Friday, and the Kent had risen a little with the overnight rain. Brian, Phil and Eric decided to repeat Wednesday’s trip, starting at Wilf’s. This was intended to be an introductory trip, as Eric is almost new to this whitewater stuff, and he acquitted himself very well in a shiny new Diesel loaned from Cumbria Canoeists. Unfortunately, a slightly-too-aggressive break-in saw Eric pull some abdominal muscles and we had to cut short the trip. A kayak-friendly van driver provided a lift back to Staveley, (Yes, we did tell him to join LCC). Eric is now recovering, and hopes to be fit enough to take part in a wine tasting event at the weekend.
Wednesday, 22nd and we tried the first “Whitewater Wednesday Evening”. The forecast was for rain on and off all day, but this never really happened, so the plan to paddle the Upper Kent became a plan to paddle the Middle Kent. Mike, Phil, John H and Brian put in just above Brian’s house so we got to do the two G4 drops either side of the bridge. A bit scrappy, but it all went. Down to Barley Bridge weir; Brian ran this with a bit of a bump, the rest of us decided not to risk any more plastic, and walked/slid down the RH side. Over Wilf’s Weir, and then down through the G2/3 rapids above Cowan Head. Again, a bit bumpy, but good fun and paddleable, despite Rainchasers saying it was “empty”. A long hard look at the big rapid at Cowan head; three brave/gifted paddlers ran it, one slightly less brave walked round. We saw kingfishers on the way down to Bowston, (might have been one kingfisher, seen several times😁), portaged the vertical weir at Bowston, then under Bowston bridge and on to Burneside itself and the weir at Croppers. Mike led the way down three (or even four) drops. One paddler managed to wedge his boat in the exit chute from the last weir, but wriggled free before we could get a photo.
Mike H, John, Ian Mc and Phil ran the Ingleton Greta on Sunday19th. No river gauge to go on, but the river was well up, and going like an excited brown train when we arrived. A few adrenaline-rich moments when we got on, but we soon adjusted to the speed, (dodging trees at the same time), but then it became a the new normal, and we concentrated on enjoying a fast ride. Water was the colour of coffee, and most eddies were washed out or very boily so we ran the river with almost no stops. Lots of swooping curves with big wave trains, especially under the bridge at Burton. We got off to inspect the last big rapid, which formed an (almost) river wide stopper. Mike spotted a way through on the far right and three paddlers sailed through. The fourth decided to walk round. At the egress one boat decided it wanted to explore under some overhanging branches and then continue down river sans paddler; Mike and Ian chased the boat, finally catching it by the Lune confluence. Phil and John drove round to meet them at Hornby bridge
We gave up on waiting for water in the UK, three dudes from Cumbria headed off to Idaho to kayak the Middle Fork of the Salmon continuing down the Main Salmon. 12 days of fun to be had.
We were part of a quite a large raft group of about 20, the trip had been promoted to artists and so we joined about half a dozen water colourists and their partners.
Back country flights (very exciting) deposited us on a elk infested airstrip in Bruce Meadow. The first plane to land buzzed the run way to clear the rather large looking elk away We loaded our stuff into an ex School Bus to take us to the put in at Boundary Creek were we met the guides of “Canyons River Company”. OK maybe we could do it independently, but a permit is needed for the river, got to get there, run a shuttle and arrange raft / food etc.– going with Canyons seemed an obvious choice. They seem to be the main company that regularly cater for “hard shell” kayakers and they have an extensive fleet of modern kayaks to choose from to rent.
The plan had been to do lots of kayaking prior to the trip and arrive in tip top form – at the top of our game. Lack of rain for 3 months thwarted that. Setting off from the put in with the first rapid (at 3+) in view was a little concerning, but with that rapid safely negotiated apprehension reduced and some brilliant kayaking was had for the next 12 days!!
Middle Fork starts quite high (6000 feet), the group the previous week had experienced snow and it could be chilly in the mornings. There is not much flat water on it – pretty continuous for the whole length, first day 17 km.
