Sea kayak – Workington-Maryport

November 4th

Workington harbour was sunny and the Derwent in full flood, so a little bit of wind against tide, creating strong current in a sheltered environment.  It was suggested we would benefit from access directly into the harbour, due the low tide, awkward stony beach and would you believe some small dumping waves – good move Julian, thanks.

The wind was predicted to drop and our short trip to Maryport and back looked very feasible, as the tide had turned 7.20am and the1pm ebbing tide would gently push us back from Maryport.

Once a heavily industrialised and busy port, Workington harbour and estuary is a far cry from its hay days, but still has a lot to see and explore from the relics of the past and the remnants of today’s industrial activities.  Still with a small hobby fishing fleet, we had a chat with the last full time fisherman, who was netting cod and complaining about the seals stealing his catch and just leaving him the fish heads to haul in!!  Maybe it is time to hang up your nets and leave the retired fishermen some space and time to set their lines and pots and enjoy some sustainable fishing.
This week’s team was:Julian, Ray, John, Rob and Cedric as a guest – an Advance sea kayak leader and coach – joining us due to a last minute cancellation.  What could be easier!

After a pleasant warm up and some upstream paddling with ferry gliding, we dropped into the calm of the sailing club harbour and lingered momentarily amongst some of the tired and worn sailing boats.
Reversing our route out, showed us the power of the Derwent and the conflict with the tide, so we headed down to the piers and again enjoyed the calm of the docks and the RLNI repair unit.

Surprisingly the harbour was full of sea birds ranging from Sandlings to Godwits, from Cormorants to Dunlins, with a selection of Gulls thrown in for good measure. or the like!  Ray did keep us right on wildlife.
Gliding out into the estuary mouth we spotted the agitated tide coming in over the sand banks and moving the roosting sea birds, creating some small chop and showing us the full extent of the swell – on shore just to make matters anxious for the intrepid paddlers.
Eyes out on stalks and grey faces were the dress of

the day, so we quickly gathered the team in close to assess the conditions and make a plan. However Ray, keen on Environmentally friendly power generation, decided the best route to avoid the chop and swell was to head directly out (in his brand new sea kayak and have a solo Maiden Voyage to the Wind Farm!!!)  Hero Cedric was commissioned to chase and head him off, while we all treaded water, as a tight group, awaiting their return.
“Let’s head into a small beach” was the cry and “lets head back to the harbour”, was the reply.  So we all returned safely, into the protection of the \derwent estuary, just 15minutes after heading off to Maryport – a not to be destination.

Confidences were soon restored, smiles returned and skills were practiced – ferry gliding, surfing, breaking into and out of the current, using edies to progress upstream.
Lunch was quite mythical, on the grass of the sailing club harbour, in full sunshine and striped off of buoyancy aids and jackets for the duration.
It was obvious that the wind was going to be delayed in dropping, though the tide had definitely settled as it started to Ebb.  For the afternoon session we explored the Derwent and John actually made the second bridge, just below the tidal weir – some powerful paddling was shown by all, with confidence growing, as the water was becoming easier to read and understand.

More wildlife was present – Herons and Giant Egrets were in abundance.
On returning with the current behind us we found ourselves quickly back to the estuary, blue skies, calm seas and a gentle breeze – the weather was as predicted, but just 45 hours late!

Julian’s cry of “lets go to Maryport” was received by a reply “it will be dark in an hour, so let’s NOT” as we turned back from a potentially calm and sunny journey, after about two kilometers of swift paddling and smiley faces.

Much to the delight of the team, Mike decided to challenge the rocks and got it wrong, as he was lifted up and left high and dry 6′ up a smooth rock or was it waste iron ore?  A close shave, but enough to get the adrenaline going.

So to summarise:  great company and a good day was had by all, no capsizes – Julian’s punt of the sand bar did not count – plenty of learning for both the coach/leaders and the participants.  Maryport still awaits our visit.
By Mike Sunderland

Who’s got the Mint(s)?

