Packraft UK: London – Brentford to Teddington

Packrafting in London

It isn’t always necessary to go somewhere remote to have an adventure. Sometimes you can have an adventure right on your doorstep. I used to work in Brentford, and the office sat directly on the Grand Union Canal. The canal joins the Thames, which got me thinking. I wonder if instead of being packed into a commuter train I could packraft home instead? I mentioned this to a like-minded friend, who happened to have an inflatable canoe. Before we knew it, we were booking half a day off and checking the tide tables and weather. Fortunately everything came together – weather and tide were perfect, so we soon found ourselves by the side of the canal inflating our boats.

Soon we were off down the canal. It was a bit unusual being in my packraft in an urban environment, although I was enjoying the change of scenery as we passed offices and blocks of flats and passed under bridges.

One feature of canals is obviously the locks, and we had to portage these. This didn’t present an issue until we got to Thames lock, and realised we had to climb a ladder up the lock wall to get out. After some logistical challenges we managed to winch the boats up, but our success was short lived when we realised just how little water was in the Thames on the other side of the lock. Less than we had expected! This meant a portage down the high street to the Thames itself, much to the amusement of the locals. We put in again and soon were on our way down the tidal Thames.

We followed the Thames, assisted by the tide, past Kew, Twickenham and Richmond before reaching the end of the tidal stretch of Thames at Teddington. Although I was going on to Kingston, I decided to pack up the raft and walk, partly because the rowing club were out in force on the non-tidal stretch of the river above the lock, and partly because I was soaked. Packrafting is definitely not a dry sport, especially if you don’t have a spray deck!

Whilst I wouldn’t want all of my trips to be ‘urban’, this made an unusual departure from my normal adventures and I very much enjoyed it!

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