Rowing the Thames

From rowing henley to richmond

Rowing the Thames is the easy bit . Finding a place to leave car and trailor , and travelling back to retrieve the same after we have finished was proving to be a bit of a nightmare the nearer we got to London. On this occasion Henley Rowing club came to our rescue, allowing us to launch and leave our car and trailer in their grounds, and perhaps more importantly being wonderfully friendly into the bargain. With so much of the Thames being aggressively “private” , such behaviour was doubly welcome .
The week since the end of our last stint on the Thames had been very wet , and this time the river was flowing quite fast, but thankfully not so fast that it was closed to navigation. Yellow boards were displayed, and the Environment Agency websites advise that this means all non powered craft should leave the river. Our friends at the Henley Rowing club assured us that they row even when the red boards are displayed and that the notices were advisory not mandatory. In the event we gratefully accepted a knot or two of fair current and never encountered anything even half as fierce as the routine Hamble ebb tide!
Our first day was a bit rainy , and at lunch time two rather bedraggled characters moored up to the river bank at Marlow and brewed up on a park bench looking a bit like a couple of old tramps , much to the dismay of the rather smart inhabitants of the town. The 3 men in a Boat had complained bitterly about not having mustard for their pork pies – but whilst the two Marlow tramps may have looked disreputable , not only did they have mustard for their pork pies , they had horseradish for their smoked salmon, none of which will come as a surprise to anyone who has sailed with Lynda on Festina. Suffice to say we were so well supplied with food it was just as well we had that fair current to help us along as the boat was significantly low in the water
Nonetheless , with the help of said current we arrived at our campsite at the beautiful Cookham lock sufficiently early for a 4 mile walk to sample the delights of the infamous Bounty – a riverside pub famous for its independence and iconoclastic attitude , helped no doubt by only being able to reach it by foot or water.
With no more lock camping available , our next stop would have to be at Laleham camping club. This extraordinary place sits surrounded on 4 sides by 2 Motorways, Heathrow airport and a busy little riverside road respectively. Just opposite was a deserted Laleham sailing club , with its clubhouse falling to pieces and several dinghies gradually disappearing in a jungle of weeds. Most of the campsite users put up their tents at Easter and take them down in the Autumn , returning time and again to what must be the noisiest place on the Thames , if not Europe. Everyone was very nice , but tended to be completely spherical, and as we lay down in the tent we couldn’t help wondering what brought them here .
We had spent the morning feeling rather smug;never a healthy state of affairs. Everyone else on the river were sitting plonked in a narrow boat , or slumped around a motor boat, and as we were travelling at just the same speed as them , there were many compliments about our fitness and way of life. At Runnymede we noticed a large marquee and a big sign saying FINISH , and soon after this noticed a gradually increasing stream of walkers , led by a girl dressed as a banana! At the next lock another girl was sobbing into a mobile phone before tearfully limping off. We rather scornfully said to each other that she must have been a bit of a wimp – she could only have walked a few miles and was being beaten by a banana for goodness sake! Well, it turned out that she had walked for 45 Km and many of the thousands of walkers who followed her were going on to Henley , making a total of 100km from Putney. As we lay in our tent watching the lights of the walkers go by , intent no doubt on walking through the night, we suddenly felt we had more in common with our spherical neighbours than these superfit heroes and heroines striding along so effortlessly for charity.
Our last day was a delight. Laleham to Richmond is very built up , but at every bend there was a beautiful house or friendly lock and loads of active sailing, rowing and canoeing clubs – and best of all we were treated to the marvellous sight of two Thames A raters racing ,with their massive rigs towering above the trees. We swept into Richmond and the completion of our Thames row , still with plenty of energy in the tank, and hauled out at the slip belonging to Mark Edwards of Richmond boatyard. He was wonderfully kind to Lynda who had to wait for hours whilst I struggled with Sunday public transport to retrieve the car from Henley.
But that’s another story.

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