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One step closer I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move. ~Robert Louis Stevenson

Trip Two: A swan can break your arm don't you know!

UNITED KINGDOM | Thursday, 18 June 2009 | Views [620]

:A swan can break your arm don't you know!

Finstock to Coombe Station

 A day juxtaposed to the first’ sunny mien, with overcast skies and the threat of heavy rain to come.  The days ambitions where rolled back slightly and the sights where set on a stint from Finstock to Long Hanbourough.  Oxford would have to wait for another day.

            There were still blockages in the day but where less serious and robust than the previous ones.  That was also allayed to an improvement techniques dealing with these annoyances.  The pelvic shuffle was an important innovation.  It is no way near salacious as it sounds.  To get through the flotsam the dams behind the blockage involves charging at it flat out until you come to a stop and then inching yourself forward with a shunt of the pelvis until you reach branch to help drag yourself through with or gain the other side.  The Willow limbo was also another asset in getting through obstruction.  When the Willow falls across the river it rarely lies flat in the waterline.  Most leave a gap of about 50cm where the flow keeps the channel clear.  By leaning back on the canoe with your chin sticking out like a conning tower you can scrape under by the skin of your teeth, the branch looming over as looming over cms from the eyes as the canoes float by.  It’s quite daunting as once committed to this limbo the flow and the body position means your committed to the manoeuvre even if the height is a bit less than first envisioned.

Lambs where in evidence in all the fields around with some errant youths being stuck at the bottom of an overhanging riverbank.

The river is a deeply mesmerising place; the world is the river.  The stream is only about 4 metres apart and with high banks this can severely limit your scope of sight.  It gives you an isolated feeling that you do not feel when travelling about on car or even foot.  Importantly people do not expect to see people using such an un-navigable stream, which allows you to surprise some people who feel that they’re safe in their privacy around the river.  Such people include the lady who needed to relieve herself in some woodland adjacent to the stream and various people walking their dogs along the banks.


  An amazing sight was witnessed as a Hobby Falcon was chasing some swallows about the sky.  If ever there was bird that was going to be impossible to catch it is the Swallow with it nimble and pacy flight.  Hobby’s are obviously undaunted by this aerial display and was exhibiting its own brand of prowess as it swooped down from on high to try and catch is fleet of wing prey.  The Hobby apparently follows its prey up from North Africa, but quite why it hasn’t decided to go for the lumbering pigeons that were cowering uneasily in their close-by woodland perch.


The rain that had threatened earlier had had arrived in force and stayed for most of the day.  Deluges that happened through the day gave the impression that there was more water falling from the heavens than was below in the river.

This didn’t help to make the river easier to navigate. More incontinence on the rivers behalf as we reach a point where all the willow had been cut down.  Unfortunately they were cut down and dumped into the river rather than laid at the side.

The fucking swans appeared in the distance and proved near impossible to get around.  It looked a bit like Hazel Blears in its aloofness, swanning around and feathering its own nest.  Best practice with animals is to avoid eye contact and seem uninterested in their existence.  The problem is they slowly swim downstream with the pen(mother) at the front with the cygnets and the Cob in the rear guard keeping the two canoeists away from his brood.  Trying to skirt around the family group ended up with one of the canoeists being found between the cob and the rest of his family.  The cob launched into focussed apoplexy, as he feared for his family.  Coming downstream with his massive wingspan beating towards this perceived threat he made a grand and alarming sight.  This swan attack was only dealt with by a swift paddle to the neck of the approaching swan deflecting his bile forcing him to carry on downstream to unite with the rest of his family.  A managed retreat was the order of the day and from then on Swans were dealt with as more implacable blockage to progress than any obstacles formed by the willows. 

  One more blockage downstream meant that the canoes had to be dragged across a field.  The only problem was that it was full of dumb ass heifers following the two’s ungainly progress across the field like the pied piper of Hamlin for cows.  It would be easy to start a religion if you were a cow.  They’ll follow anything that’s more enthralling than the blade of grass in front of their nose.


 The ending of the day was glorious, as the rain of the day had given way to some late sunshine as the canoes were dragged out for the final time in a Cotswold water meadow.




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