Thursday, May 2, 2013

Rowing a boat in Victoria Park - things to do in London on a sunny day


The sun is finally out after proving elusive for the longest of time. Nope, it's still not the time to whip off your shirt and lie down on the grass to that much needed tan yet but sun is a relief despite interrupted by foreboding clouds swept across it by gusts of winds.

The sun might even persuade some of us to get step out and head to the parks. The small patch at Islington Green in the heart of Angel was so crowded over the weekend that finding a spot to settle down was just impossible.


For the rest of us in East London, hanging out at Victoria Park sounds like a good proposition. You might even rent a row boat at the West Boating Lake in the 86 hectares park running alongside Regent's Canal. And that was exactly what I was up to over the weekend.

The lake lies just west of Grove Road, which is the only road that cuts through the park, you can't really miss that. You get a choice of having a pedal boat or a row boat - both at £10.50 each for 30min.

Being thoroughly confident of my prowess at rowing, I opted a row boat. Wife was relieved too as there was someone else to blame if we ended up spinning around in the middle of the lake, not to mention that someone would have to hang on to LO should she decides to take a dive.

Why Victoria Park is better than Hyde Park when it comes to rowing

It really depends on what you are looking for. If you prefer a huge expanse of clear water, Hyde Park's Serpentine's Lake is for you; only one small island stands in your way. Victoria Park's West Boating Lake though smaller, boosts two small islands and two bridges. If you, like me, prefers the challenge of manoeuvring through tight water passages while vying for space with ducks and geese, look no further.

Not to mention that it's cheaper too. The last time I was rowing a boat at Hyde Park, we were charged on a per person basis.


As I struggled with the oars trying desperately not to drop them into the water, it all came back to me. What to do and what to avoid when rowing a boat, all the experience that I have acquired from my, wait for it, grand total of three times in a row boat, rushed back in an instant.

Well, just a few things to keep in mind when you are steering a row boat.

Tips on rowing a boat

1) Keep a low profile at all times
Maintaining a low centre of gravity is key. If you have to move around on the boat, keep your knees bent and stay low. Ditto when you are yelling for help. Or you'll find yourself in the water.

2) Face the correct way
If you are rowing alone with two oars, face the back of the boat. If there's no one guiding you, make sure you check where you are heading.

If you have a rowing buddy, each handling an oar, face the front instead, preferably with your master hand closer to the water. In other words, if you are right-handed, sit on the right of the boat.

3) Position your oar
When rowing, make sure your the flat part of your oar is perpendicular to the water surface. Also make sure you stick the entire flat area into the water. If you are not doing both, you are merely wasting your energy.

4) Turning the boat
Assuming you are the lone rower (see above), pedal your left oar and leave your right oar off the water to turn boat to its left. The opposite is true too.

To to a tight left turn, pedal your left oar but stick your right oar in a stationery position into the water. It's a bit tricky so you might want to practice this in open water.

5) Stopping the boat
If you lift both oars up, the boat will eventually come to a stop. I'd much prefer to be a bit more proactive. Still both oars into the water instead.

For emergency stops, pedal in the opposite direction but take care not to overdo it as the boat would just go the opposite way.

Where to get a bite

Just beside the lake is a family friendly cafe - Victoria Park Pavilion, complete with an interior naturally lit by a skylight and waterside benches. Using fresh locally sourced produce, it serves all day breakfasts and lunch from noon. They do a mean egg Florentine.

How to get to Victoria Park

Buses 277 and 425 serves Grove Road, which cuts through the park. The nearest Overground station is Hackney Wick (Zone 2), nearest Underground station is Bethnal Green on the Central Line (Zone 2), nearest train station is Cambridge Heath.

Or if you have some time, take a stroll along Regent's Canal - it's a 15min stroll from Broadway Market.

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