From Reading, Kennetmouth to Henley via Thames backwaters (St. Patrick's Stream, River Loddon, and Hennerton Backwater).
I thoroughly enjoyed this adventurous paddle downstream from Reading to Henley, going much of the way through backwater streams. At Henley, I packed up my inflatable kayak, had a refreshing pint, then took the 850 bus back to Reading (£4.60, 30 mins)
Total distance: 14.4 km
Date of track: 21.7.2018
See map below for geotagged photos (mouse-over camera icons), and further down to download the GPX
Start time: 12:34:35
End time: 17:21:28
Total track time: 4h 46m 53s
Entrance to St. Patrick's Stream
St Patrick's Stream confluence with Loddon
Under the bridge to Hennerton Backwater!
Looking back, Hennerton Backwater (left) re-joins Thames
Pushing off at Kennetmouth is easy, providing barges aren’t moored all along the low banks. Otherwise there is a pontoon at the Dreadnought. It’s 2.5km downstream to Sonning. Portage at Sonning lock is easy, exit and re-entry at water level. Then under the charming Sonning bridge (and past the Coppa Club pub immediately after). From there it’s about 2km to the entrance of St. Patrick’s stream.
Entry to St. Patrck’s stream is on the right marked by a post with “Not suitable for Launches” sign, easy to miss without foreknowledge. The stream bypasses a lock so there is a noticeable current, in fact most of the way down I was just steering rather than paddling. Great fun avoiding reed beds and low branches, in some places current feels very quick requiring precise and timely course adjustments. Before getting to the confluence with the River Loddon the stream is pure wilderness (except for the odd fishing swim - although I only passed one angler), dancing blue damselflies and wildfowl were aplenty. The stream become wider after the confluence with the Loddon (watch for anglers here) then the banks become gardens of posh Wargrave residences- quaint cottages contrast with ultra-modern barns. A nice stretch though, under some fine footbridges. The backwater altogether 2km.
The Loddon joins the Thames here and after a kilometre (past the St. George and Dragon pub) the right flow leads to a marina which and the entrance to Hennerton Backwater, under a very low bridge. The backwater is, again, lined with posh houses and gardens and is about 2km in length. Very pleasant and navigable in either direction. Re-joining the Thames, it’s a kilometre to Marsh Lock. This one is not so easy to portage. Alighting is fine, but re-entry on the Henley side is down a 1.5m ladder.
Then it’s a final kilometre to Henley. I packed up my kayak near Henley bridge (I was fortunate to arrive just before the annual Henley Swim commenced which could have forced me to land further up stream). The number 850 bus leaves from just beyond the Little Angel pub on the other side (where I enjoyed a refreshing pint) on Saturdays it passes every hour at ten to the hour (£4.60). I was home forty minutes later.