REVIEW: GREENWICH TO BATTERSEA KAYAK BUS TOURS
As part of our spring Get Active campaign, we’ve been trying out the outdoor sports tours across the capital, kicking off with kayaking the Thames with the London Kayak Company
As I rose from my bed at the frightfully early hour of 8am on an averagely grey Saturday morning in April, my first thought for the weekend was not that I was in a particularly sporting mood. But in the spirit of the Boat Race, which was the following day, I dragged myself out of bed and headed for the water for a kayaking adventure that did not disappoint.
I’m far from an expert when it comes to kayaking, my only real experience with the sport the odd attempt on family holidays in Devon. On seaside trips to the south coast, I’d demonstrate little flair in a kayak, often only managing to pivot in uncoordinated circles. So the prospect of hurtling down the centre of the Thames, under its intimidating bridges and alongside crate ships and tourist boats wasn’t exactly thrilling me. With visions of a kayak capsizing incident playing on my mind I headed to Greenwich where I was due to meet the team at the London Kayak Company who promised an exciting and unusual whistle-stop tour of the capital all the way to south London’s Battersea. I met my equally nervous friend at the Trafalgar Tavern pub right on the water’s edge and we looked out to the Thames with no sign of the monuments of the capital, let alone Battersea, in sight.
Other teams of two began to turn up and we were soon greeted by Harry and Chris who were going to be leading us on the tour. We donned some unflattering overalls and had a quick pep talk from Harry on how to steer and using our oars. We were then pushed out onto the Thames and were off, passing Greenwich, Limehouse and the east end with its old docks and warehouses. The speed at which we were making our way down the Thames made me think perhaps I was a kayaking natural after all, although I soon learnt it was the undercurrents of the Thames powerfully dragging us along.
Both Harry and Chris were full of fabulous anecdotes that illustrated the city’s colourful history of the Thames as a source of power and how the capital’s harnessing of nature has allowed it to develop into the metropolis it is. Any pre-kayaking fear was quickly dispelled as we were given clear instructions and kept in line between our two enthusiastic instructors. Within 45 minutes we were under Tower Bridge where we were strategically positioned for a photoshoot in our kayaks. Kayaking under Blackfriars Bridge and the Millennium Bridge we had flocks of tourists waving to us from the Thames tow paths.
The journey provided a fascinating perspective of the city as if being on the inside of London looking out, and ultimately the day was a great geography lesson in the city’s landmarks and history, with London unfurling in front of us like some kind of chronological map or timeline.
After three hours of kayaking, my friend and I felt we’d got the hang of the kayak and once past the Houses of Parliament, the end of the tour felt more like a gentle drift as we headed out of the city and under Albert Bridge and past Battersea Park. Slightly damp and with moderately aching arms, we beached on the shores of Battersea with the city behind us and a great sense of achievement and headed for a well-deserved cup of coffee and slice of cake in beautiful Battersea Square.