HAMPTON COURT PALACE (Molesey lock) paddle (in Sea Kayak) with tide from Chiswick pier and back 9.25am – 18.05pm.

28.5 miles round trip. Might be useful to use a gps:

Headed off on a minor tide, which was partially due to the sluice gates being down. The water flattened off within 15 min and really was not much of a help for the rest of the day which made it a challenging extra long paddle. The weather was changeable but the first 4-5 hrs were glorious sun which became intermittent but thankfully no rain.

We thought we would catch the incoming tide which gave us a minor help till Kew and then just fizzled out. It later became clear why, Richmond Sluice Lock and navigation under bridge was closed for all boats. Not helped by slow neap tides.

Richmond lock and footbridge (Grade II listed) with sluice gates up

  • The Richmond sluice gate or barrage opened 1894 – (to stop foreshore from drying out) to maintain 2 meter level between Teddington and Richmond.

The raising or lowering of the sluice gates take only a few minutes and is an almost silent operation. The structure ensures a navigable depth of water at all times upstream of Richmond. The removal of the Old London Bridge in 1832 caused the Thames tide to rise and fall in more of an extreme manner, which resulted in the Thames at Richmond and Twickenham being little more than a stream at low tide. It also more alarmingly for the affluent Richmond residents brought open sewage down from Central London and deposited it on their doorstep. As a result pressure was made to build the lock and weir to stop this happening.

Generally Richmond Sluice gate (barrage) is opened 2 hrs before high tide and again 2 hrs after high tide. The rest of the time it is closed and kayakers have to portage. Boats have to use the lock.

The sluice gates ensure that the water level between Richmond Lock and Teddington Lock is maintained at or above half-tide level.

The other affects on paddling this stretch of the river are:

  • Neap ordinary tides (tidal waters come in gently)
  • Spring low tides (tidal waters come in fast)
  • Upstream opening of weirs to get rid of excess water (flood controls)
  • Thames Barrier (Environment Agency) which works independently to PLA –

it is used in extreme situations at least 10 times a year. Specially when easterley winds blows water up river. (The Thames Barrier is a retractable barrier system that is designed to prevent the floodplain of most of Greater London from being flooded by exceptionally high tides and storm surges moving up from the North Sea. It has been operational since 1982. source:wiki)

Richmond is the furthest downstream of the forty-five Thames locks and the only one owned and operated by the Port of London Authority.

During November for 3 weeks it is left open or is it closed for maintenance on weir.

See also:

At Richmond Bridge a Heron was not shy and intrigued by the kayak on his hunting ground.

Heron at Richmond

Giant swan pedalo.

Nesting Swans and Canadian Geese everywhere and many new population of birds.

WARNING: give swans and Canadian geese a wide berth as the parents are particularly aggressive. A paddling friend and his party of 4 got attacked yesterday and had to fight them off with their paddles and still got bitten and bruised.

Eurasian coot (Fulica atra), also known as the common coot, nesting on the back of a boat. It was squawking quite loudly which prompted the photo.

Thames Barge by Thames Ditton

A Thames sailing barge is a type of commercial sailing boat once common on the River Thames in London. The flat-bottomed barges with a shallow draught and leeboards, were perfectly adapted to the Thames Estuary, with its shallow waters and narrow tributary rivers. The larger barges were seaworthy vessels, and were the largest sailing vessel to be handled by just two menThe river barges worked the London River and the Port of London carrying coal, hay, brick, or cement. (source wiki). When sailing close to the wind the large wooden paddles on each side acts like a keel to stop the boat capsizing. Magnificent beast of a bygone era.

We ventured to the Ye Olde Swann pub which was hidden behind Thames Ditton island and turned out to be a little gem with great food and drink, but also 700 years old, as it dates back to the 13th century.

Lovely pub with a nice post to hitch our kayaks to

We tied off our horses (sorry kayaks) at the easy assess in the car park next door. After having texted our details (covid tracing info) we had a hearty lunch.

Old Speckled Hen Ale (Highly recommended)

Old Speckled Hen is popular with ale drinkers up and down the country and renowned for its unique character and consistent quality. The great British ale was first brewed to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the MG car factory in Abingdon, Oxfordshire. It was even named after the factory’s old run around car which was often parked outside the paint shop. Spattered in paint, the car became known as the “Owld Speckl’d Un”. The eagle-eyed might even see the resemblance between MG’s logo and the Old Speckled Hen label! More than 35 years on, the great premium ale continues to be a finely balanced beer with a distinctive rich, malty taste and fruity aroma. (Source: Greene King)

We then headed off upstream and followed Bushy park on the riverbank (behind a wall) till we got to the magnificent Hampton Court Palace. (though some scaffolding was in evidence) It is a magnificent palace with spiralling Tudor brick chimneys, vast kitchens able to feed the king’s court of a thousand. Britain’s greatest architect Christopher Wren’s even built its south facing façade.

Molesey weir.

Hampton Bridge with hampton court

To our further consternation Richmond navigation was still closed as were the sluice gates, another portage beckoned. We clearly were not the only ones frustrated by the barrage a poor baby Minke whale got stranded (ironically in the portage rollers) here two days later. A combined operation by the PLA and RNLI helped free him, but sadly he had to be put down later. See:

The welcome sight of Kew bridge

Slow return journey home with little tidal help almost like paddling on a placid lake. Stopped for a quick coffee at Kew and a date energy boost for the last stretch home on the epic 9 hr paddle!

The gentleman I was with was rewarded with the gold stamina award!