C&K Correspondent Mark Anders and his two cohorts attempted to paddle 150 miles down The Thames River with a pair of kayaks and a standup paddleboard, stopping at every bar they could find. This is the third of five dispatches from the (mis)adventure. Click HERE to read the first, and HERE to read the second.
By Mark Anders
Paddling with big hangovers today.
Last night, we finally made it to Oxford just before dark. When I dreamed up this little floating pub trek through the English countryside, cold blowing rain wasn’t what I had envisioned. But we paddled on, drenched and freezing, all day. By the time we reached Oxford’s Holly Bush Inn I was on the edge of hypothermia. I had been optimistic (and a bit stupid) not to pack anything but surf trunks.
Alas, Stuart, the friendly barkeep at the Holly Bush, took us in, set up a round of pints, and hooked us up with a modest dorm-style room above the pub. The Holly Bush is one of the coolest pubs we’ve hit so far. Nothing fancy, just a straight-up, British neighborhood pub. We hit it off famously with the staff—they were stoked on our journey—and they ended up having us for a “lock-in.” Basically, at closing time, they ushered the rest of the patrons out, locked the doors and we kept on partying through the night with Stuart, Andy the pub’s owner, and a handful of fun locals.
“There’s been nearly a month’s worth of rain in the past 24 hours,” we heard a TV newscaster say about the recent flooding in the UK. So it’s no real surprise that the Thames is rising quickly. At our first lock, we’re informed the river is rising quickly and has been “red boarded,” the lockmaster posting a large red warning sign saying “Caution Strong Stream.” During red boards, the official word from the Environment Agency, which governs the waters of the Thames, is this: “We advise users of all boats not to navigate because the strong flows make it difficult and dangerous.”
But the government can’t legally stop us from paddling, and the lockkeeper with a little ‘nudge, nudge, wink, wink’ tells us the red boards simply mean we’ll make it to the next pub a heck of a lot faster.