We have over the last few years been heading to the Kennet and Avon Canal for a days Safari. It’s been fun to do, paddling upstream to a canal side pub and riding the current back. Some days have been quite long.
This year we were starting from The Teashop by the Canal in Newbury. There is excellent parking there as well. This is where we reached and had long on our last Safari on the Kennet (read about it here).
There were four of us again. I think the West wind had something to do with the low turnout. Eva and Paul were returning from last year and we had Caroline along. She was one of the original Adventure Girls and used to finding waterways that other wouldn’t attempt. More of this later.
After pumping up and fueling with some excellent coffee from the Teashop we headed West through the centre of the town and the very narrow Newbury Bridge, on passed our first lock and out of the town passed old canalside cottages and into the countryside. This included the only ultra low bridge we had to lie down to get under.
We carried on West and noticed the main Kennet River joining the very straight canal at this point. The wind was making it hard going and we were glad of the rest at Guyer’s Lock Under the A34 dual-carriageway and then there was Higgs Lock, hardly a kilometer away. There then followed a series of locks interspersed with short sections of canal. What with the wind and the regular stops this was turning into a challenge.
This is a very rural part of the world with wooded banks and all sorts of wildlife. Ewa feed a small white duck at one lock. it become very brave and tried out the board. Then there were Red Kites flying over head and quite low at times. The occasional narrow boat, although it was quieter than expected. Near the aptly named Copse Lock there was the site of a very large fallen tree that had been cleared from the canal. It was amazing to see the hole in the woodland around it that it had left. Sometimes we don’t realise how big these trees are until they are gone.
Eventually after the longest “Pound” on our Safari, we came to the Lunch stop at The Dundas Arms, Kintbury. This will also form the start of the next Safari on The Canal. We had booked a table so were able to order lunch, And it was excellent, although the tasty puddings did take a little while to arrive.
The launch back onto the canal is easy of the concrete wall and we were looking forward to the trip back, with wind and current in our favour. After 3 locks we came to Benham Weir. At Lunch Caroline had mused about heading back via the River Kennet and not the Canal.
There was an straightforward crossing point by the weir and a fast flowing clear stream the other side. We decided to give it a go. The Adventure had begun. we all had Buoyancy Aids were scouting any obstacles before we passed them. We had to negotiate a small sluice and climb over a bank to get back onto the river.
It was beautiful hardly paddling as we flowed through water meadows and passed sheep and ducks of all varieties. Over small rapids and under low hanging trees. We then become aware that we were in an area where there is a fishing club, but it was closed for the day. Something to consider as I doubt they would be too happy if they had their lines out.
By the clubhouse there was another low weir to negotiate. The river here splits and gets narrow and fast flowing. The trees were getting lower to the water, so some caution was needed. We also noticed that there were concrete blocks in the water, one of which I hit with by fin causing me to take a dip. The water was deep and cool. quite refreshing.
Having put on my windproof jacket to keep the warmth in we continued to the A34 road bridge. This is were the Fun and the Jungle of West Berkshire started. If anyone comes this way again, bring heavy machinery or get out 100 metres before the bridge and rejoin the Canal at Higgs Lock.
There were fallen trees and reeds and weed. Sometimes the board had to be dragged over the trees or we had to slide under. We worked as a team and made sure everyone was safe. Another sluice had to be “shot”, a bit like the canoe slides at some locks. All the time we were waiting for the tranquil backwater we had seen on the way upstream. But No, more trees a metal barrier, a water pipe all had to be negotiated safely.
Then finally through yet another tree and there was a small narrowboat and tranquil water. What we had seen on the way up was all there was. It had taken 2 extra hours to avoid three locks. Then 4 weary paddlers headed back Newbury Lock and then onto the Teashop that had long since closed.
It was a great adventure and one I’m glad I have experienced, but if I ever do wild paddling again, I will bring some tools to clear away through. It would be good if someone does clear a bit of the back water, say up to the metal barrier, just enough to get a board or canoe through safely.
The next section is trough Hungerford and into the countryside beyond. I think a picnic might be needed as there are few towns or villages to stop at.
With the lighter evening and warmer weather the Social Paddling season has really got underway. We have two main locations, The Albany in Thames Ditton where we have four routes to choose from and The River Wey where there are five plus locations that we paddle from. We also have the Kingston, Weybridge and West London locations as well that run from time to time.
All the Social Paddles are Peer Paddles and are run by members who volunteer to be the meet and greet person. If you are a member and would like to volunteer to be one of these valuable volunteers, please contact us on Discord or via the contact form. You will not be responsible for the other paddlers, you will just be the person to meet and greet the other paddlers and discuss where to go.