It was another lovely grey Sunday morning when we all made the journey to Morrison’s car park in Kendal. As everyone arrived the typical greetings were exchanged and decisions about which cars are going where finished, so begins the journey to the top. Seems as we’re passing it would be rude not top stop and inspect Meal Bank. With a line clear for everyone and no obstacles in sight we are on our way to the top again.

Quick pre-river brief and we are on our way.

The first stretch consisted of lots of short eddy hops while Sten, the newest member of LCC to acquire a GoPro, gets everything set up and tweaked for the maiden outing. Then off down the river we go. Watch out for the big tree right across the river. Safely portaged and thoroughly photographed we move on.

A nice looking rapid seems to be ahead, doesn’t look too bad, lets run it. I blinked and I have no idea where I am now. And it’s over. Not quite sure how that happened but at least my low braces worked.

Nice little surf spot and a break for coffee/snacks/lunch. While Duncan stayed on the water and played I made a friend! Apparently green boats and paddles are very interesting to a horse in a mainly muddy field. Unfortunately I do not routinely carry carrots or polo mints in my boat. Also, would not recommend drinking peppermint tea in the vicinity of a hungry horse unless you are willing to share. Also, keep an eye on your paddle or it might get trodden on. (No paddles were hurt during the trip.)

Nice little surf spot and a break for coffee/snacks/lunch. While Duncan stayed on the water and played I made a friend! Apparently green boats and paddles are very interesting to a horse in a mainly muddy field. Unfortunately I do not routinely carry carrots or polo mints in my boat. Also, would not recommend drinking peppermint tea in the vicinity of a hungry horse unless you are willing to share. Also, keep an eye on your paddle or it might get trodden on. (No paddles were hurt during the trip.)

Food over, horse losing interest, back onto the water, quick surf to get warmed up and we are on our way. 

I recognise this bridge, we must be coming up to Meal Bank now. Eddied out on river right on the shingle beach. Rob very kindly hauls my boat up so we can have another quick look, set up some safety just in case, out on river left, looking very comfortable is my bright green boat! Oh dear! I let off a quick shout to make sure everyone knows. Rob does a very spectacular leap over a good drop on the river bank that had previously prevented us getting across and goes running while Andy takes off down the rapid without any problem (it was obviously nothing after all), shortly followed by Sten.

I drop down and clamber across (that drop was bigger than it looked) but with no sign of anyone head back up to see that Duncan has made the run and is on the other bank and Rhod is on the bank here. We all have bit of a laugh and I contemplate an awkward walk out through someone’s garden. At least I had my paddle while walking down the bank, one less thing to worry about. Small blessings and all that. Rob appears shortly and directs me to my naughty boat. I leave the others and walk down. Guess I’m not running Meal Bank this time then.

Once we regroup and I’m back on the water we make out way off down river again. Next rapid down and there is a bit of a drop. Everyone disappears down the drop and looks to be fine on the other side. My turn then…. Who put that stopper there? In true Emma paddling style I am upside down. In very un-Emma like style I manage to hit my second attempt at the roll to the whoops and cheers from the other members of the party, no doubt relieved they won’t have to go chasing my boat… again! Well I doubt anyone was more surprised to see me roll than I was, it’s not my favourite skill.

Some more bobbing down the river with a couple of scrapes here and there and we come up to the main event, the grade 4 section (according to Stuart Miller). Much walking back and forth and discussion about suitable lines later and Rob is on the bank with a line and Sten is set to play guinea pig with the favourite options. Well that looked effortless. Andy follows down shortly after, not quite as clean as Sten but still making it look easy. Decision made, let’s do this. Off goes Rhod, then Duncan, Rob waves again guess I’m up next then.

