Old Father Thames- WCHA-UK Autumnal Outing

Nick Dennis

Over the weekend of 22nd-24th October the UK Chapter had a return visit to Bolney ferry Boathouse for a weekend of camping, canoeing and general merriment courtesy of WCHA member Delia Etherington and her family.

In all honesty you couldn't ask for more English location than this. Right on the banks of the River Thames just upstream from Henley at Lower Shiplake which gave us access to paddle the main river and the backwaters and of course riverside pubs :)


Some arrived on Friday. We were camping in the boathouse garden with the luxury of the floating loo and shower block. A large fire pit and covered areas meant that every weather eventuality could be batted away. We could have been miles from anywhere but in reality were no further than 1/2 mile from civilisation.

I had travelled down from south Norfolk as had Sam Browning (sadly Sam had to do an immediate about turn having tested positive for Covid). Others came from Rutland, London, Dorset, Kent and the Peak District as well as the Etherington family.

Canoes were, Old Town CR. Chestnut, Stewart River, Peterborough, Huron, Thomas Gordon, Lakefield; a true eclectic mix which have made their way across the Atlantic to England.

On the Friday evening fine malts and rum were enjoyed around the campfire before all retired to bed with the sounds of geese on the river and deer barking in the adjacent meadow. We are still enjoying an Indian Summer so the temperature for camping was still ideal.


The next morning on the Saturday after the required amount of "faffing" time which has to be part and parcel of any canoeing event, we set off upstream towards Shiplake lock. Flotillas of geese were on the river along with the occasional lazy heron who would bank hop ahead of us. Overhead flocks of bright green parakeets (escapees) squawked and announced our progress. The river was flowing well after heavy rains the week previous which slowed our passage and made it hard work but once through the lock the stream eased. The youngsters enjoyed the trip with us.


Autumn/fall colours were kicking in nicely.


We stopped riverside for lunch close to the top of St Patrick's Stream but due to the flow and the notification of fallen trees across the stream we took the safe option rather than the sorry one and returned back down the main river with the flow which made the return trip far swifter. Of course the pub was calling. Thank goodness for the George & Dragon!

TO BE CONTINUED...............
After lunch we were ready for the off although Andy does not look too enthused...


We reached the pub and as no one was driving........




Suitably relaxed we headed for the Hennerton Backwater which is a lovely stream running off the main river. A bunch of beer and wine fuelled grizzly canoeists paddling past the end of the gardens to some of the most expensive houses in England.


The backwater brings us out opposite our Boathouse base.

An evening with an Indian curry around the campfire with wine, beer and malt finished us off nicely and most retired to their tents nicely relaxed and ready for a good nights sleep.

Tomorrow would be a trip downstream to Henley and Temple Island so we needed to be fit and ready.

TO BE CONTINUED................
Sunday- Day 3

We were all up reasonably sprightly and a breakfast of coffee and French sausages got us ready for the day.



Englandsanswer to Grey Owl arrived with his canoes.


and after even more faffing we set off with the current and the wind behind us for Henley, a fair flotilla of wooden canoes.



Of course at Henley we were battling for water with the rowers; but hey, that's what Henley is all about!

Onwards past Fawley Meadows towards our destination Temple Island



We then had to battle our way back agains current and wind. We had lunch on the meadows and eventually got back to the Boathouse to enjoy tea and cake before departing.



A grand outing in a wonderful part on England.

Jealous yet?

That's our UK group outings completed for this year. We will have a "Frostbiter" paddle at New Year.

Watch this space.

Go Paddle!


Nick Dennis
Chapter Head WCHA-UK
It was an enchanted weekend, well done to Nick for organising it. The group photo at the end of Nick's post sums up the whole event, lovely people, with a shared interset, drinking tea from a massive tea pot around an opn fire!
Wow, what a great outing! How come there are no pubs along the places I paddle? Thanks for posting this report and the great pictures.

Jim & Jean