"A branch too far?" - An Expedition in The Upper Reaches of The Thames
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Not strictly a Whaler outing, but three "Henley Whalers" explored from Cricklade to Lechlade by canoe.

In St John's Lock, near the destination
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St Johns Lock

Monday 27th April 2015 - 10:30 - Three "Henley Whalers" members (BB, RP, PW) launched BB's Canadian canoe about 100 yards downstream of Cricklade bridge. The location is a "ford" accessible by road from Thames Lane. Lat 51.64292, Lon -1.85114. There is free parking nearby.
When visited a couple of years ago, in the autumn, the water was barely ankle-deep, but today the depth was about a foot.

Narrow? - Not really - Worse to come!

Narrow? Not really

To ensure coverage of the entire navigable Thames, they had to paddle quite hard upstream, negotiating narrows, shallows and swift currents, to reach Cricklade bridge.
Fast paddling 1.Fast paddling 2.Fast paddling 3.Fast paddling 4

A (booted) crew member periodically got out and walked to allow passage over the shallowest stretches.

The low arch of the bridge was too tempting to resist. - Onward and upward!

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Cricklade Bridge

Undaunted even by fallen trees and branches, which were enthusiastically addressed with a bow-saw, progress was slowly made into the "private" section.
Branches 1.Branches 2.Branches 3

"A branch too far?"

.Branches 4.Branches 5.Branches 6.
At last, about 100 yards upstream of the bridge, the brambles and branches became disproportionately difficult to negotiate, so the decision was taken at 11:00 to back off. And "back off" it was, because turning round was initially impossible.

11:20 - Facing the right way - Passing back down through Cricklade bridge - "Heading to the sea!" (so to speak)
Cricklade Bridge from Upstream

The launch-point was passed at around 11:30, soon followed by the A419 bridge - Swans' nest alongside!

Apart from the occasional need for booted crew to walk over the shallowest sections, good progress was made aided by a swiftish current.
12:40 - Moored at the conveniently placed "Red Lion" at Castle Eaton for lunch.
13:55 - Underway again; heading down river.

1st Swans nest

Even downstream of Castle Eaton, there were areas too shallow and too narrow for anything larger than a canoe.
Many beautiful arches were passed through.
.Narrow?.Bridge Arch 1..Arch
Sometimes it was difficult to see whether there would be a way onward, but usually a clear enough gap would be found to continue, without recourse to the bow-saw.
Rounding an obstacle often opened up an interesting scene. This time, two swans witha nest
.Go right?.Gap?.Gap!.Swans.Nest!

The river gradually widened, but still no boats were seen other than the odd punt or canoe stored ashore, but eventually, just short of Inglesham the sterns of two small cruisers were spotted in a little basin on the starboard side.

This pair of swans had claimed a whole islet for themselves

At the Round House, where the old canal and River Coln come in from the west, across the river from Inglesham, the Thames at last feels big enough for motor traffic.
Lines of moored boats were seen on the port side on the approach to Lechlade.

Large nest

15:50 - Lechlade Bridge
16:00 - In St Johns Lock
16:10 - Canoe Ashore at The Trout, St Johns, Lechlade.

No river traffc had been seen all day - The first moving boat was observed within 50 feet of the moorings at The Trout Inn!

A very pleasant downriver cruise in ideal weather (mainly sunny but not hot), aided by a useful amount of landwater providing depth and assisting propulsion.

This voyage had a particular significance for at least one "Henley Whaler" who has now navigated by oar or paddle from the Head of the navigable Thames to the salt water of Woolwich Reach - Albeit in stages:-

* Cricklade to Lechlade - April 2015 by canoe.
* Lechlade to Abingdon - Henley Whalers Annual Autumn "Thames Long Row" 2013.
* Abingdon to Henley - Henley Whalers Annual "Thames Long Row" 2012.
* Henley to Walton on Thames - Henley Whalers Annual Thames Long Row 2014.
* Walton on Thames to Putney - Olympic Torch Flotilla 2012.
* Ham (Richmond) to Woolwich Reach (via Putney) - The Great River Race 2007.

What next? - Woolwich Reach to "The Sea"? - Under sail might be preferable!.

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