By Brett Scillitoe
The day dawned a typical September morning, a little cool with dew on the grass. Although Sunday was a Training Day at ‘Ditton Beach’, the Safari group were off in a different direction.
Reading was the launch site and The Kennet the river we were going to explore. We all met near the Wokingham Waterside Centre, who were gearing up for their days sessions and kindly let us use their facilities.
John Lloyd from our Maidenhead Paddle Base joined us. So the group was Abi, Anya, Colette, Sam, John and myself, with Stephen joining later.
The route was a few hundred metres upstream and then left into the entrance to The Kennet. We immediately noticed the increase in stream we were paddling against, compared to The Thames.
At the first lock we met Stephen who had joined us from West London and had traveled to Reading by train. The joy of an ISUP.
We were now on the Reading Town section, which was fun to paddle pass the tower blocks and eventually through the middle of The Oracle shopping centre. The river on this section even has it’s own traffic light system, It gets narrow in points.
There were lots of people surprised to see us and little children pointing and waving. It was great fun.
Very soon the next lock came into view. This next section is narrow and fast flowing. Fortunately there was very little other river traffic, but then the local Angling Club was having a Match Day and there were 40 fishermen on the bank. So, it added to the challenge of the Safari. You can imagine some of the reactions as we appeared. Most were friendly, one even court a fish as we passed by!
The next lock was a challenge as we had to climb some steep steps. But then this was a Safari and you need to have some challenges on a Safari!!
The following section was now truly out into the countryside, with canal barges moored along the edge. This continued for so way with the river gently curving this way and that. One more lock and we were onto the final stretch before Lunch at The Cunning Man.
The bridges on this section are typical 17th Century and very attractive. A pleasure to paddle under.
After a Sunday Roast and a Pint for me, it was the return trip, on the current and with the wind. What a joy.
Heading back along the same waterway is always a pleasure of there are new things to see and discover. The Anglers, had finishes and I don’t think it had been a good day. Good for the fish I guess. The Oracle was much busier as we slipped by the shoppers and dinners.
We stopped by Reading Prison to drop Stephen off to catch his train and see where Oscar Wilde was imprisoned for falling in love.
And so to the final run back to The Thames. It had been a good day, we had known we had done over 10 miles. Half of those against the current!
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