The Socials are so rewarding. The evening ones after a long day are a perfect way to relax and take in the nature around you. Perfect for your Mental Health, Mindfulness and Wellbeing.
The Sunday Socials are a little different as depending on the group, they can head downstream to Kingston for Coffee or as we did the other weekend turn into a Mini-Safari, when we headed up the Rivers Mole and Ember. This is a little gem of a paddle and No Motorboats!
Come and join us on one of our Socials, we never leave anyone behind.
Ok, now I have your attention, you will have to read down to see if we went in 😎
As mentioned in a previous blog, Social Paddling is at the heart of what we do. We have a small but growing Group in West London, lead by Anna and Andy. They are out most weekends and one evening a week during the main Summer months, weather permitting.
On Spring Bank Holiday, a small group of adventurers decided to paddle on another part of the Grand Union Canal that was rarely visited. We met at Norwood Green Lock, Southall. Pumped up and headed West.
We had a following wind pushing us along at a go pace. Passed the back gardens of suburban homes, commenting on the variety of them all and how some embrace the Canal and some ignore it all together. This first stretch is a mix of suburban houses and flats.
Soon we were passing Southall Green with people out enjoying the weather and exercising. People walking along the towpath and interested to see us out on the water. I guess they don’t have many Paddleboarders out this way.
After the park we came to a more industrial area, where some of the old factories and warehouses were being replace with more blocks of flats. However, we were surprised to see that some recent blocks had ignored the canal and left the bank to return to nature and not use some of it as a resource for the residences.
Passed Hayes High Street we went and onward west. Google showed what appeared to be a café and a waterside pub. Being Surrey Paddlers we are spoilt by the wonderful waterside pubs we have. We missed the Woolpack Pub as it was high on the bank behind bushes, and nearly missed the Café. It too was high on the bank.
Helen went to investigate and came back to say it was closed and was just a Caf’ for the industial estate. So it was back to find the Woolpack. I hoped off my board and headed up the path and as soon as I saw the pub I laughed, took the picture below and returned to Helen, Anna and Stephen. I explained what I had seen and showed them the photo. If they were happy to go in, then who was I to stop them!!
After the hilarity had died down we decided that this time going into a Strip Club in full paddleboarding gear might not be the best thing to do 😁🤪
We headed back to Hayes High Street and stopped in at The Old Crown, and although they didn’t do food, they let us bring some in from one of the many shops in the excellent high street.
After lunch, it was just the small matter of paddling into the Easterly Wind, which wasn’t to bad and there was lots of shelter. Apparently, we did it in the same time as the Westward journey. We really must have enjoyed the SUP Sail in the morning ⛵🏄♀️
West London is an interesting and at times beautiful place to paddle. It can also be very urban. But it is never dull and I thoroughly recommend giving it a go and joining one of our West London Social Paddles over the Summer. Checkout the Calendar for details.
Social Paddling is at the heart of what we do at Dittons Paddle Boarding. It is fun and friendly. We never leave anyone behind and the faster paddlers tend to paddle around the slower ones. Sort of interval training.
This years main evening paddles have started later than normal, due to the abysmal Spring weather. However, the sun is slowly showing its face and we are getting out on the water and exploring the Water World around us.
We have started the Tuesday Evening Paddles from The Boaters Inn, next to the Kingston Rowing Clubhouse in Canbury Gardens, north Kingston. There is free parking on the road from 6.30pm. From here we can go either up or down stream. Both routes have their interest and we add in some of the backwaters and side channels for fun. Going up to Ravens Ait is always fun as we get to see the large sailing boats – Thames A-class Raters – flying about. Sometimes they come very close but never touch. They are very skilled sailors.
The Thursday evening Socials from our Home Base at The Albany have also started. Here we mainly head upstream to either the “Second Weir” and then down round The Island, Thames Ditton or up over the rollers to the Molesey – Sunbury section and paddle up to Hampton. In the early Autumn, the sunsets are amazing.
The other route we occasionally use in high summer, is to head up The Mole and onto The Ember. This is a totally different paddling experience.
We will be starting our Weybridge Wednesdays in the next couple of weeks. At this location there are at least 3 distinct routes and the most fun one on High Summer evenings is to head up to The Abbey Stream at Chertsey.
We also paddle from Thames Ditton on most Sunday Afternoon’s. If you haven’t been on one of our Social, then why not come and join us on the next one. Details on our Calendar Page.
What to do on a Beautiful Easter Sunday? Well go and explore the Brentford Branch of the Grand Union Canal. The Canal is part of the area of our West London Group. I had never been and had hear great things.
We parked in Trumpers Way, Hanwell, where there is free parking at certain times of the day. Please check the sign posts to make sure you don’t get a ticket. Once set up we walked down to the bridge and launched under the bridge. There is a low access point here.
