Boating Bliss and Killer Swans


Boating Bliss and Killer Swans


Odiham Canal, Hampshire

31st July 2011

“There is nothing-absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.” The Wind in the Willows.

As lil sis and I pull up in the car park of ‘The WaterWitch’ pub, I couldn’t believe how lucky we’d got. It was a beautiful, sunny day. We’d had this day booked in for weeks, and you can usually bank on the great british summer to well and truly let you down.

But not today.

The sun was shining and the breeze was warm. The smell of cut grass wafted in the air and the occasional sound of a bee flitting past broke the calmness of the balmy breeze swaying the leaves in the trees overhead. The perfect conditions for boating.

As we walked across the road and toward the dirt track that leads to the canal, we spot our cousin, his wife and our adorable little god-son Alex. A beautiful day, with beautiful people. I should be pinching myself to wake up surely.

Soon we had strapped Alex into his life jacket, whilst we, the responsible adults (I have to confess I can barely swim these days), shunned the offer of the bright orange buoyancy aides. After all, we’re grown ups. We laugh in the face of danger. A quick ice-cream on the banks of the canal whilst we wait for our “carriage” to arrive, and we were all precariously clambering into the little wooden boat.

I can’t remember the first time I came to Odiham and rowed along the canal. But It’s been a pastime of mine for years. It’s warms my soul every time I come. There’s a calmness on that stretch of water that I don’t think I’ve found anywhere else, not least in London. I’m ashamed to say it’d been 3 years since I’d been back this time. And the feeling of quiet contentment hit me harder than ever this time as we pushed off the bank and headed down river.

In London I’ve dabbled in rowing. Having coxed briefly and in turn had a bash at “proper” rowing. That coupled much experience of dating an oarsman, I ‘believe’ myself to be somewhat of an expert when I jump into these wooden boats back home. I turn to Alex and ask him if he’s enjoying rowing, he smiles and nods as he heaves the oar back towards him with both hands and I begin to tell him of the “Giant-sized” rowers in the London. He flicks me another smile and politely nods and I realise he’s humoring me more than I am him. I stop trying to show him the technique and instead relax back into the childlike fun he’s having, just a wooden boat, an oar and a river.

Alex gets tired so I swap seats and grab the oars, lil sister directing me every time we get too near to the bank, and screaming every time we collide with another boat. It’s the same for everyone, the old men on the canal boats just laugh and doth their hats, children and families in other boats scream and hoot back in hysterics, the occasional couple lift their sunglasses and pull their feet back out of the water as they lazily sunbath when they feel the bump on their boat.

As we turn a bend in the canal, we find a peaceful pool of greenish blue water, the golden light dappling on the surface through the branches of a willow tree. There’s no-one else around and we stop the boat and eat some snacks. All the lazy chatter of the past 40 mins is silenced as we take in the beauty of the river, the only sound is the occasional click of a camera from lil sis.


An hour later, our time up, having (only just) out-rowed the killer swan chasing us back down the river, eyes fixed on Alex’s packet of Wotsits. We’re once again precariously getting out of the boat and heading back to the pub for lunch. My heart sinks, it will undoubtably be another year before I’m back.

This place is a hidden gem, and top of my list of recommendations. Whether a little champagne fueled day out with the girlies, a family day of frolics, or a romantic, hazy, lazy date, make sure it’s on your bucket list.