Rowing down the river

Proudly supporting The Treehouse Project

Update posted by Martin Wainwright On Jun 10, 2018

My first kingfishers swooped glittering by as I sculled past Nuneham Courteney on Friday - harbingers of more wonderfully generous gifts which are taking my tally towards £3000. This bis great because although the Treehouse Project which I am supporting is closing in on the initial target of £20,000, the chief energiser, Tom, tells me this is a conservative estimate. So I'm afraid that I will go on begging.


Meanwhile, my practices are hugely enjoyable as the Thames is a beautiful and constantly varied river and the view of the world from the water is magical. Reading up the history is fascinating too. Above is a drawing of the Arcadia which the generous Earl of Harcourt provided for the public on the riverbank in the 19th century. Picnickers famously included Lewis Carroll and the Liddell family (Alice L being the model for her namesake) and also Henry James. He wrote memorably of 'encountering in hundreds the mighty lads of England, clad in white flannel and blue, immense, fair-haired, magnificent in their youth, lounging down the stream in their idle punts, in friendly couples or in solitude or pulling in straining crews and hoarsely exhorted from the bank.'

I am no longer magnificent in youth, if I ever was, but I managed almost four hours of rowing from Sandford to Abingdon and back. Occasionally a felt a slight twinge in my left, er, buttock and discovered back at home that this thorn was responsible. I know I am testing my ailing powers but I readily admit that this was a step too far.

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Update posted by Martin Wainwright On May 31, 2018

Hooray! Hooray! Thanks to great generosity, I have reached the £2000 mark. I am really grateful and so is everyone at Holy Cross. But be warned: I am redoubling my fund-raising efforts and no one who has ever known me is safe. I apologise in advance but this is such a good cause; and although I do not sally forth on my voyage until September, the Treehouse Project ideally needs to raise £20,000 by July. They're about £2000 off that as I write.


Meanwhile, my progress has been greatly helped by Penny's birthday gift of a sculling mirror, an extremely handy asset when you are going backwards, fast. It clips on to my cap and I've started trialling it on my outings. Last week, for instance, it gave me generous warning of an erratic - though good-hearted - narrowboat which made rather a business of coming out into the Thames at the little link from the canal in central Oxford. I was thus becalmed and safe when they surged past heading upriver, calling out to me: "Is this the way to Reading?" I politely put them right.

Here is a picture of a snail on Clementine, the opposite of symbolic in my opinion. The bird splat is another minor hazard of the operation. This one was exactly where I snuggle up against the boat when lifting her on to the car roof. What with that and the oceans of extremely slippery goose-poo on Thames slipways, and you can see what terrors I am braving in return for your very generous faith and cash.

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Update posted by Martin Wainwright On May 14, 2018

Renewed thanks to everyone as the funding total heads towards £2000. This is hugely appreciated by everyone involved with the Treehouse Project which my marathon sculling trip is backing. Meanwhile my practice sessions are on the verge of leaving Oxford and heading downstream into the wider world. The temptation to stay in the city of dreaming spires is notorious among academics, but the magic of the river is drawing me eagerly on. I had a serene skim (and quite often dawdle) from Donnington Bridge to Sandford lock last week, helped by the rollers at Iffley shown in my photos, which allow small boats to by-pass the lock. That said, I am going to have to pluck up courage and go through a lock soon as portage is difficult on the Thames with mooring banks generally designed for much bigger boats. Wish me luck, please - lock luck.

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Update posted by Martin Wainwright On May 01, 2018

Happy May Day to you! It's been a lovely one so far for me, with the fund topping £1200 this morning while I was sculling in bright sunshine along one of the most famous stretches of the Thames, through central Oxford between Osney and Iffley locks. I was ready for busy traffic but encountered only one of Salter's mighty steamers, which loomed above Clemmy like a latterday Titanic, along with a handful of sculling boats, narrowboats, cabin cruisers and this lovely skiff, pictured top, below.

It was excellent practice in terms of other obstacles, with Folly Bridge to negotiate on a bend with a strong stream flowing. I nipped through happily going upstream but prudently went downstream backwards, so that I could see exactly where I was bound. You lose some control in this position but can always revert to sculling back from whence you have come if it looks as though you are going to be swept into something unwelcoming.

I should add for clarity, that these excursions are part of a long reconnaissance for the actual voyage, which will take place during the third week in September, stopping only at night. But the Treehouse Project ideally needs its money by July, so I am extremely grateful to all who have backed me or are thinking of doing so.

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Update posted by Martin Wainwright On Apr 26, 2018

A very big thank you to my backers who have topped £1,100 and inspired me to a major step today in rowing terms. The Thames is still running fast but perfectly manageably, I am getting more and more at home in Clementine and the weather was nice. So I set out from Wolvercote, just above Godstow Lock, at 9.40am and rowed all the way to Osney Lock, arriving at 10.25. That's 2.43 miles in 45 minutes and I was back at Wolvercote an hour later. The combined distance of 4.86 miles is just longer than the 4.79 miles from Godstow to Iffley, the next lock after Osney, and I felt perfectly ready for more. So this bodes well for the actual trip in September, specially as that will be downstream all the way.

I detail these figures because my first outings near and eventually on the swollen Thames two weeks ago had me slightly quailing at the sheer length of the whole trip. Now I am fortified. And the actual experience was delightful; Port Meadow is famously full of beauty and interest - see pictures below by a friend, David Buchan, (I don't yet dare take a camera) - but the narrower stretch through woods, allotments and eventually streets to Osney was lovely too. And the river mariner is such a privileged position to enjoy it. Thank you VERY much again to all who support and/or spend time on this.

