Border Waters – LCC trip to St Abb’s Head

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.

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  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.

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 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.

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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. 

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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.

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  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.

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Where is Rockcliffe? 15/7/18

Mike H , Brain, Ian S Eric

Saturday conversation – “Mike, is this trip suitable for novices?” “Yes; warm, light winds, you’ll be fine”

Sunday conversation – “There might be a bore and if you’re not careful it’ll have you” – “Oh, what’s it like” – “Dunno, we’ve never been here before”

So full of confidence Ian S and I (Eric D) climbed over Hadrian’s Wall and followed Mike H and Brian out onto the Eden (GR 256611). The plan was to wait for the tide to pass and follow it up towards Rockcliffe, but we got fed up of waiting and headed downstream in search of the missing bore. Down towards Port Carlisle we found it and headed back the way we’d come!

Having heard tales of both Mike and Brian spending time paddling upside down yesterday, Ian and I were a little nervous at first but we were soon enjoying the ride too.  wind blew the top off making an interesting  shower.

Back at our start point things died down a little and the bore came and went as we worked along the south bank. The low flow in the river Eden meant that getting ahead of the tide ensured a trip to the sands and we had to wait a couple of times for enough water to proceed. Plenty of opportunities for the newbies to practice though, with water seemingly coming at us from all directions in no particular order.

There was some concern for the wellbeing of a herd of cattle who seemed to be holidaying on a sandbank, but they didn’t seem too concerned, so we carried on. The Rockcliffe Marsh to the north of the channel had large flocks of Oystercatchers and it was good to see a few Lapwings and an Egret too. 

We climbed out up the mudbank by Rockcliffe (GR 356616) and settled down for lunch and to watch the rapidly rising tide whilst Brian set off in search of the mythical ice cream shop.  By the time the tide turned we were running out of lunch space and the boats which started out pulled out up an almost vertical bank were happily floating.

With threatening clouds gathering and a direct headwind building it was back across to the southern bank to find what little shelter there was.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAShould we have waited a little longer for more flow and risked more wind? – who knows? The haul back gave more practice on confused water or was that confused practice on more water, but all ended well and the right way up.

Congrats to Ian for his first sea trip. Many thanks to Mike and Brian for another Fine Day Out.

Eric.

Farne Islands 23-24 June 2018

We ( Duncan G , Ian H Ian Mc )left from the beach just north of the magnificent Bamburgh Castle into surf just about large enough to get down your neck if you forgot to do up your Velcro.

Thankfully the weather was glorious & the extra moisture actually turned out to be a bonus.

Beyond the surf zone the sea was almost flat calm with little sign of the swell that preceded the beach break. The tide had been running for an hour & despite being neaps we could feel the pull towards Inner Farne as we ferried out to Megstone.

Rounding the back of the rock we decided to continue the open water theme & head straight out to Longstone, the outmost island for lunch. This way we could have lunch over slack water, thread through the islands on the early ebb & make the most of the north going stream for our crossing back to the car. A quick stop to take in the coastguard’s Maritime Safety Info Broadcast on the VHF confirmed the forecast we were working with for the next 24hrs.

An interesting selection of skerries, reefs & lagoons is located along the north-eastern edge of Longstone which I was keen to get in amongst, although Ian H seemed a little more cautious. 

“Ah, it looks fine”, I confidently exclaimed, & after a cursory glance over the shoulder to check for random tsunamis I paddled through a rocky gap on the back of a slight heave in the water. Just as I entered the gap however I spotted a reef dead ahead, which had been concealed by the reflecting sunlight. I turned the boat sharply to seek the deeper water to my left in the shelter of a skerry, where I could observe the passage of my companions & warn them of the looming shallows. In this calm sea there was little of concern.

