Tag Archives: Kayak

Calder and Esk on a windy evening

Early on, going with the flow

Early on, going with the flow

After torrential rain yesterday morning Mark and I made plans to hit the rivers after school. With most of my lessons cancelled due to study leave I had plenty of time to watch the levels on the environment agency website and make plans. The peak flow came and went at around lunchtime and by mid afternoon the levels were falling fast. On the way to Calderbridge the Ehen was brown and swollen, not too much of a surprise but a little daunting. The Calder was at a good level, the pool next to the bridge was recirculating well but the water was mostly clear. I think I surprised Mark by suggesting that we get on it, but after a couple of seconds to adjust to the change in plan we agreed that since we don’t catch it at a paddleable level often we should do it whilst we had the chance. Continue reading

Boating to Fleswick Bay

Penny and Sarah (note how busy St Bees beach is!)

Penny and Sarah (note how busy St Bees beach is!)

Yesterday a flotilla of boats set off from sunny St Bees beach to Fleswick Bay. Penny and Sarah were in one open boat, Mark and Harry in another and Jacob and I were in kayaks. The beach was heaving so it was good to get onto the calm water which was very clear.

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Esk at its best

Penny and me just after going through Penny Bridge

Penny and me just after going through Penny Bridge

On Wednesday it poured with rain for most of the day. I spent much of the day keeping an eye on water levels and by 4pm it was clear that the Esk would be at a good level. Penny was up for a paddle and Mark had Harry with him so he volunteered to shuttle and take some photos (thanks Mark!). 

The river was at a very good medium level, at Doctor’s bridge the left hand channel would have gone (I can see how in really high flows it would be necessary to avoid the increasingly interesting rapid on the right). There was none of the normal bumping and in fact some of the rapids were quite a bit easier with less maneuvering required. However it was a little more serious, a swim in the gorge section would have been quite long and uncomfortable. Double drop had become one single drop with a big green wave down the first half. There were two fishermen fishing the pool above double drop but they seemed to appreciate being asked which side of the river they wanted us. 

Me halfway through Doctor's Bridge rapid

Me halfway through Doctor's Bridge rapid

In the second half Penny took a swim (sit in the water) in a graveyard section where she caught a rock and despite several attempts to push of the bottom with her hands she could quite manage it. I had to roll when playing on one of the waves and getting the tail of my boat grabbed by the eddy monster. Given the volume of my boat I think that this was an impressive feat. I must remember to lean forward/tighten my backrest to help with this. Whilst thinking about technique I noticed in many of the photos my elbows a long way from my body, this is something to work on as I am keen to avoid shoulder problems in the future. 

I can now see why the Esk is given grade III, this was a quick run despite the stops to show off for Mark’s camera it took under an hour. The online gauge was at 0.88m, I’ll be looking out for a chance to get on at an even higher level. 

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Quick trip to the Esk

On Tuesday night we had a parents’ evening at 8pm, this gave just enough time for Mark and me to get a quick run on the Esk. It was at a medium level with the bottom of the slab on river right just downstream of Doctor’s Bridge covered.

It was an uneventful trip, the gorge was bouncy and the greatest difficulty was seeing where you were going with the low sun and its reflection in your eyes. I shot a short video clip of Mark going over double drop from which these photos were taken from.

It was excellent to get out after work and enjoy the sunshine. It won’t be too long until it’s too dork for after school paddling!

Mark just after the put in

Mark just after the put in

The Middle and Lower Duddon with Penny

I have been itching to do some Lake District white water paddling ever since we got back from France. Now that the Environment Agency has very helpfully put their gauge data online it is easy to see what most of the rivers are doing. Whilst this is very useful in making plans it is also doubly frustrating if the rivers are at a perfect level but I can’t get out paddling.

