Christmas river trip – “improvers and above”

Tuesday 27th December 2021

Whatever Father Christmas might have brought us this year, water wasn’t on his list. So it was that 9 of us assembled at Newby Bridge, the Leven at 0.8 being our only sensible option.

Whilst he didn’t bring water he had been kind in other areas and a range of Christmas goodies were on display as we warmed up – not least MarkM’s swanky new Dagger Code in black complete with custom paint job, JohnH’s million dollar helmet, Kate’s “not been wet yet” paddles, neoprene gloves various and a pair of Hogwarts socks whose owner wished to remain anonymous!

Mike said in his blurb for the trip that the river would be chosen to suit all members of the group. Something easy then I thought, but it was more about something with water in will have to do!

We; that’s MikeH, JohnH, MarkM, MarkG, Simon, PaulS, Julian, Kate and Eric, launched carefully to avoid any disturbance to the fish spawning beds and slid easily over the Brick Chute weir where Mark was keen to test out his new steed’s capabilities. – Looked pretty good to me!

At Mill Force Kate got flipped by the chunky wave but executed a perfect “first combat roll”; some took the opportunity for a bit of a play whilst others thought discretion the better part of valour at this early stage of the trip.

The Graveyard didn’t cause any upsets as most of the rocks were visible – not always avoidable, but at least visible. On through the rapids and the approach to Backbarrow Bridge.

To some of our number it was business as usual and, with not too much water, probably not too tricky – to others it was somewhat scary standing on the bridge looking down, especially at the very large looking rock in the middle. MarkM and Simon demonstrated two different lines as they cruised through to set up safety cameras, or should that be safety and cameras. After some deliberation we all decided to have a go despite the pressure of a group of hotel guests and another kayak group joining us on the bridge. You wonder when people go watching motor racing is it for the racing or the crashes!

Back on the water with the wisdom being keep far right we filed through, Paul followed the line perfectly, Julian caught the rock but a smooth roll brought a cheer from the gallery, John showed Eric the line but Eric obviously wasn’t watching as he had a bit of a brush with the big rock. MarkG followed Eric’s line, never a good idea. Kate slid through on the line and Mike made it look like flat water!

A quick inspection of the weir below the portage and we all sorted our attack angles out and ploughed through without drama

Big grins on the Fish Steps weir slide but we were definitely scraping along the bottom as we approached the fallen tree before Fishermans’s Island. The effects of one too many Christmas puds caused almost terminal grounding for one of our number – thanks Paul for the rescue.

The grins continued as everyone shot safely through the chute – the perfect finish to a great days paddling. Thanks to Mike for everything and to all the “above improvers” for their help and patience on this “improvers and above” trip.

A café finish with large portions of cake to boot!

Cold and grey, but what a day!

The last Arnside Bore/Kent Estuary trip having been cancelled due to high winds, I’d been itching to get out on the Kent as I’d read lots about it but never had the chance to paddle it. So it was, that on a cold and overcast 20 December morning our team of 8 led by Mike Hayward, me, Mark, Charles, Lizzy, Rachel, Brian and John S) met at the Arnside Promenade for a 10.50 start.

Although we paddlers were all creditably early, the tide took its own sweet time and it was well after 11 before we were able to launch and begin to make our way towards the railway bridge. It was a spring tide and a full moon but the relatively modest height was such that we could only slowly paddle our way up the estuary as any overexuberant turn of speed was almost immediately met by the hiss of bottom sand against the hull of one’s kayak. So, the only thing to do was to dawdle along, enjoying the views of the estuarine landscape and its varied wildlife and chat to the other team members whom I had not previously met. Yet again, I was the only paddler who has not retired – clearly, I’m doing something wrong here! 

As we headed further inland, the air temperature dropped noticeably and pockets of low lying mist could still be seen clinging in the folds of the hills. We zig-zagged our way up the channel for 5 miles before pulling ashore (abank?!) for a hot drink and a sandwich whilst watching the upstream flow gradually slacken to a halt, hold for a few moments only and then turn tail for the return to the sea.

We, too, followed suit and, after stretching out a bit to get the blood circulating around cold extremities again, we settled into an easy rhythm as we headed back down the channel. Generally, we managed to avoid the sandbanks on the return leg, apart from one beaching which necessitated a spectacular punting demonstration by Mark to rescue himself just on the approach to the railway bridge!

From the low vantage point of a kayak, it’s very difficult, I find, with estuary paddling to gain a proper visual perspective of the route: the banks are low, the surrounding landscape is low and it’s sometimes very difficult to discern the correct line when it appears at first glance to run straight into a sandbank. Mike, however, was having none of that and steered us confidently back around and under the railway bridge, although strangely no-one seemed prepared to accept his invitation to engage in a bit of deep water rescue or rolling practice in knee-deep water!

After de-kitting and putting up the boats, Mike, Brian, Mark and I said goodbye to the other team members and went to the nearby café for a warm drink before heading our separate ways. 

Altogether a fine day out despite it being cold and grey and, for me at least, a memorable final paddle for 2021. [Note to self: must ask Santa for some kayak footwarmers!]