Rapids? Well rapids are rapids and there were lots, an dates river never stops descending, no flat sections, memorable were Velvet, with a very boily eddy, Pistol with a big stopper to punch and Tappan a little more complex. As we moved downstream volume increased as lots of side creeks entered, the gradual increase in volume just kept going but at a level that was manageable. Some of these side creeks are kayaked in themselves – future projects?
Camp set up and then the really serious part of the trip – eating. Fair to say you would not starve on one of these trips, high quality food and lots of it. Margarita night proved especially popular with me, as did Huckleberry Vodka. Memorable breakfasts and chocolate cheesecake and carrot cake to mention but a few of the treats. To be honest after the first few days with my eyes larger then my stomach, I had to back off and reduce the intake – a previously unheard of action
At the confluence turn left and all changed, we left part of the group behind after 6 days and collected more Americans soon to be exposed to a peculiar British sense of humour. Weather seemed to change, becoming much hotter (all Brits headed for the shade) and the river got much larger 16000cfs
With us were rafts, a large raft with all our gear went first and then smaller rafts for people who just wanted to look at the view, another raft with paddlers in and then there were the duckies. A Ducky is an inflatable kayak, very stable, piloted by people with no or little river experience who do not seem to experience fear. They do not travel at the same speed as a kayak and are cable of totally unpredictable directional change. They tend to stall to a speed of zero on the top of waves just as a kayaker, eyeballs bulging, is accelerating out of the trough and up the top of the very same wave at maximum velocity. Sten in particular was a master of this game, with last minute avoidance manoeuvres.
Duckies have also provided yet another subsection of our sport; there is Chaseboating, Ducky Dodging and now Ducky Dunking. The aim is to follow one of the said Duckies around until the occupant is forcibly ejected and the Ducky turns upside down. The task is now to extract the occupant from under the Ducky, upright it and replace the occupant, usually a septuagenarian American in a mild state of panic, back into his ducky before hitting the next massive raft swallowing hole. Enough said duck soup occurred many times
The Salmon is magnificent, if you fancy the idea of crashing down big waves, dodging big holes, eating good food, getting well off the beaten track, enjoying good company then the Salmon is the river for you.
However all things have to come to an end and we arrived back in the UK, with England still in the World Cup and the sun shining. However as I write, England are out and August, the summer holidays are approaching – it has to rain soon – surely.
Wilderness of the Salmon river Idaho Well here we are once more Somewhere we have never been before Between wooded slopes and rocky tor Eagles glide,rocks slide and ospreys soar Wolves howl, marmots burrow, beavers gnaw Where is this place of natural law? Well here we are once more Somewhere we have never been before Rivers flow, streams cascade, torrents pour Where middle,main,north,south, yes all four together like fingers of the wilderness door Belong to bears, explorers and the jet boat whore Well here we are once more Somewhere we have never been before Camp a while, enjoy the view, float a fall, Absorb the wonder and nothingness of it all Observe, reflect, admire the nature store And leave it like it was once more Mike
Bone dry in the rivers; let’s head for the sea…… And so the weekend of 7/8th July 2018 found five LCC members (Robin E, Mike H, Ian Mc, Ian H, John H) camping at Cocksburnspath, just north of the Scottish border, with the intention of paddling the coastline both north and south of Eyemouth.
Day 1; Eyemouth to Pease Bay
After weeks of perpetual high pressure weather Saturday dawned as expected; calm, blue sky, warm sunshine. Dropping a vehicle off at Pease Bay (pretty location but despoiled by a huge static caravan park) we drove on to Eyemouth where free parking is to be found by the leisure centre and provides easy access to the sea.
Setting off north round the comically named `Hairy Ness` promontory we leisurely explored the many nooks and crannies this stretch had to offer. The sandy cove of Coldingham Bay was reached mid-morning and a landing was inevitable once ice-cream was mentioned! It was also the chance to remove a layer or two as the sun increased in strength. Continuing to paddle past the harbour of St Abbs and the numerous divers and dive boats, the drama of the red volcanic lava cliffs rapidly increased.