First river left line is fine, do I want to keep going through or try and hit an eddy? Ooops. Guess I’m not doing either and going through the centre line kinda sideways and right into the rocks I really wanted to avoid. A fleeting image of Rob on the bank as I’m doing something backwards… and I’m upside down. How did that happen? Oh well. Really don’t want to swim here. Roll one- fail and I didn’t even get up enough to get a breath. Did I just hit my helmet on the floor? Right, ready, set, aaaand I’m up. How? There’s more cheering. Never mind, I can’t see! My contact lenses have shifted and I can’t see much anymore, just point downstream until the big eddy at the bottom or my eyes are sorted. This isn’t scary at all… Somehow while managing to dodge all the stoppers I get my eyes sorted and make a small eddy right on the corner. Awesome. Well what do you know, the epic roll was out of shot of the GoPro, typical!

Rob appears looking relatively dry so must have had a more successful line that me and off we go for an uneventful final stretch to the get out.

Well, as I think it was Rhod said, at least I was able to provide some entertainment on the trip. Special thanks to Andy and Rob for saving me from an embarrassing walk out.


Birkdale beck- Upper swaledale.

A few years ago Mike had poured over the maps and found this little gem of a possibility. It’s not in a guidebook, no reference on internet. I had driven past one day and the sections I could see looked good from the road.

Just the opportunity had eluded us. Lots of rain needed but the weather not so bad we were able to get over the Pennines. Several opportunities arose during lockdown.

The upper Swale valleys have a reputation for gathering water rapidly and shedding it just as quickly. The forecast was for a wet weekend followed by overnight rain. The streams were loaded. Park Bridge gauge peaked at 3.0m at 8.30 pm. would it be too much in the morning , it rained and it rained until 4 a.m.; up early by 7.30 the level had fallen to 1.3. Meet Mike and John at the beck 9.15a.m. the level now 1.1.

We quickly set up the shuttle and then we were off, very narrow at first, gaining volume more becks join it and the River Swale is formed.

Another brilliant Pennine river going at about Grade 3+. The beck tumbles over at least 15 sandstone slides and more limestone ledges.

Quite continuous once you get into the meat of it, all read and run, one person jump out occasionally to check round the odd bend but nothing to sinister. No portages just a pleasant feeling of satisfaction on coca-cola coloured river.

Egress hour and half later (level at 0.9). Got to be quick if you want this one but if you do get it right you will be happily rewarded.

We are claiming a first unless someone informs us differently.

Grade 2, then 3(+) 6km, gradient 17.6‰, brings lots of giggles.

If you would like a copy of the pdf for this river section contact LCC or Mike H.


Rothay and Three Lakes

4th November 2020 . With the November lockdown looming, there was just time for one last midweek paddle.
With some water still in the rivers of central Lakeland, the trees turning wonderful shades of golden brown and the forecast promising some sun at last. Why not a relaxing trip down the Rothay taking in 3 lakes on the way.

To Autumn 
“Season of mists and mellow paddling trips;
Close bosom-friend of the maturing Kayakers;
To swell the rivers, and plump the Rapids;
Conspiring with him how to boof the big ones;”
(with apologies to John Keats)

Six met at Waterhead by Windermere to arrange shuttle to the start at Grasmere village. Following Wordsworth’s oft trod route, we paddled through the the village past the churchyard and out onto Grasmere into warming sunshine. Across the lake then an easy trip down the Rothay amongst great colours and scenery to Rydal Water.

Simon seemed to have sprung a leek, so pulled over to empty out. Perhaps his well executed practice rolls mid lake had allowed some seepage. On down the river under the trees to the rapids at Pelter bridge, brief excitement followed by a play on the waves below the rapids and a kayak based game of fetch with the little dog by the bridge. Next stop the stepping stones, just below the water so we all squeezed through without incident. The river meanders down towards Ambleside and the Rothay weir.

This kept us entertained for half an hour, very sticky in places, but plenty of water to practice surfing and running across the wave. RobH and SimonL demonstrated how to do it and JohnH showed how to recover if it goes slightly wrong. Then on down to the confluence with the Brathay and on to Windermere for our third lake of the day. Back to Waterhead by 1pm. A great mornings pre-lockdown paddle. Good company, weather and scenery at its Lakeland best. Looking forward to December and freedom once more.
Poets & paddlers: EricD, RobH, PhilC, SimonL, JohnH, JohnS

Halloween Paddlers

“I am all in a sea of wonders. I doubt; I fear; I think strange things, which I dare not confess to my own soul.”  Bram Stoker, Dracula.

