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.