Time was taken to investigate every route option between the many stacks and rocky islets. Birdlife was overwhelming – swirling razorbills, guillemots and kittiwakes filled the air together with shags, fulmars, herring gulls and the odd resting gannet. The intensity of this visual spectacle was heightened by a cacophony of noise combined with the acrid smell of seabird guano drifting from the enormous cliffs. What a privilege to be in such a place, a high-rise bird city at full-on rush-hour.
Rounding the headland we entered the relative calm of Pettico Wick, a small bay formed at the junction of two differing geologies; resistant red volcanic lava flows one side of the faultline and softer grey sedimentary shales on the other. A stone jetty remains from when the St Abb’s lighthouse was serviced from the sea. We stopped here for lunch and were later joined by other sea kayakers and a party of rowers from the St Abb’s Rowing Club.
Towards Fast Castle Head the dramatic cliffs continued uninterrupted – this is a wild and quite remote stretch of shore with scattered kittiwake colonies providing the background soundtrack. The remains of Fast Castle itself were passed beneath and once round this headland the distinctive shapes of Torness Nuclear Powerstation and Bass Rock could be seen in the distance; Bass Rock being the source of many groups of gannets observed out to sea, and providing inspiration for this bird’s Latin name Sula bassana.
Continuing east with around 6km to go the rocky shore of Hirst Rocks gave an opportunity for an afternoon break and stretch of the legs to explore the ruins of an old fishing station complete with winch building and cableway to the clifftop. Now the final gentle leg to Pease Bay passing by Siccar Point, an attractive headland with an exceptionally important historic role in the development of geological theory and understanding of the origins and age of the Earth. In 1788 local scientist James Hutton took a boat trip along this coastline and observed the unusual geological formation of Siccar Point; more or less horizontal beds of red sandstone lying on top of vertically bedded greywackes. He reasoned that the greywackes had, over an unimaginable period of time, been worn down before the younger sandstone was deposited over them. His friend on the trip later wrote “the mind seemed to grow giddy by looking so far into the abyss of time“. This all at a time when the Earth was believed to have been created in 6 days! A memorable finale to this superb day of paddling.
Day 2; Eyemouth to Berwick upon Tweed
Refreshed from an evening meal and a couple of pints in the quirky Anchor pub in St Abbs we broke camp on another gorgeous though breezy morning. Due to an aggravated finger injury Ian H decided to give paddling a miss, so we were down to four. The objective of day 2 was to again launch in Eyemouth but this time head south, crossing the border to Berwick-upon-Tweed. How could it match up to the previous stupendous day?
Out of the protection of Eyemouth bay we were quickly exploring a complex coast of rocky skeers, jagged reefs, small stacks and endless inlets. Route choices were innumerable and rarely did an obscure passage disappoint in a dead end.
After a couple of kilometres the 100m cliffs of Fancove Head were reached and the variety of rock-hopping reached new heights including a number of deep and ominous caves, sometimes providing a narrow through-passage. Birdlife was more sporadic along this stretch of coast but did include small colonies of auks and some raucous kittiwake terraces.
Although only around 4km had been covered, all the contorted explorations had taken time and an early lunch was enjoyed perched on the rounded pebbles of Burnmouth Bay where the gaily painted terrace of houses appeared to have taken inspiration from Tobermory. This tiny fishing village is the only habitation between Eyemouth and Berwick.
More spectacular paddling, with the benefit of a more-or-less following breeze brought us across the Scottish-English border and round a headland into the sandstone amphitheatre of Marshall Meadows Bay. A rectangular cave was spotted part-way up the vertical cliffs and so we landed on the sandstone shelf in order to investigate. Ropes and a rickety ladder led up to the `cave` entrance which was found to be entirely man-made and actually the exit from a steeply inclined 100m long tunnel rising to the cliff-top. The actual purpose of the “Marshall Meadow Seaweed Railway” seems lost in the mists of time but the transportation of fish (salmon), sandstone and kelp have all been suggested.
The final 5km leg to Berwick included passing through the huge sea arch of Needles Eye and the cliffs remained interesting with further arches and caves – but also the encroachment of large cliff-top caravan parks! The sting in the tail was a long trudge over oozing mud to gain terra firma – fortunately an ice-cream van was parked nearby for much needed refreshments.