2 star training trip: St Patricks Stream and the Thames backwaters 21st March 2010
St Patrick's Stream is a lovely bit of water that flows round the back of Shiplake Lock on the Thames. It can be full of fishermen, but from Match to May its closed fishing season, which is the perfect time to go. The Thames is lovely in that area, with a number of 'backwaters' that allow a figure of 8 route back to the starting point as well as getting somewhere you wouldn't get to any other way with a nose at some posh people's gardens on the way. Its good water for coaching on, so its perfect for a 2* training trip. though its a good placid trip for anyone.
Working back from sunset and allowing (what we thought was) oodles of time for faffing, We set the meet time at 8am at the basin. Everyone made it, the required kit was all present and correct, and we managed to get it all loaded onto the trailer and set off only 10 minutes later than planned. So far so good.
Despite meticulous planning, the drive down took somewhat longer than expected thanks to traffic in the Earls Court area (possibly as a result of the ideal home show in the astro-turf clad Earl's Court exhibition centre) so we were running late by the time we got there. On the plus side, that gave the sun plenty of time to come out, and the weather was glorious by the time we boated.
Heading west into the stream was reasonably tough going, but we were fuelled with flapjacks, so we made it to the portage at Shiplake Lock. After a quick snack break, we pushed on past a string of island to the turning into St. Patricks Stream. Any concerns that the stream might be too strong had gone when we met a man at Shiplake who said he'd just come down it with some kids, but since this was an assessed trip and we were thinking about safety and the like we let Dan go ahead to scout.
We shot down the stream in no time, practicing a little bit of ferrygliding on the way, and stopped for lunch at the St. George & Dragon pub. We had an excellent feast of sandwiches, malt loaf and mini eggs.
The main stream was still quite strong. Since we were a bit behind schedule at this point, and unsure how well our energy would last, we opted not to complete the northl loop, but instead did a 'there and back' along the backwater. As it turned out, we made it almost all the way to the top of the loop before turned back against the stream, but the backwater was really lovely, and paddling it both ways was no hardship.
The last stretch back to the putting on point was pretty tough going, but we made it eventually!
This was a really great trip, which I would thoroughly recommend to any future 2* groups.
On a practical note: the public toilets at the car-park near the put on point no longer exist, but the nearby pub has toilets which are accessible from outside without traipsing damply through the pub.