I turned my boat just as Ian H, who had been watching several sets go through just to be extra extra sure, approach the reef.  As I was pointing with my paddle towards the deeper water in case he hadn’t seen it, something blue, about 17ft long traveling sideways towards Ian H at about head height caught my eye. It was Ian M, gallantly low bracing on a wall of white water ahead of a random tsunami! There was no time to shout a warning: in a flash there were now two Ians bouncing over the reef amongst a pile of foam, giving it an appearance of alternating blue & white frothy stripes. There was a crunching sound as Ian H’s stern contacted the reef flipping him over, but immediately he rolled in the froth pile & continued his bongo-slide as if nothing un-routine had happened.

Luckily the wave carried both Ians over the top of the reef & deposited them in deeper sheltered water behind where we could re-group, retrieve nerves and hats, & give Ian’s hull a good feel for damage (after ensuring there was not to his head).

Some seals also came over to see what the commotion had been about. A large female poped up within a foot of Ian’s tail & snorted loudly, probably in response to the state of his gelcoat. She disappeared noisily, leaving several of last year’s juveniles to try to rope us in to a game of tag. Perhaps inspired by Ian’s rolling, they made no bones about highlighting the fact that they could do better: nibbling our toggles & attempting to high five our paddle blades without us noticing.

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Reluctantly we were forced to extricate our selves from this fantastic company before we all fell in through hunger.

Just around the corner beneath the lighthouse was a tiny sandy beach, just the right size for 3 kayaks.

As stated earlier by the seal, Ian had lost several chunks of gelcoat from those vulnerable skeg box edges, but thankfully no apparent damage to the glass, so no field repairs required, & no adjustment needed to Ian H’s meticulously planned schedule.

The sea became calmer and calmer as we threaded our way through the archipelago. It also became thick with guillemots, razorbills & puffins, happily bobbing around within a few feet of us. The sky was similarly populated, & passing terns proved the abundance of sand eels in the vicinity as they carried them back to their chicks on the islands.

Paddling along the cliffs of Inner Farne we passed under the abodes of the same species plus kittiwakes & shags. Every time I’ve visited these islands I’ve been amazed at the tolerance of the birds here – more so than any other seabird colony I know, & during my RSPB career I’ve worked with quite a few. The Farnes are very special.

The National Trust know this too of course, & as we rounded The Kettle towards the jetty on Inner Farne, a 300m snake of paying customers could be seen. There didn’t appear to be any room for 3 additional people, especially when adorned with bouyacy aids, so we decided to keep with our wilderness illusion rather than taint our magical experience so far by joining a crowd reminiscent of a shopping mall in late December.

A small tide race set up just out from the landing as the water squeezes between intertidal rocks, & I paddled into the teeth of it hoping for a little fun in the standing waves. Unfortunately it wasn’t quite running fast enough to give much sport so I pulled back into the eddies to work our way around the corner giving us access to Inner Sound with its north going stream at full flood.

A flat calm crossing ferried us back to the beach, where the surf had actually picked up a notch. Timing the sets, we picked our way in one by one & without mishap arrived safely in front of Ian’s car.

Hands were shaken all round, & Ian H was duly thanked for his planning & organisation of a fantastic trip.

We took a short trip from Beadnell to Craster on the Sunday due to time constraints. A pleasant & uneventful coastal paddle involving some nice sections of beach with some small surf to play in en-route. There were some occasional nice waves too, but they were few & far between & I rarely have the patience to wait for them (which usually means I end up paddling back out through them!) We all enjoyed a few runs before taking a break to stay clear of a colony of little terns at the mouth of a stream.

A leisurely lunch followed at an old pub, which was orientated towards the sea; presumably this being where most of its traffic would have come from in its heyday, rather than any subsequently built roads to its landward side.

Another hour & we arrived at Craster & stocked up on local kippers & packed up for the journey home.

All in all, a great weekend & good company. Many thanks again to Ian Higginbottom for his excellent organisation and meticulous planning.

Out into they Bay. 14/7/18

John H , Brain with new sea kayak and Mike  ventured out on yet another warm sunny day. Nice breeze too.

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Channel now shallow  Due to low rainfall for months and follows right bank from New Barns bay to way past Grange before along arc back towards Silverdale.

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Greylag geese, egrets, geese who main wing feathers renting rendering them flightless, curlew and so many more bird species  (ask John). Juvenile  shelduck in group of 40.