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Update posted by Martin Wainwright On Apr 06, 2018

Clemmy and I finally had our second date this morning, in spite of dire 'Don't navigate' warnings from the Environment Agency which has opened most of the weirs on the rain-swollen Thames. We were fine, confining ourselves to the Wolvercote backwater, with the greatest challenge nothing worse than skirting marooned picnic tables. The biggest hassle of the first sea trial, tight gated-rowlocks which made feathering very cranky, has been solved by Paul Godsafe who runs matchless Glide Boats. It was simply a matter of loosening the rowlock. Job done; all good. Clementine's slender shape also proved in handy in reaching a new launching place on Port Meadow which is currently mostly Port Lake. Ratchet straps are the remaining challenge; at the moment I spend almost as much time puzzling them out to avoid accidents on the way home, as I do enjoying myself on the river.

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Update posted by Martin Wainwright On Apr 03, 2018

The weather and very high river levels are delaying my practice outings, but my latest picture in the gallery shows today's morale-boosting step forward. Clementine now bears her name proudly, in a tastefully bordered lemon yellow to go with her bright orange.

The brilliant Paul Godsafe of http://www.glideboats.co.uk Glide Boats, Clemmy's creators, did the business, not because I am wholly incompetent and liable to get lettering all wobbly, but because the high density polyethylene which is responsible for the boat's excellent robustness is resistant to adhesives unless its polarity is changed by warming with a blowtorch. This is scientifically and technically a step too far for me. But Paul did the magic in moments, helped by my specially-constructed tarpaulin. The typeface is Britannic which I think goes nicely and is also the only marine-related font I could find on Gmail's list. I have to add that the real-life HMS Britannic - pic below - was the slightly larger White Star Line sister ship of the Titanic which was taken over as a hospital ship during the Dardenelles campaign and sunk by a mine off the Greek island of Kea in 1916. She is the largest wreck on the ocean floor, followed by the Titanic. But there are no mines in the Thames.


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Update posted by Martin Wainwright On Mar 23, 2018

Just to add that the two pictures below the main one (note pint and pie, a good rower's diet) show the magic moment of my capsize - the only one so far, fingers crossed - and my early days as a born-again sculler on the darkly sinister Big Lake at Hinksey Park in Oxford which is crossed by an even more sinister bridge carrying a path known as the Devil's Backbone. This connects with the fragmentary remains of the famous road between North and South Hinksey built by undergraduates including Oscar Wilde under the altruistic direction of John Ruskin.

Wilde wrote about this with characteristic wit in Art and the Handcraftsman published in his collected Essays in 1879:

We were coming down the street—a troop of young men, some of them like myself only nineteen, going to river or tennis-court or cricket-field—when Ruskin going up to lecture in cap and gown met us. He seemed troubled and prayed us to go back with him to his lecture, which a few of us did, and there he spoke to us not on art this time but on life, saying that it seemed to him to be wrong that all the best physique and strength of the young men in England should be spent aimlessly on cricket ground or river, without any result at all except that if one rowed well one got a pewter-pot, and if one made a good score, a cane-handled bat. He thought, he said, that we should be working at something that would do good to other people, at something by which we might show that in all labour there was something noble. Well, we were a good deal moved, and said we would do anything he wished. So he went out round Oxford and found two villages, Upper and Lower Hinksey, and between them there lay a great swamp, so that the villagers could not pass from one to the other without many miles of a round. And when we came back in winter he asked us to help him to make a road across this morass for these village people to use. So out we went, day after day, and learned how to lay levels and to break stones, and to wheel barrows along a plank—a very difficult thing to do. And Ruskin worked with us in the mist and rain and mud of an Oxford winter, and our friends and our enemies came out and mocked us from the bank. We did not mind it much then, and we did not mind it afterwards at all, but worked away for two months at our road. And what became of the road? Well, like a bad lecture it ended abruptly—in the middle of the swamp. Ruskin going away to Venice,when we came back for the next term there was no leader, and the 'diggers', as they called us, fell asunder.
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Anonymous

Backed On Jul 10, 2018 Amount Hidden

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Oarsome Martin!!

Alison Casson

Backed with £25.00 On Jul 06, 2018

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merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily....good luck, Martin

Jo Habib

Backed with £30.00 On Jul 05, 2018

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Very proud of you Martin. You can do it!

Ann Persson

Backed with £30.00 On Jul 05, 2018

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Lots of love from Rachel and Rod x

Rachel Hollis

Backed with £25.00 On Jul 03, 2018

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Tom & I did Donnington to Henley, approx 50 miles, in 11 hours 43 mins and 20 seconds, one October some 20 years past. This, in an old coxed double. The "no steeing" more than made up for the extra weight carried! You have set yourself quite a target. You could do it by road in half the distance but....... All the very best. John (and Peta)

John Broadhurst

Backed with £20.00 On Jun 30, 2018

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Anonymous

Backed On Jun 29, 2018 Amount Hidden

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You and Clementine will be a fantastic team I know. Grade A Wainwright project in a wonderful cause.

[email protected] Spicer

Backed On Jun 17, 2018 Amount Hidden

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Go Marty Go, and they say raw steak against backside is effective?

Katy Greaves

Backed On Jun 14, 2018 Amount Hidden

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Crazy and generous, that's you. Good luck! k x

Kerry McQuade

Backed with £20.00 On Jun 10, 2018

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