We agree that rowing in sweep boats and sculling shells is fabulous. However, with our Classic River Thames trip on our minds, we thought you’d like to hear about other ways to row the River Thames, including guesting, gigging and punting.
Give a Gig a Go
In late 2015, there were a few Cornish guys and gals in a pub in Covent Garden with a dream of getting to the World Pilot Gig Championships in the Isles of Scilly. After returning from an incredible weekend in the Scillies, the London Cornish Pilot Gig Club was born, the only gig club on the Thames. Last year they launched “Fury”. Speak nicely to them and maybe they will let you give a gig a go. A gig is a six-oared 9.8-metre rowing boat long recognized as one of the first shore-based lifeboats that went to vessels in distress as far back as the late 17th century. Gig thanks.
Be a Guest at a Rowing Club
We consider many of more than 200 rowing clubs lining the Thames our friends. Lucky us. For our Classic Thames trip, we hire boats from Weyfarers. Our guides, Viv Jackson and Gilly Dean, for the trip are with another club, the Weybridge Ladies Amateur Rowing Club. Get yourself a few new friends on the Thames – many clubs will welcome you as a guest rower for a day.
Be a Punter
To those of you reading in England or Australia, calm down while we explain.
You may not know that “he’s a punter” can be construed as derogatory in England or Australia, and can mean the customer of a prostitute. In Australian English, a punter can be a gambler or someone who takes risks. In North America, punters are merely football players or a traditional music group in Newfoundland. Perhaps apropos, here are The Punters performing Heave Away.
Today we are talking about someone who shoves a punt down the Thames. In this case, being a punter means enjoying another superb way to row the Thames.
Punts were historically used for angling or fowling, which is bird hunting for feathers, or with massive punt guns, for meat. Recreational today, punting has been a quintessential pastime on the River Thames for over 150 years and remains one of the most enjoyable summer activities for Oxonians, especially. Oxonians are people who live in Oxford.
During our Classic River Thames trip we visit Cherwell Boathouse for our first welcome dinner. Punting is optional but you will want to try it, so check out this instructional video How to Punt first. Once you are turning, slowing down and punting straight ahead like a pro, you will, of course, want to try racing.
Race a Punt
Punt racing, as one might imagine, requires skill and balance. The season usually begins in May and races are offered in all categories from novices through to senior in both doubles and singles. One place to try is at Dittons Skiff and Punting Club, which also has a weekend punting meander every year from Cricklade to Wargrave, exploring parts of the Thames not usually visited.
Few have had the high honour of rowing Gloriana, the Queen’s Royal Row Barge. We have visited Gloriana as part of our trips and we are hoping it may be possible this year too. We also rowed with her at the 800th Anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta in 2015 as seen in the image. What a sight!
Last But Not Least
There are many more ways to be on the River Thames including the Great River Race; the spectacle that is the Henley Royal Regatta, both the racing and the spectators, and where, yes, the racing stops for tea. You can also row a skiff which we wrote about in another blog post as well as experiences completely unrelated to rowing, such as the Thames first ever sailing cinema. Sounds like the topic for another blog post.