The Secret Thames – by packraft

My writing friend, Ben, is a real inspiration to me and I just love his adventures across the waters of Britain.

Ben's Watery Travels

Swift Ditch, River Thames, England

I was standing beside the Tower of London, looking down at the red poppies, picturing blood and 1914. Within seconds, an eager tourist had gifted me their smartphone, crammed all their friends onto the tiny screen, and was posing before the River Thames: a brown, pixellating streak in the background.

It may be the world’s most photographed river, yet much of the Thames is hidden. The watery reflections of Big Ben and Westminster, the New Year fireworks blasting off from the London Eye, and the Oxbridge Boat Race grab most of the headlines; but with the exceptions of Henley, Marlow and of course, the Queen’s fortress at Windsor, few ever consider what lies upstream of Chiswick Bridge. With my inflatable packraft, I headed west into Oxfordshire. To see the real Thames, you must seek out the backwaters.

Swift Ditch near Abingdon is the most literally-named place I’ve ever been. Abandoned…

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