All the best plans are made in a pub..., and what better way to keep you children out of mischief on a bank holiday weekend than to take them canoeing from pub to pub along the Thames!
So on Friday after work we set off for the 1 hour 30 min journey to Lechlade on Thames. A total of 13 people joined the trip with ages ranging from 4 (Abigail) to 69 (Sorry Peter!) Those of you who have been on James™ adventures before know that the organisation tends not to be much more than "turn up at the Trout pub in Lechlade on Friday night". This can be quite alarming for first timers and this time was no exception for Peter who turned up first only to be told that the camping had been canceled and there was no way he could possibly stay! Eventually the landlady was called and remembered the booking and all was well. By this time the children had all disappeared off around the campsite and made new friends. We settled in for some good pub food and folk music from Edd Donovan and the Wandering Moles. Finally at about 1am James who had been working late arrived with the canoes in tow. We were all set for an adventure.
After a leisurely breakfast on saturday morning we were joined by Sue who had come up from southampton. We set off down the Thames. The upper Thames at Lechlade is very quiet with hardly any boats even on a bank holiday weekend. We slowly drifted and paddled downstream, even Helen and Paul who had not paddled for 5 years had no trouble keeping up with the leisurely pace. Out in front Zara (8) was leading the way in the little Old Town Heron Jr determined she would be first. After about an hour we came to our first lock of the Thames. We rafted up, and with some trepidation sent the children to operate the lock gates. 240,000 liters of water later we were 6ft lower and as the lock gates creaked open we picked up our little lock keepers and set off down the river.
The leisurely pace was continued interspersed with people swapping boats and playing games. We stopped at the Plough for a picnic lunch and managed to clean the pub out of bottled beer in the process! Eventually at about 5:00 we arrived at the Swan at Radcot where we pulled our canoes out to camp on a grassy island. Tents were pitched and we headed off to the Swan for dinner. We all enjoyed dinner though the landlord of the Swan is so grumpy it's almost comical. At one point he refused to serve anyone tea. (If you ever visit, do ask for tea just to cause trouble.)
The next morning we woke to find Sue had disappeared! To the warmth and frothy coffee of Starbucks it later transpired. After a shared (and slightly random) breakfast of cereal, malt loaf and boiled eggs we packed up the tents ready for the final leg of our adventure. After playing musical boats the older children, Alice (10) and Ben (8), ended up paddling the kayaks and the ever dauntless Abigail (4) sat in a kayak being towed by her mum and dad. The day continued much as the previous day with picnics, locks and baby swans. We arrived at the end of our journey at the Trout at Tadpole Bridge and loaded the canoes back on the trailer for the trip back to the Trout at Lechlade. After dinner together, we spent one last night camping before heading back to the club the next day.
This part of the Thames has to be one of the nicest rivers to paddle in the UK and all the better for having been able to share it with friends and family.