I've long wanted to canoe down the Thames, a river I've lived near for fifteen years and counting. In August I finally got a taster as a group of family and friends took three canoes on an overnight trip from Cholsey to Henley, a distance of about 26 miles.
Loading up ready to boat. The canoes were big and stable, and one huge dry bag each gave us plenty of space to keep our stuff safe.
Alex settles in to his seat. At seven years old he's already a pro and has been canoeing plenty of times before.
And off we went, paddling gently downstream. If you look carefully you can see the signs of a strong headwind in the trees and the surface waves...this was a constant challenge that made day one a lot longer and harder than it might have been!
Whenever we saw a little backwater off to one side we took it. These quiet little detours were cool, I half expected to see a crocodile poke its eyes above the water. Admittedly unlikely given we were in Oxfordshire...
Joining forces against the big cruisers in the locks. We made a temporary three boat raft, then the unlucky person on the inside had to hold the chain which looked like it'd been on the bottom of the ocean for centuries. It also started raining at this point. Not many options available aside from donning our jackets and pressing on!
Lots of cool decorated long boats and grand old houses lining the river.
Thankfully the rain didn't last too long. Rebecca steers us in towards our camping spot.
A little island at a lock was an idyllic spot for the night. We pulled the canoes ashore and pitched our tents.
Nothing tastes better than a camp breakfast after a night under canvas (or hi-tech nylon). A round of egg sandwiches helped fuel the second day of paddling.
And what a glorious day it turned out to be. Sunny, warm and even a tailwind! The exact opposite of the previous day.
Another close shave with a willow tree. Steering these things is surprisingly tricky.
Alex looks back to check our progress against the other canoes, he always tried to make his crew paddle hard to race ahead!
The sweet conditions on day two meant we made good time. It only seemed right to reward ourselves with a well-earned pint at a riverside pub.