I’ve lived within a good stone’s throw of the Sprint for 23 years: I’ve run along it’s banks innumerable times; I’ve watched the Burneside kids boldly leaping in at Cold Harbour; I’ve turned stones with my own kids to find white-clawed crayfish; I’ve marvelled at the river during drought and mega-flood. But I’d never paddled down it in a kayak – until today, Halloween 2020! Since taking up kayaking age 50-something, I’d never thought that I’d be capable of descending the series of challenging rapids that makes this a grade IV river requiring “confidence and competence” (NW England Guidebook description). However, as my paddling skills have slowly improved through practice, failure, repetition, success, my view of those feared rapids has gradually changed. Thanks to the endlessly patient and gentle instruction from LCC members, over the last 12 months I’d begun to “…think strange things….”. I was starting to see possible lines through the maelstroms, noticed the hazards to avoid, identified possible eddies to aim for, and sussed the impact of differing water levels. I’d begun to believe… Bram Stoker wrote in `Dracula`….. “I want you to believe…to believe in things you cannot”.  Now all I needed was the right opportunity.
Team Halloween gathered at Sprint Bridge for the shuttle up Longsleddale and a put-in just downstream of the church. The Garnett Bridge and S-Bends drops were inspected en route and a group of early-bird paddlers were found probing for a lost paddle in the S-Bends.

The half hour warm up on easy water was spent avoiding branches, looking at the scenery and anticipating the first rapid, mentally running through the lines we’d discussed, trying to put fear in the background. Ultimately Ian and Pete opted to bypass this on the bank and provided some security to the remainder who all got down safely but not without some jarring and jolting. At this stage of the day the gauge was reading around 0.51 – so a little bony. Moving quickly on to Garnett Bridge and everyone upright into the welcoming pool below the bridge. Lovely whitewater through woodland and pasture bringing us to the next feature, “Slot and Drop”, or as the locals call it Cold Harbour – a chilling prospect. The book says “more bottle than skill” and everyone used a bit of both to get down in various fashions.

Next up, “Rock & Roll” which arrived a bit sooner than Brian expected – maybe the Sprint spirits had moved it? No problem though, the team were working well together.

Sprint Mill Falls was thoroughly inspected and a direct line over two shelves and onto the big curling wave was opted for – except by Mark M who took his `tried and tested` hard right with a 90 degree turn option. And carried it out well and with a whoop of joy. The directissima option was going ok until the final stopper grabbed a green boat, then spat it out. Boat and paddler separated and, whilst the paddler headed for the bank, his boat bolted down river. Brian and Pete gave chase down the fantastic Grade 3 Cottage falls (surprised Pete!). No harm done and everyone reunited before the gauging weir. By this time the river had risen to 0.6 on the gauge – a good level.
Post trip analysis took place in John’s draughty barn accompanied by mugs of tea and malt loaf. This was a useful review, by all participants, of the `management` of the descent; what went to plan and what could have been improved on and how.  A final quote from Bram Stoker – “We learn from failure, not from success.”
Halloween Paddlers;  Brian C, Pete R, Ian Mc, Mark McG, Mark H, John H

John H

Who said the Lune was boring?

With the recent frustrating rain patterns – big licks through the day and easing off in the evening, ensuring the more demanding rivers will be emptied during the night – we reluctantly embarked on the Lune (yet again). We default to the Lune, don’t we, when everything else is bereft?

Believing it to be on a friendly level of around 0.75 on the Killington gauge, it looked much higher than that at Lowgill! Oh how rivers change as the water levels fluctuate. After a recent bout of steep and rocky, twisty creek rivers, the Lune should be more relaxing; deep joy. The Lune didn’t feel like the Lune but at an actual 1.1 felt quite Himalayan. Grown men in their 60s were heard hooting with joy as they laughed their way down the river, bouncing and tumbling through the standing waves, holes and huge boils. Given the general skill level of the group, there was a surprisingly irregular amount of upsidedowness. Which, of course, I like to feel was a mark of experimentation rather than general incompetence! 

