Don't Packraft The River Hogsmill

I’ll keep this short - don’t packraft the River Hogsmill. Go paddle the River Wandle instead! But, if you’re bored of the Wandle and want a more gritty urban experience, that includes navigating shopping trolleys, watching mink eat pigeons, some quite good graffiti and the opportunity to shoot a a few short weirs then perhaps the Hogsmill is for you.

I launched at Berrylands and wouldn’t suggest trying to launch further upstream, as it’s just too overgrown and shallow.

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The first thing you’ll notice, is the huge variety of shopping trolleys. On a previous paddle one of these was responsible for a minor puncture, so I gave them a wide berth.

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The second thing, is the graffiti. Some of it’s quite good and has clearly been here for some time.

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Although the river looks untidy, some substantial investment has clearly gone into improving it as habitat for fish. In fact I saw substantially more wildlife here than I did on the cleaner Wandle, including herons and mink, but more on that later.

It’s a rare chalk stream environment and a few fish ladders and pools have been constructed to make it easier for migratory fish species to swim upstream. Lower down, I came across a friendly angler, fly-fishing mid-stream, who’d caught a few chub.

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Then there’s the Hogsmill Sewage Treatment Works that discharges supposedly clean water. Untreated water has been known to occasionally overflow into the river after heavy rain…

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As you near the Thames you pass under the Clattern Bridge, which was built around 1175 and is one of the oldest bridges in England. High above you is the Coronation Stone, an ancient stone block, believed to have used in the coronation of seven Anglo-Saxon kings.

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Then it’s a short paddle out into the Thames at Kingston with a choice of going upstream or downstream.

It was here at Charter Quay, that I watched as a waterside mink, stalked, caught and slowly ate a still twitching pigeon.

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If you want a shorter more pleasant paddle, perhaps launch at Hogsmill Lane, which will give you a 1.5 km paddle, over three weirs, and set you up for a longer paddle up or down the Thames.

Note: As always please do your own research to ascertain your right to paddle this river, ensure you have suitable experience and equipment and beware of hazards such as weirs.

Tim Clark