As Ratty says in The Wind In The Willows: “There is nothing – absolutely nothing, half so worth doing as – simply messing around in boats!”
At the slightest hint of a break in work Hedda, Shona and I have, our 103-year-old double scull – a leisure skiff – towed to a slipway on the Thames and once on the Wey, we row down through the Thames. By now we have rowed most of the river from Oxford to Richmond, and much of it more than once. The scenery never fails to please and enchant. We journey through villages and towns with histories going back a millennium. There are many Roman Ways, famous manor houses and numerous stories of bygone times.
We have rowed in freezing weather one Easter and through a heatwave -also at Easter. But more often than not we enjoy fair weather and the countryside is glorious. When I’m allowed to I read anecdotes about the places we pass like the curious geological feature the Goring Gap. You read that Pete Townsend had a studio here and George Michael lives in Mill House; or about the Bridge at Moulsford, built by Isambard Kingdom Brunel or what about the man who fired the first shot at the Battle of Waterloo – read on and you find it went off by mistake!
All this enlightenment is from Christopher Winn’s I Never Knew That About The Thames, which is packed with oddities: where Frankenstein was born; and where the Pooh Sticks tournament is held every year, -although there is a threat to move it due to its popularity.
We have put together some River Thames rowing itineraries – they vary in duration and how much rowing you have to do, but we think it’s all easy going – especially if we have the boat towed upstream – you can choose from 3 day (2nts) through to 7 days.
And you can stay in posh hotels, B&Bs or camp in the boat. You can even make a party of rowers in a pageant boat – we had 16 people in one of them with eight rowing at a time, so there are boats to fit all requirements.
If you don’t want to row in the lower reaches of the Thames we can even tow the boat up to Lechlade, near where the Thames rises and take it out just after Henley or Marlow – at around 12/16 miles a day there is plenty of time to look around at the villages you pass through and to have a riverside lunch in a picturesque inn or even take a walking tour of Oxford.
Prices for boating on the Thames start from as little as £200 for the boat hire for three days but accommodations and tows are extra.