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A Winter’s Trail

Billed as a nice local winter paddle Richard Masey and Chris Pearson arranged a local winter canoe trip to open 2018. Jan 20th at daybreak it was raining. Rain turned to snow. Nine hardy members met at the club and after loading the trailer, made their way to the start point at Hurley. The group included Pete and Moira Holloway. Moira had been enticed by Pete to join him in an open canoe trip with the promise of being taken out to Sunday lunch. Brian and Alison Roberts came along with Alison supplying the home made biscuits. Carolyn Lewishon and Tim Nunn shared a canoe and were clearly enjoying their change from dragon boat racing to canoeing and other paddle sports. I can confirm that they retain their appetite for speed.

The cars were transferred after a discussion on the weather outlook. With the thermometer hovering around freezing and a biting but light head wind the day trip was shortened. This proved to be the right decision as sensation was lost in hands within minutes of the start. Nevertheless the river was calm and beautiful with the countryside dusted with snow.

We headed downstream arriving quickly at Temple lock. Richard jumped out and took charge of it’s operation allowing us to avoid a portage. Exiting the lock we entered the strong stream of the adjoining weir. Continuing downstream and passing Bisham Abbey on our right Marlow suspension bridge appeared around the bend. We paused to regroup under its span just above the weir. The long dry summer was a distant memory but its effect on the river has been marked. Despite recent heavy rain and snow there was little current on the river so little assistance.

We made our way across the top of the long Marlow weir sill carefully avoiding the draw over the weir. On another day playing in the waves below would be inviting but not today. The Marlow lock cut is short. The good news was that the sign said the lock keeper was on duty. The bad news was that he didn’t fancy leaving the shelter of his house in time to operate the lock for us. He was however faced with a sudden rush of trade and so first let through a motor boat and some rafters coming up stream. We decided not to wait for the fill and so portaged.

Exiting the lock cut we crossed the river to pass the island just below the lock on the Berkshire bank. This took us close to Longridge outdoor activity centre. Not much activity there today though!

Leaving Marlow behind us the river takes a hard left turn up against aptly named Winter Hill. The trees and houses, normally dark and mysterious at this time of year, were brightened by a covering of snow which showed no sign of melting. The river moved on and took us into our final straight. After passing more islands and some pretty houses our destination at Bourne End came into view.

The lights of The Bounty river side pub shone bright in the gloom of the cold and grey mid-winter’s day. Inside the atmosphere was warm and inviting. The place was filled with dog walkers and families out for Sunday lunch. We keenly joined them at our reserved table next to the large open fire in the back. The landlord was clearly welcoming to dog walkers, families and dripping canoeists. The other diners were amused and slightly surprised that we had been on the river on such a day.

We took off our wet canoeing gear and settled down to a warming lunch to celebrate our achievement. Mad but what else would you be doing on a day like that!

Thanks again to Richard and Chris for organising the trip.

Keith Walker

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