Then it was down stream to Brentford. Initially the canal is quite Urban, but that quickly gives way to lightly wooded banksides and the birds that they attract.
There is plenty to see along the way, with narrow boats moored up and attractive bridges crossing the canal. The Spring sunshine had brought out the walkers and families. It was great to be out after all the March rain.
The route from Trumpers Way to Brentford has a couple of Locks to pass, with reasonable access to the water either side. After the last lock Brentford comes into view with it’s modern office blocks and pleasant parks. They are improving Brentford a lot with lots of new building taking place. A location to consider if wanting to move to West London.
We decided to stop in the Brentford Basin, which has been redeveloped into a marina with cafés and shops. The canal it’s self continues on for another kilometre or so to it’s junction with the River Thames. We had brought a picnic to make the most of the weather.
Finally, it was time to head back as there was decorating and gardening to be done and all those other Easter Sunday activities. It was a wonderful paddle and a route I will come back to with our West London Group.
If you are a paddler and would like to join our West London Group on an outing one evening over the summer, why not sign up to our Discord channel and get updates. They will also be posting on the club calendar very soon.
After a month of too much rain or freezing temperatures, finally the first weekend in February delivered a stunning Sunday. There was only a small group who met up at HQ (The Albany Pub) and headed out, upstream before lunch.
Apart from a couple of Skiffers from Ditton Skiff and Punting Club, we had the river to ourselves up to Molesey Lock. We headed up over the lock and continued passed a few junior ladies crews out of Molesey Boat Club.
If you haven’t had a go at AquaPaddle, it’s a Free 5k Timed Social Paddle, a bit like “Parkrun”, open to anyone who paddles. You just need to sign up. Some of the Volunteers on the local one are from Dittons Paddle Boarding. If you haven’t tried it, you should , it’s great fun.
We paddled up round Platts Eyot and picked up a bit of a head wind on the way back down stream. By not the River was ours. No one else on the water. It was idyllic to be out on the water. Even the head wind dropped.
After a pitstop for a coffee from the Coffee Wagon in Hurst Park, we headed back towards Molesey lock via the other side of Taggs Island.
Over the lock, by the rollers and passed Hampton Court Palace, looking beautiful in the late Winter Sunshine. I wonder what Henry VIII would of thought about Paddle Boarding. I think the younger Henry would have loved it. Not so sure about the older on???
Finally back to HQ for a well earned Recovery Drink. They had Hogs Back Tea on tap. A lovely pint 😁
Why not check out the Calendar for our next Social. All Paddle Boarders welcome. There is a very small booking fee if you are not a member.
Brett Scillitoe – 27 June 2022
How quickly a year passes. High Summer is the time to visit the Avon and Kennet Canal. We are making our way west towards Bath and Bristol. This year’s section was from The Rowbarge at Woolhampton to Newbury, The County Town of Berkshire.
The weather was a little challenging with a strong South Westerly breeze blowing. This meant that the number of paddlers was down not a normal Safari. However Paul wasn’t going to let the wind stop him getting a good supply of Vitamin D!
Most of the canal is in fact sheltered from the worst effects of the wind with trees giving protect. Just occasionally we had to paddle efficiently and make sure every paddle counted.
The sun shone and it was fun going. We occasionally to a break to rest and enjoy the conditions.
After about 3 hours, having passes Thatcham we arrived in Newbury and had a look around some of the little backwaters. We got chased out of one private back water by a please lady asking us politely and her 3 big dogs, who made it clear, we shouldn’t be there 😂
After exploring the central area of Newbury, we stopped at the lovely Teashop By The Canal for amazing sandwiches and cakes.
After lunch it was time to head back and this time with the wind and stream in our favour. We saw a Terrapene by a lock and met Di who had come for a paddle in the afternoon. Then Emma Lost her fin as she lowered her board into the canal at a portage point. Time to improvise and we lashed her Quroc board to Di’s and then the fun just increased and they tried to sail the raft home or splash others. So many laughs. Hopefully Quroc will return her repaired board very soon.
We cover 14 mile in 8 hours, had hundreds of laughs and got chased by 3 dogs. Not forgetting the 5 beers and food we had at the Rowbarge on our return.
If you want to join in some of our Adventures, why not become a member.
By Brett Scillitoe 21 Nov 21
Photos: Diana Thorne, Glenn Clifford & Brett
It’s been a long time since our last Hot Tub Session. The world is a very different place in many respects. But one thing is still the same, having fun whilst training on a warm swimming pool, that hasn’t changed. Just as good as it used to be back in early 2020.