John’s Rock was sociably inconspicuous amongst all the other rocks on the seabed….completely out of sight. And the Strid was similarly playing hide and seek. 

Some of us were tempted by the huge water, extreme left, on the Stangerthwaite Weir. A real, big alpine look to it, and the water pushing through, it looked quite doable. But after discussion, and with wise words from Mark H about the general unpredictability of weirs we declined. I’ve since read a quote from the guide: “…is huge and complex with spikes and lumps of concrete all over the place…”

The big water was clearly more than expected by another party we came across. As 2 of the paddlers (one of them, only his 3rd time ever on moving water) wearily dragged their boats off the river through the caravan park, half way through their intended journey.

What a superb day out. I wouldn’t have wanted to be elsewhere. 

Thanks to my paddling chums, Mark H, Mark Mc, Simon and ‘Brain’. 

Pete Riley

Footnote: As I type, the Lune has reached 2.1….and still rising! GULP!!!

Ullswater circumnavigation

Tuesday 27 October. Despite the cancellations due to the weather forecast and the last minute sign ups, as usual we had a full house for what turned out to be a brilliant day with an exciting, if not scary end.
This weeks team consisted of Tom, Eric, Pete Ashby (back on the water after a long break, Rob Wilson, Chris B and myself.
As usual the forecast did not fit the now weather, so we headed off to Norfolk Island and onto the quieter side of the lake, with a plan to head south towards Pooley Bridge in the lea of the southerly breeze.  The plan was a perfect match for the paddlers and the weather, as we experienced some drizzle, mist, rainbows, sun, blue sky and dark clouds!  We followed the shore, as is my like and enjoyed the shelter and finer detail ofUllswater – refurbished boat huts, one legged geese, Gooseanders, Cormarants and the faithful Mallard ducks.
After a deserted sailing club lunch, picnic tables in the lake (see photo) and a pleasant break in the sun, we headed down to Pooley Bridge.  Taking in the new bridge, that had hit the local paper, with a grand opening.  An interesting design, with unfinished ground works and a mud fest, treeless car park under construction.
As we paddled back up the channel back to the lake and under the steamer pier, we were alerted to an open boat that had been blown across the lake to the road side, with some anxiety that it may have had occupants!  On inspection it appeared to be a damaged, home built open canoe and unlikely to have had a crew, before it entered the water, likely from a campsite on the opposite lake side. We guided it to the bank and a member of the steamer crew, took over, after thanking us.
As we started to cruise back up the lake, the wind started to pick up and the sun blinding us.  But the noise from the traffic was just so unbearable, we partnered up and made a swift lake crossing back to the Sailing club for the peace and quiet and once more, pick up on the shelter of the lea side.
Progress picked up, as the return route showed us a different views from our outward journey, as we ducked in close to Sharrow Bay and Howtown Bay, avoiding the strengthening wind.

After a short comfort break we saw a series of classic Ullswater squalls building up from the hills at the Glenridding end of the lake and a dark, dark sky. Then it hit us!  Force 5, gusting 6/7, with driving rain, 2’ waves and swell that was convincing enough for the group.  “Shall we just sit this one out” was the cry, followed by “we could be here all night”
So “who’s the leader” was the final call!!  A swift decision to hug the coast – rocky and shallow – in pairs was the request that clearly fell on deaf ears, as the group struggled to paddle against the squall and bounced in rough water, with “every man for himself” Their were no smiling faces and some “eyes out on storks” as Tom and I acted as the Mother Hens.
As we rounded a small headland and slipped into another sheltered bay, the squall passed, wind settled and the storm vanished, as quickly as it arrived.  Everyone sighed with relief and we headed up lake to Norfolk Island, our marker for the final crossing to the cars.
Another great mid-week paddle, with a sting in the tail, which we all learnt from.  Thanks Tom for your support.
Mike Sunderland.