7.5 miles out, we tried to surmount a san bank for the overall view, but quick sands deterred us. The bore was spotted 400m wide.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASurf city , then two eskimo rescues required!!!!  just lean the right way.

Boat edging, run it straight, keep on going and going and going  for miles , until san banks intervened at S bends.

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Two flightless stripey necked geese, unable to out paddle the bore frantically end3ed up surfing it until a sand bank saved them.  Then one over, two over, three over. Rolls and self rescue . WOW!

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a fine day out Grommet!

Paddling Film Festival World Tour comes to Kendal on 16 Oct – don’t miss it, buy your tickets now.

Lakeland Canoe Club are proud to be hosting the Reel Films Paddling Festival World Tour on Tuesday 16th October at the Brewery Cinema in Kendal sponsored by Cumbria Canoeists and the Kendal Mountain Festival.
Book tickets now through the Brewery box office page 
Help us promote this unique event for Kendal by forwarding the flier below to your paddling mailing list. Bring along paddling friends,  potential new paddlers and family.
Please forward or put this flier up where outdoor sport enthusiasts and film goers meet.
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St Bees – 12/05/2018

 

A lovely day as the early mist burnt off to leave a beautiful day, not a breath of wind but some swell left from the previous few days of wind.

Five of us launched our sea kayaks off the beach, Robin, Sten, Harry, Jenny and myself. Robin provided a watching eye and described how the tide splits around the head, with one stream setting North and the other setting South.

Off we went at high tide and kayaked under really impressive, high sandstone cliffs with nesting birds crowding on ledges, think I may have spotted a Black Guillemot, and I think St Bees is the furthest south they breed.

Conditions were a little choppy right under the cliffs but the sun was shining and from a lunch spot we could just make out Burrow Head over in Galloway- maybe another day? 

Returning to the beach in St Bees proved more eventful, some quite nice surfing for some but a bit of a learning experience for others and well it wouldn’t be a day’s kayaking if I did not have to roll at some point.

We were talking in the car about a good day out should have more kayaking than driving, it is quite a short trip but it was good to get out feel the sunshine and boat moving around in the water, a chance to meet up with old friends and meet some new ones.

Walney island circumnavigation

It is always a gamble when you plan a trip weeks in advance. The Sunday evening Country File week ahead forecast, depicted a large area of low pressure and strong winds for the end of the week. Not really what we needed for a paddle around Walney on Saturday. Thankfully by midweek all the usual weather resources agreed that the winds would be manageable and by Friday they all were all predicting light winds and little or no precipitation. The trip was on.

Robin, Ian, Angela and Sten met as planned and set off from Roe Island bang on time. Breaking into the flow we hopped on to the conveyor and for little or no effort were carried North up Walney Channel, passing the open dock gates and steering to avoid buoys, posts, and moored boats as we were pushed along.

Jubilee Bridge and the meetings were soon passed by, breaking out into a eddy at North End Haws we stopped in the sunshine for a brew and early first lunch. Divorce was a threatened when Angela realised Sten had not packed any fuel for his stove. Thankfully their marriage was saved by Ian who provided hot water using his stove complete with gas canister.DSCF0553

Once around the North End of the Island we were confronted with a westerly head wind, but this soon veered around to the North assisting our passage down the West coast. A glance over the shoulder revealed some dramatic storm clouds to the North.

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After a stop for another brew (courtesy of Ian’s stove) and second lunch on a breezy beach near the car park at Biggar, we continued to make good wind assisted progress around to SE point. Around here we split with Robin (who was on a dead line) pressing on at a pace with Ian, leaving Sten and Angela to continue at a more relaxed speed.

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Once around the point the force of the Northerly breeze was somewhat less helpful.  Though the 14km of wind assistance far outweighed the 3km of hindrance.

All around the South End we had the company of varying numbers of seals, and we kept our distance passing the colony hauled out on the beach near the NE point.

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A good trip with assistance from tide and wind nearly all the way and not a drop of rain.