We are back for a series of winter training. We will be running various sessions, including Taster Session for those who can’t wait for the summer to try the wonderful sport of Paddle Boarding.
Saturday’s session started with an advanced class of Step-back Turn tuition. After a quite warm-up, I took the beginners and Tim Scott, the coach that walks around his board like it’s his living room, took the group that had managed it a couple of times, but wanted to build their confidence.
The first thing on the agenda was jump into the lovely warm water. After that it was getting the students to start spinning. In the end we all were jumping up and down the boards, doing pirouettes and generally walking about the boards without a care. We did fall in a lot!
After the spins came the race paddling that some of us had been taught by Emily King and we were now passing on the others. We were racing up and down the pool.
After the Advanced Training, it was time for the Dittons Dolphins to practice their SUP Polo skills and drills. We aim to beat BlueChip one day. It is a fantastic sport and very fast paced. Some of the Student from the earlier session stayed on to have a go. All loved it.
Finally, it was off to The Prince of Wales for one of our Winter Social Socials where regardless of whether you have paddle or not, we meet up for a drink and a chat. All Paddle Boarders are welcome to these Socials. Look out in the calendar for the next Hot Tub and Socials we have over the Winter.
If you would like to come and have a go in the Hot Tub and Support the club, why not Become a Member.
1 Nov 21 By Brett Scillitoe
We have been having Halloween Paddles since our first year 2017 and they have been fun, select groups. This year was something else. With a lot more new friends (that’s what we are at Dittons Paddle Boarding – Friends), it was time to Party.
I arrived in The Albany car park to be met with all sorts of creatures and ghouls. Some quite hideous! And it was half an hour to pump up time. To say they were keen is something of an understatement.
Very soon we were ready to go, the early arrivers were out on the water and scaring the birds and amusing the pub customers. Especially when they walked through the dinning area. There were Witches, skeletons, ghosts, Frankenstein, a shark, a Dead Mexican Mariachi Band member, the Joker or 2, a Pink Flamingo, to name but a few. It was hard at times to workout who was who. Some I didn’t recognise until I got back to the pub!!!
There were lights of all descriptions lot make sure that we adhered to the river rules of showing a light. Well, there were loads of lights!!
First, we headed up to Hampton Court Palace to say hello to Henry’s ghosts. He created a few! And then under the bridge to scare the drivers and pedestrians.
We then headed downstream and round Thames Ditton Island to The Olde Swan to scare their punters. Finally, we were blown back upstream to The Albany for the Party to begin.
We had drinks and a pre ordered meal and lots and lots of laughs. Whoever said Halloween was for kids. They haven’t met the members of Dittons Paddle Boarding. We know how to have fun.
If you would like to have fun and come paddle boarding with us, why not Become a Member.
By Sara Valente
18 Oct 21
A Brief history of the Dittons Dolphins
It all started one warm summer’s day in July with a taster session run by Blue Chip at Thames Sailing Club. Several curious paddlers from Dittons Paddle Boarding Club wanted to have a go at a niche sport called “SUP polo”, which is a cross between lacrosse and water polo…on paddle boards. With mixed teams, it is a very inclusive sport. Even as experienced paddlers, SUP Polo proved challenging even for the most agile paddlers. We fell backwards and forwards, sideways and belly-flopped, we landed on each other’s boards and found creative new ways to fall into the water.
Suffice to say after a several hours of aiming footballs at a bouy using the SUP Polo paddles and taking immense joy at knocking each other into the water, the Dittons paddlers were hooked. Not long after, they formed the team “Dittons Dolphins” and started practicing at Hampton Sailing Club once a week playing friendly matches against Chichester SUP Club and Blue Chip. It was a steep learning curve but after a month of practice, The Dittons Dolphins felt ready to enter themselves into the National SUP polo tournament.
SUP Polo tournament
The Dittons Dolphins and support team arrived early at the Real Blue Chip SUP polo tournament 2021 and set up a base camp at the Guildford Lido. They had a gazebo, eight camping chairs, two camping grills, a BBQ and several weeks worth of food. The Dolphins knew that sustenance and stamina would be the key to a successful tournament.
The first match was played against SUP Junkie, an experienced team and fierce competition. Despite getting a goal, the Dittons Dolphins lost 6-1 in the first match. They made a valiant comeback in the second match winning 5-1 against the Dorset Dunkers but lost again to the Blue Chip Raiders 3-0 in another tough match. The final match against Chichester was an extremely close draw 0-0 as both teams were strong in defence and both narrowly missed scoring.
The final result saw the Dittons Dolphins place third at their first National tournament. Dittons Paddle Boarding Club couldn’t be more proud of their Dolphins and hope more will join the sport and get practicing for the next tournament looking to take place Spring 2022!