There is no greater way to escape the hustle and bustle of London life, than with a 24 mile canoe trip down the River Thames. Henley Canoe Hire provide everything you need to go on a weekend adventure.
In 2 days a beginner kayaker/paddler is able to quietly observe the Thames, nature’s road from Henley to Windsor. With swans gliding on the water, glittering dragonflies and the gentle murmur of the river, the weekend trip is accessible, adventurous and a great escape from the city! Here are my top tips on how to arrange the weekend adventure.
How to arrange the Trip
Henley Canoe Hire provide everything you need for the multi day hire; including the canoe, buoyancy aids, paddles and dry bags. To check availability, click here. Canoe hire is £120 per boat, fitting 2 to 3 adults or 2 adults and 2 children.
The start point is situated a ten minute walk away from the train station, with 2 – 3 trains per hour (changing in Twyford). There are regular departures from London Paddington.
The friendly and helpful team will brief you on how to get to the campsite, navigating the Thames and any questions you may have before setting off on the river. For overnight camping, you’ll need a tent, sleeping bag and roll mat. Henley Canoe Hire are happy to provide all of the equipment to rent if needed.
Saturday Stage 1: Henley on Thames to Marlow
Distance: 11 miles
Time: Approx 5 hours
End Point: Marlow (1 mile out of the town centre)
Locks: 4 (Hambledon, Hurley, Temple and Marlow)
Setting out of the glassy water of the Thames, the kayak feels weightless beneath us. We glide past the infamous site of the Henley Regatta, first held in 1839. Leaving the town behind us, we paddle adjacent to the National Trail of the Thames Path, a 184 mile trail following the Thames from source to city. We encounter lone fisherman, walkers and wild swimmers from our kayak, as we past through the rural villages of Hurley and Bisham.
We stop off at a sandy bank for lunch, tucking into a homemade lunch of peanut butter sandwiches, fruit and flapjacks midway through the first day.
There are 4 lock gates between Henley on Thames and Marlow. The lock keepers will instruct you on when to paddle forwards. The larger boats tend to enter the lock gate first, with any non-motorised boats slotting in between. There is a chain that runs into the water that you can hold onto, whilst the water level drops.
From the lock gate, we stay on the right hand side of the Thames and continue our journey!
We canoe approximately 1 mile out of Marlow before reaching the campsite for the evening. It is approximately a 30 minute walk into the town centre for dinner, where gastropubs and Michelin starred restaurants provide a vibrant food scene for the Georgian Town.
Henley Canoe Hire provide bell tents for £45 per night. Toilets, showers, drinking water and a seating area is available at the campsite.
Sunday Stage 2: Marlow to Windsor – 13 miles
Distance: 13 miles
Time: Approx 5 to 6 hours
End Point: Windsor (A332 Bridge/Windsor Leisure Centre)
Locks: 5 (Cookham, Boulters, Bray, Boveney and Romney)
With an early morning start and electric blue skies, we found the river to be much quieter on a Sunday morning.
The waters edge was lined with curtains of weeping willow and forests in summer bloom. Wildlife was in abundance on the Thames, with great crested grebes, swans, cygnets, kites and gaggles of geese drifting through the water.
We kayak past Cliveden Estate, a former mansion to Dukes, Earls and Princes, before it was donated to the National Trust in 1966. For our midway stop, we disembark at Maidenhead for a late Sunday brunch. From Maidenhead we continue our kayaking adventure as pass by abandoned film studios, a sunken yacht and the glamorous river side housing near Bray.
As we paddle closer to Windsor, the waterway becomes busier with sightseeing boats. The famous Windsor Castle bobs into view, formally known as the largest and oldest castle in the world and also the official weekend residence of Queen Elizabeth II. We give Matt (from Henley Canoe Hire) a call an hour prior to arriving and he’s waiting for us at the public slipway to collect the kayak.
- Canoe: You can book online with Henley Canoe Hire. I would recommend booking at least one week in advance to secure a canoe for the weekend. The canoe hire is £120 for the weekend.
- Equipment: Bring suncream, sun hat, two 1L water bottles and some snacks for the journey.
- Food: I would recommend to bring lunch on Day 1 and breakfast on Day 2 as there are very few amenities along the way. Henley on Thames, Maidenhead and Windsor all have supermarkets to stock up from.
- Camping: A canoe/kayak has plenty of storage for a small tent, two sleeping bags and two roll mats. If you require any equipment, Henley Canoe Hire can lend all the items for a small fee.
- Activity Level: Leisurely to Moderate. Both days require 5 to 6 hours of kayaking, this was made easier with rest stops. The weekend of canoeing/kayaking is very suitable for beginners. To see the Strava log, see below:
If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to drop me an email or comment here. Henley Canoe Hire can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org or on 0118 402 5820.