After a stiflingly hot week we were predicted a downpour for the weekend, this would have been very welcome if it weren’t for the fact that we were planning on heading up to Oxford to spend a training session with the Oxford Paddlers for Life dragon boat team, my first visit to another team.
It poured down overnight and the next morning the clouds remained ominous. We were all up early and on our way to the city of dreaming spires, on the way the rain was of and on and the clouds looked full, no sign of those clear blue skies we were after!
As we found our way to the church, where we were to leave the car, the rain stopped, so it was dry as we took the scenic walk to the pub where the Oxford Paddlers kept their boat. A short wait whilst the Iffley Lock opens to allow a boat to move through and we were back on our way, a very scenic way I may add…
As we crossed the lock the smell of lavender from the garden of the lock keepers house was powerfully strong, it was all so idyllic I will definitely be going back to explore the area further on foot.
Arriving at the pub we were met by the lovely ladies of the Oxford Paddlers for Life, a quick introduction, donning of buoyancy aids, warm up exercises and we were ready to move the boat. The Dragon boats aren’t kept on the water, they need taking down to it and they are heavy and cumbersome. It takes manpower and direction to make sure this long boat gets to the water without anyone ending up in the stinging nettles or knocked into the river. All hands on and we’re off….
Finally we are on the water and numbering off, always good to know how many are on board when you leave, just to make sure you have the same number when you return!
It was a lovely session, helmed by a very capable young lady, Esmee, who took us through a number of exercises. Some pause paddling, evolution paddling, pyramids, some focusing on technique and so forth. It was a nice selection of exercises, not too taxing and interspersed with a bit of sightseeing, as they point out such things as the boat houses for the local University boats teams and Christ Church Meadows. It really is lovely to see the world from a boat, the movement and the sound of the water is really very calming. We may sometimes be going full pelt and putting all our efforts in to moving the boat as quickly as possible, at which time the scenery is a blur, as we have heads up, but are focusing on the strokes to make sure we are all in time, but there are always moments to just take it all in, if only for a wee while.
We did see one poor lad, who was out rowing, came a cropper and capsize his boat, so we stopped to make sure he was okay – probably more embarrassed than anything – before continuing up the river. To be fair the weather was such that a cool dunk in the water was not quite as awful as it could have been and he was quickly back to land.
It looks form the map as though we went a fair distance, but it felt like we were only out for a short time, but that always seems to be the case when you are enjoying yourself, messing about on the water. I’m hoping these are all ladies we will see again at future events, maybe they will come down to visit us in Wraysbury. We may not be able to promise such picturesque surroundings, but we will always have the warmest of welcomes there.