Windsor paddle – Saturday 22nd July 2023 by Gerry
A smallish group of us met up at the Windsor Leisure Centre at 8.30 on a rainy Saturday morning. After unloading our boats at the slipway we organised a shuttle to Runnymede, which was to be our end point for the trip. I was charged with collecting people from Runnymede but kept them waiting as I managed to get lost!!
Back at Windsor we left our cars in the very expensive Leisure Centre car park and got ready to set off from the slipway – which provided a nice easy launch – following instructions from Justin, who was our trip leader. The rain was fairly light at that point but got steadily heavier throughout the day, with a bit of a headwind at times. My paddling jacket kept me pretty dry though so it wasn’t as bad as it sounds.
We got on the water around 9.30 and set off for the 7 ½ mile trip to Runnymede. After passing Baths Island and Brocas Park we headed on through Windsor and onto Romney Lock. I’d never been in a lock in a kayak before although have done many of the Thames Locks in a motor cruiser. It was a breeze as Justin told us what to do and there were plenty of chains to hang onto as the water level rises or falls – all very easy.
The next part of the trip took us through the vast open spaces of Windsor Great Park and onto Datchet and the confluence of the Thames and the Jubilee River. This was quite easy paddling although a couple of us nearly got tangled up in fishing lines as we were too busy looking at the scenery to notice the people fishing right next to us!
As we went round the wide arc of this section of the river we had contrasting views of Windsor Castle – first of the North aspect and then, a couple miles later, the East aspect. These wide river bends often make you feel like you have doubled back on yourself – and sometimes you actually have!
We had a quick pit stop at Datchet where we had planned to get out to stretch our legs. The landing was covered in bird droppings though so that didn’t happen.
After Datchet we continued downstream past Lion Island and the weir and onto Old Windsor Lock, which was also very easy to get through. After that we headed past Friday Island and on through Wraysbury and Old Windsor, getting close to our destination.
Round one last wide bend we went through the wide open spaces of Runnymede til we reached the take out at a mud beach at the Pleasure Grounds. The last mile or so of the paddle was a bit harder as the rain was really quite heavy by that time and the wind had picked up too. I was quite pleased when we got to the finish.
The weather meant that our planned picnic had to be abandoned so we went to the Pleasure Grounds café instead to change into warm clothes and have a hot drink – which was very welcome.
Obviously we would have wished for better weather but we didn’t let the rain spoil the day – it was still good fun and I wouldn’t have wanted to miss it. The rain also meant that there were very few other boats on the river, which is normally very busy – so every cloud….
I’m already looking forward to the next trip on the Thames, which is a majestic river with lots to see on the way.