Dean ( pics and track by Rachel)

Buttermere and Crummock Water

Wednesday 15th December 2021

After mere 1hr 10mins, via the A66 and the amazing Braithwaite to Buttermere single track road, I arrived ahead of time – a first for me.

The famous 4 (Rob, Tom, Mark B and me) met at the said National Trust car park and as a NEW a member, I scanned my CARD!!!
We parked up in the empty lay-by and walked our kayaks down to Buttermere, leaving two cars in the NT Car park for our return.  Logistics!
Very, damp, misty but quite pristine we circumnavigated Buttermere and we’re privy to a shepherd, training a very young Collie to round up his sheep, driving them to the waters edge, directly in front of me!! Turning them to race along the shore and away.  A flock of Herdwicks.
Despite Julian’s concerns, we donned helmets and drifted into Dubb Beck, which joins Buttermere to Crummock Water.  It was swift moving, pristine water, peaceful and shallow – but deep enough to float over in a composite sea kayak.  The bends were blind, however there we NO tree blockages and we quickly completed the 1.5 kilometer run and drifted into Crummock Water.
With the wind behind us and a series of squalls distracting our concentration we made great progress – however the wind was way stronger than predicted.  Sneaking into the one tiny sheltered bay – constructed like a Tombolla Beach – we took a short break, had a spot of lunch and shared a Rassay single malt.
Back on the water and paddling with the winds behind us, we swiftly completed the length of Crummock water, solely tempted to slide down the exit weir, to join the river Cocker, as it made its way to Cockermouth, into the Derwent and onto the sea at Workington – dream on Mike.  However with a fresh river kayak, the adventure would continue.  For another day perhaps.

Facing the squalls and steadily clawing our way back up Crummock Water, we enjoyed the work out in a force 4, gusting 5?  Once again we had a brief encounter with a small flock of hungry Herdwicks, chatting and munching away in a woodland on the lakeside.  We tried to use the Lea of the small bays, with little luck, but we were soon at our exit point and walking back to collect our perfectly places cars in the NT a carpark.
What a super paddle and mini-adventure on our amazing Cumbria Lakes.

For me I was home before it was dark, after a great trip in great company with Rob, Tom and Mark Braithwaite

Mike S

Duddon at 0.69

 We were very lucky as there was just enough water left from yesterday’s rain for the Duddon to be at a nice low/medium level. It didn’t drop while we were on it as there was just the right amount of drizzle to keep it up. There were five of us out today: Mike H, John H, Mark McG, Mark W along with myself Rachel. It was Mark W’s first time on the river so we all took turns in showing him the lines. We kept our eyes out for trees but there were only a couple that really restricted our lines but no portages necessary. 

The pictures are:

1. Mike H on Jill’s Folly

2. Mark W on Funnel Steps

3. Mark McG trying out a play hole

4. Avoiding a tree on a rapid near the end

5. Kind people rescuing my boat which ended up on the other side of the river than I did. 

My excuse was an enthusiastic early rescue attempt while I was trying my second attempt roll.  I always like to have an excuse (or two up my sleeve). 

Thanks Rachel Powell

Rescue practice on a cold morning

Sunday Dec 5th

Mike P saw it as; Sunday Dec 5th, under the A590 bridge at the Leven slalom course. Mark H kindly took over Brian’s rescue session, with Sten helping out too. The improvers were Mim, Dan and me MikeP. More had booked, but several had pulled out. We shivered on the bank as Mark explained the theory of boat and paddle rescue, feeling sorry for Mim in her wetsuit. Sten brought his spare boat, a Jefe, which we both rescued and emptied of mouse droppings at the same time! The reduced numbers meant we could try more often, and we got better with each attempt.

Thanks a lot to Mark H and Sten.

Sten’s view was:

Five of us met up at the River Leven Slalom Site for some boat to boat and boat to blade rescue practice. Following a briefing from Mark we all took to the water under the bridge, to experiment with some different techniques for throwing and retrieving stray paddles. Using two spare sets brought along for the purpose there was plenty of opportunity to practice and for individuals to decide what worked best for them.

Next up was the boat to boat rescue practice, only one spare boat but with a person permanently on the bank to carry the boat back up stream and relaunch it usually upside down, there was still plenty of opportunity for Dan, Mim, Julian and Mike P to practice  perfecting the art of safely recovering a swamped kayak, even harder than it sounds. Sorry no pictures of any of this

Then on the 11th 

December another session this time looking at boat to body rescues. Thanks to Brian’s willingness to get wet Dan and Julian got opportunity to have a go at swimmer coaching, towing a swimmer on the bow and stern along with carrying a body on both the bow and stern. Carrying the swimmer was definitely their least favoured option, though it was good support stroke practice.

Once off the water we spent some time looking at boat retrieval and setting up a z drag 3:1 and 5:1 mechanical advantage systems and discussing the pros and cons of different ropes, hitches, knots, belay methods and hardware. A lot to take in and much to practice.

Many thanks to Brian for arranging the sessions and for sharing his wealth of knowledge and to Mark for his expertise and very valuable input. Also thanks to Dan, Julian, Mim and Mike P for supporting the training.

