GUIDE TO THE RIVER KENNET
NAME OF RIVER: Kennet, in Reading.
WHERE IS IT?: There is a weir that makes a reasonable beginner weir about 500 metres upstream from the point where the river bisects the Oracle shopping centre. Follow signs for the Oracle off the Reading IDR.PUT-INS/ TAKE-OUTS: If you want 1000 people looking at you, you can put in in the middle of the shopping centre, but I generally prefer to wander a hundred or so metres upstream to where the lock and weir are located, where access/egress is simple. There is plentiful car parking within the shopping centre, and I find that this adds to the fun, strolling out of the multi-storey in a wetsuit with a boat on your shoulder!
There are two main options I know of, firstly is getting in at the wier, walk upstream from the Oracle, preferably on the left side of the river, and get in somewhere around the lock.
However, the second option which I generally use, is to go to Wokingham Canoe Club and put in there, paddle upstream for 500m, then paddle 3-4km up slow moving water to the weir. You will have to portage up blakes weir, go right around the island until you see a portage sign on left. Carry on paddling through the Oracle (with hundreds of people staring, taking photos and videos) and you will soon get to the wier. You can possibly shoot Blakes weir on the way down, right in the middle of the steps is the only route. Or you can portage back down again
APPROX LENGTH: Just a playspot, I wouldn't bother paddling along the Kennet, yawn!
TIME NEEDED: Depends on how long you want to play. If you go from Wokingham Canoe Club, it takes about 30 mins upstream and about 15 mins back downstream.
ACCESS HASSLES: Err... I have a Thames licence, don't know if this covers it, but no-one has ever bothered me. There's not really anybody you can annoy, just don't get run over by the occasional bargeboats
WATER LEVEL INDICATORS: At summer levels this is just a trickle and a bit rocky, during high flows, it can reach the top of the bricks and then it becomes a bit more fun!
GRADING: 2 at high flows.
MAJOR HAZARDS/ FALLS: Weir.
GENERAL DESCRIPTION: The weir forms a stopper at all levels. When low, it is probably just enough to play in, but when it reaches the top brick course on the bank, it can form quite a nice stopper, straight and open all the way across, and the 45 degree wall on the right hand (downstream) bank means that you should never become stuck.
An eddy forms about 2/3 of the way across the river, on the right hand side, about a metre behind the weir, which is useful for getting back in the wave, and in low levels a recirculating eddy forms about 2m wide on the right bank.
It is possible to bike along the Kennet towpath both upstream and downstream of County Weir. Doing so, you will find other small weirs that produce small shoots of water that are perfectly suitable for moving water training.
Also in Reading town centre, 1 mile upstream of the confluence of the Kennet and Thames, is Reading Weir. Sadly, the weir itself is dangerous, although it has potential. Downstream on river left, Reading Canoe Club have set up a slalom training course, with poles set up over moving water on the edge of the weir pool.
OTHER NOTES: I haven't done the rest of the river, this makes quite a good weir to learn in, but lets face it, if Hurley weir is open, it's only ten miles away and 20 times more exciting!
We've seen firemen do throwline practice here before. Smile, and wave :-)
Additional comments from M. Saunders...'Head to main Oracle roundabout (in-town shopping centre), take junction off roundabout (A329 meets A33) before Oracle car park, turn left into office entrance before bridge and park next to weir on grass ahead of you. Enables you to keep an eye on your car!! Park neatly, we haven't had complaints yet but is a popular walk through for local residents.
When there is a wave it's great for practising spins, great to take friends to introduce them to moving water as if they swim then they can get out in the shopping centre and have a McDonalds! If low then forms a 'smooth drop' and is known to be a dangerous stopper but more to the point there's nothing to play on!
Needs low water, but tends to be ok if Hurley is on 3. If you catch it at a good level then it is easy to get to off the M4 and great fun.'
Graham Jones (Nov 2003) 'I think the car park location should be SU474671. I think the top weir referred to is the old slalom course. The weir has been changed since then and is now a rolling gate. The drainage ditch that was the course is now very overgrown. Its not worth disturbing the fishermen to play in it for 30 seconds.'
There is also the Kennet in Newbury.