Anyway, after a day instructing rock climbing with the 2nd form at Upper Shepherds yesterday it was time for a bit of me and Penny time on the Duddon. The gauges said that it was at a low runnable level, perfect for Penny’s first trip on the Duddon. The last time I was there was with Mark during the Easter Holidays. Today’s level was a little lower than on that day, resulting in hitting a few more submerged rocks but there was no scraping on gravel.

Jill's Folly

Jill's Folly

We started at Hall Bridge, having been to look at Jill’s Folly on the drive round. I took the car down to Ulpha Bridge and cycled back. We had a gentle warm up down to the gauging weir and bumped our way down the right wall. Having read LDWW since we could probably have descended the fish ladder with less bumping.

Penny on her way down Jill's Folly

Penny on her way down Jill's Folly

Some quick water brought us to the pool above Jill’s Folly (IV-). Here the river bends round to the left with two rocks to fit between on the approach and then one final rock to miss on the exit as the water does it’s best to push you to the right. We landed on the island and had another inspection and then Penny watched as I attempted to show her the correct line. I was very happy with the outcome, hitting the line perfectly. I got out with my throwline ready for Penny’s go, choosing a position on the right, level with the final small drop. She had the correct line to start with but got pushed a little right and just hit the right hand of the two rocks you have to pass between. In stopping herself being tipped in onto the rock she let go of her paddle, so she had kept herself upright
Penny fending off the rock that tried to knock her over

Penny fending off the rock that tried to knock her over

but now had the final drop to negotiate without a paddle. At this point I got in and reached her paddle but she had drifted past before I could give it to her. Going over the final drop she had nothing for support and fell in. Quickly she exited her boat and swam it into the eddy on the right. I was pleased to see her with a big grin on her face and talking about how she had ‘nearly’ hit the right line on her first grade IV rapid.

The next section of the river is a fast and bouncy boulder garden. This was great fun, Penny was making happy noises from behind me but I was wishing that I had rear view mirrors to keep an eye on her as the paddling needed most of my attention I didn’t have much time to turn and look back upstream. We were woshing along and suddenly I realised that we were almost at the gorge section. A quick eddy on the left allowed us to get out and inspect this steep and confined section. We identified a line that started on the far right and then moved into the middle. This meant we did not have to miss the rock in the middle of the more obvious line (that Mark got close to last time). Penny again watched as I showed her how to do it, but this time she nailed it and had an even wider grin as she sailed past me in my eddy. After a little gentle section we went through the right-handed turn rapid with the stopper at the bottom and some more bouncy flowing padding through boulders before taking out on the left at Ulpha Bridge.

We had had a lot of fun, the river was at the perfect level for building confidence and it was only 1pm so we decided to run the next 6km down to Duddon Bridge. This involved collecting bike from upstream, buying drinks from the post office, driving to Duddon Bridge, and cycling over the large hill back to Ulpha to put on a wet wetsuit ready to continue. All of this took around an hour and by 2 we hit the water.

This second section was not as bouncy, but the water was falling. It still had some very interesting technical paddling. Soon after Ulpha we met one fisherman who told us we were not allowed to paddle until the 1st November. I just smiled and agreed whilst we paddled past, he didn’t even have a line out as we approached him.

The major excitement of the Lower Duddon is Duddon Hall Falls under Rawfold Bridge. We got out at the confluence of Logan Beck and went to inspect. There were two obvious lines, a twisty one on the right and a more straightforward one in the middle passing just to the left of the central dividing section of bedrock. The concern was that he main flow then hit a boulder on the left bank just under the bridge, this looked like it could be serious for a swimmer. After some consideration I decided to run it taking the middle line. I must admit I was a little nervous, it is a big drop and despite the river being at a relatively low level there was still lots of water. The approach was a little rocky in the upper section but I got my boat to exactly where I wanted it. I slid down the tongue of dark water but at the bottom I needed a monster of a support stroke on the left to keep me upright. This didn’t give me much time to avoid the rock and so I gave it a glancing blow. Penny was tempted to have a go but in the end we both agreed that after such a fun and confidence building day it was probably time for a portage to below the falls.