Always a learning day for me.


5 for Tees

Where does all that rain go!

Fortunately the Tees being a longer river holds it’s water from a bigger catchment longer than most.

Andy M, Duncan and Simon up for their first time run down the playful Tees from Barnard Castle to Wilnston Bridge. Mike H and Pete having paddled it before gave helpful tips.

The meet was a little like the rush on sales day, 30 or so kayaks scattered the lawn, 12 changing tents fo the Duckie tourists, 6 open boats and chaos really. By the time we had the shuttle sorted the hoards had set off downstream. One group or another passed overt first ledge and onto inspect Abbey Rapids, at 0.61 not to tricky today,

But below hidden rocks defied splat attempts!! A buzzard watched as if with contempt

Whorlton Bridge ledge is always a little teasing as we all found a way though surfing waves left then head right when you think it’s correct.

Soon after long slides and play waves, brought us to lunch. More slides and lots of waves to hone the skills.

“It’s easy from here on,” as Pete probed over a 2 m ledge into an awkward hole. More slides and play waves left us grinning to the final 500m long rapid to end. A grand day out. Always nice to add a new section to the repertoire

Mike H

Esk – imos

River Esk 09/12/2021

The Esk is not a river we often paddle, but today it was running
and it seemed like a good idea.

Mike, Sten and Rob joined Julian and myself and off we went. The river
was at a low but runnable level at 0.74 and as we progressed down the river
tributaries joined and the flow increased

A little rapid under a bridge, the sun was shinning and then a nice
gorge where a bit of eddy hopping brought us through, passing a large
tree – not sure if a victim of the two recent storms but it didn’t
look like it was going to go soon.

We had a picnic sitting on a grassy bench by a shingle bank and chatted away the
day; then all aboard and choo-choo and further down the river

We passed another little rapid and the good citizens Rob and Sten removed a
tree whilst I received some coaching direction whilst grappling with a
stopper. A little bit further and there was another feature to play in
and we could practice our surfing and 360s

Soon we reached the bridge and time to get out

Coffee in the George IV, not the V or VI but the George IV, the one with
a nice warm big fire and another great day out.


A cold windy morning

Sunday 5th December. As we set of to Arnside it was dark. Wind northerly force 4 gusting 6, 4 Celcius but sunny. All so inviting! Our spy in Grange ( Russ ) had sent pictures of a split channel, never a good sign.

To cancel or persevere, that was the question. No point be hit by force 6 out in the bay, so delay our start by an hour until 9.00 a.m.

Brrrr, cold fingertips, wind chill below zero. but high river flow and strong wind propelled us past New Barns Bay and beyond. At the bifurcation 90% often water went left with 10% off to Grange. So left we went. Bore due, no sign, now 30 minutes later than expected.

Then something on the horizon, a spluttering green affair. Soon it passed under us, only showing itself on the steep sand cliff edge. At least it was enough to propel us into the now constant force 4. Cause and cause, , wave front forms, chase , chase, almost there, no, it dissipated into the coldness. It seems the split channel reduced the flow in our channel. 0/10 for this version of the byre, Still an opportunity to get out, 4 dunlin, a flock of oyster catchers, big skies snow of the fells, wild clouds combined to bring the reward.

Thanks to Mike H, John H, Graeme, Chris D and Ray C for sharing the experience.

Mike H

Down the Upper Lune

Thursday 02/12/2021

It was a cold frosty day, a beautiful day with the sun on the Howgills.

We negotiated a steep bank with the help a a throw line and reached the

A little bit of sunshine lighting up our section provided some warm and
we spent a little bit of time looking at outfitting, foot supports and
foam filling the bulkhead, air bags in the bow, enough shims to support
hips and lots of support from the back band

All sorted and ready to go, we dropped in below the Grade 4 Gorge under
the bridge and headed south. I had briefed the group on the web site
that we would get off at the Crook of Lune. I knew I meant Crook of Lune
by Low Gill a few miles away, however there is another Crook of Lune at
Caton and there were relieved faces when people realised we were not
paddling from Tebay to Lancaster.

Lots of eddies to play around in, wonderful background of the sunny
hills and soon a rapid approached. Down the middle, aim for the rock,
turn to the right when the water becomes a little more placid. Full
marks everybody – successful decent.

A bit of lunch and a warm drink provided a bit of a break

More shingle rapids, more eddies to work with and in time we reached the
take out

We spent some time playing around the bridge, could we get between the
stanchions with just one stroke?

It did need a powerful stroke and then the subtleties the stern rudder,
how far across, tweak it with your wrist?

I did take a camera this time – but forgot I had it and when I did take
some photos there were blobs all over them. I’ll have another go next


Time for Tees

Saturday 4th Deecmber

Mark Mc, Simon and Mike H ventured over to Barnard Castle for a run down the Tees from Eggleston, Running at 0.83 medium flows hid the bedrock ledges and mid stream boulders and on occasion presented some meaty wave trains and occasional play wave.

The weir just above Barnard castle sports a most unusual wave formation, which got swithout issue. Mark shows us how!

Mike H