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 second of five dispatches from the (mis)adventure. Click HERE to read the first, and HERE to read the third.
By Mark Anders
It started to rain late yesterday afternoon, so we took shelter—and more than a few pints—at The Rose Revived, a small 16th century pub and inn riverfront on the Thames. Pitching our tents in the rain sounded none too appealing, so we opted to spend the night at the inn.
Good choice, because in the morning, we woke to pouring, blowing rain and much colder temps. Definitely not ideal paddling conditions, but if we had any hopes of reaching London, we needed to get going.
“There are times when one should wonder about one’s sanity!” the lockkeeper at King’s Lock called out to us as we paddled up, totally drenched.
King’s Lock is one of 45 locks on the Thames, which help to manage the flow on the river and assists with boat traffic. About sixteen feet wide and 115 feet long and made of stone, it looks much like the others we’ve passed through so far.
Here’s how the locks work: Basically, you paddle in, the lockkeeper closes the upstream gates behind you and begins turning big wheels that let the water out of the lock. Sitting there in our boats, the water drains out. We feel like toy boats bobbing around as the water is drained from a massive bathtub. When the water-level is equal to that on the other side, the lockkeeper then opens the downstream gates and we’re off.
There are lockkeepers at each of the locks on the river. From what we can see, it seems like a pretty sweet gig. And we’ve heard it’s a much sought after job. Each lockkeeper gets a free house right at the lock, which means you live riverfront. And most of the locks are situated in quiet, idyllic spots with beautiful English gardens out front.
Usually, the lockkeepers operate the locks, but we were stoked to find out that when the lockkeepers aren’t on duty, river goers are allowed to operate the locks themselves. We’ve been having a hoot trying to figure out how to do it correctly. I just hope we don’t blow it and end up flooding London!