Kayaking and canoeing on the Thames is a great way to escape the London crowds and grab some fresh air and exercise. This canoe trip starts at Walton Bridge near Shepperton in west London and provides a circular trip that takes a couple of hours, with plenty of opportunities for picnics and playing.
Park at the large car park on the south side of Walton Bridge, and then paddle upstream to where the river splits around Desborough Island. Take the left hand channel, the Desborough Cut. This was constructed between 1930 and 1935 to ease navigation on the Thames and alleviate flooding in Shepperton. Unless the river is high, the flow here should be manageable to those who have used canoes or kayaks before.
The Cut flows for 1 km along a straight channel and then passes a second, small island which boasts a large, grand house. If you keep to the south bank you will then see Shepperton Weir on the other side of the river. This is a great play spot if you like your white water, and don’t mind getting wet. Weirs can be very dangerous, so keep clear unless you are experienced in moving water.
If you are feeling adventurous you can explore the various river channels at this point. The overgrown backwaters are delightful in summer, rich in wildlife and mostly inaccessible to larger craft.
Head home by paddling to the north bank of the Thames and following the flow downstream. This meandering stretch of the Thames winds past expensive riverside properties which overlook the river and the tree lined, recreational space of Desborough Island.The river will take you back to Walton Bridge, where there is a good café. There are also several good pubs on this route, check out Pub Paddles – The Best Short Canoe Trips in the South of England by Peter Knowles for more information on both the route and the local pubs.
On a midweek winter paddle you are likely to have the river mostly to yourself, but it can get busy in summer, especially at weekends, when pleasure craft, marathon and sprint kayaks, rowing boats and sculls all make the most of this beautiful stretch of the Thames.
Photographs courtesy of Claire Taylor.