ the Thames.

We met here in the free car park at Culham:

We got changed, and shuttled up to the car park at Abingdon Bridge, where we met for the last swim. (You will need money for parking in this one - £1.20 for 3 hours), or free for up to two hours, if you are quick!

From here it is a relatively short walk (0.75km) to Abingdon Lock across the fields, where we started our swim from:

We had a breather around half way, just past the Marina entrance on the opposite bank, where there is a small beach:

Continuing on we ended up at Culham lock next to the car park.  Make sure you spot the turn into Culham Cut towards the lock as the sign was slightly overgrown when we swam.  The danger sign on the main channel is clear though - don't go that way!  The water in the Cut is slow flowing and rather fragrant so some of us chose to wade/breaststroke the last section to keep our heads out of the water.

From there we repaired to the George & Dragon in Sutton Courtenay for a spot of lunch: (Tel: 01235 848142)