Just after the bridge is the second gauging weir. This can be very serious in high water as it has a vertical face and long towback. Today very little water was flowing over the higher side sections and we both boofed over on the right. From here there was one steep twisty rapid where we got a little caught in a dead end on the left and then the last km of so of gentle paddling to reflect on what an excellent day we had had. We took out on the left after the bridge.

When we got back home the level of the Ulpha gauge was 0.63m and the lower one was 0.55. I think this was perfect for a slightly nervous paddler’s first trip on the Duddon and I wouldn’t want to paddle it any lower as it did get a little bumpy on the second section from Ulpha down.

Written on my phone, spell checking and photos to be done tomorrow.

Day 2 The Chassezac

Our plan for our second day in the Ardeche was to drive out to the Chassezac Gorge and descend the eight kilometer section in White Water Massif Central. This involved a longer shuttle which had a climb of nearly 200m so I was keen to set off early so that I wouldn’t be riding my bike in the heat of the day. However remembering that the paddles were in the tent whilst we were half way there didn’t help and by the time we were getting on the river it was very hot.

The river itself was much quieter than the mini-Ardeche with some interesting rapids and much impressive scenery. In particular, one rapid had a largish wave at the end and we stopped to run it again getting some video footage. Most of the descent was on flat water and we were very hot and hungry by the time we reached the car. I would recommend this descent over the Pont D’Arc section of the Ardeche as it had a much better atmosphere, only a handfull of boats and for long sections remote from the road.

Day 1 in the Ardeche

Written Wednesday evening on my iPhone (sorry about my typing), posted on our return to the UK.

Today was our first full day in the Ardeche. We had a fairly pleasent journey down, staying overnight near lake Kir in Dijon and arriving yesterday afternoon having travelled just over one thousand miles from St Bees. Yesterday afternoon we paddled upstream to see the famous Pont D’Arc and run the Charlemagne rapid, it was late afternoon and the river was relatively quiet and very warm. Rolling practice was enjoyable and not too refreshing. We are staying on a campsite that backs onto the river, ideal for cooling off in the considerable heat of the day.

Today, after a leisurely start, we visited Vallon Pont d’Arc, the nearest main town. We picked up our tickets for a bivi in the gorge on Friday night and had a look around town. We then headed to the climbing venue above Salavas on the other side of the river. The cliffs face north-west and so stay in the shade until about 2pm. We didn’t have a guidebook but picked four long but not too difficult lines to climb. The rock was interesting water-worn limestone and it was well bolted. The pitches were very close to 30m long, our 60m rope only just reached. The climbing was mostly juggy, on the large pockets and flakes, but it was also very polished. On our return a web page told us that we had climbed a 4, two 5s and a 6a. We will be back, perhaps a little earlier in the day, and know with the knowledge of the grades.

Our afternoon activity was to paddle the mini gorge, this is about six km from Salavas to our campsite. It was picturesque but also very busy. The rapids all had obvious lines and the biggest difficulty was avoiding all the hire boats. This time we did a little surfing on the Charlamagne exit wave as well as a bit of filming.

The plan for tomorrow is to paddle a tributory to the Ardeche, upstream from here. Despite booking a bivi we think that we will paddle the main gorge in one day, that way we don’t need to fill our boats with gear and get back to our creature comforts. So Friday afternoon we will take the car to St Martin and then on Saturday we will run the 24km gorge.

Photos to follow.

Wastwater with Boats

After work on Friday we packed the burgers and rolls, put kayaks on the roof and headed to the road junction next to Wastwater. The Ollises had got there first and were nowhere to be seen. We headed towards the pumphouse and Mystery Island. As we neared the south-western shore we saw Lauren who was walking from the Youth Hostel.

It was a very pleasant evening, the burgers hit the spot and the views in the valley were beautiful especially as we paddled back. I was playing with our new camera again. A few of the results are below but I was very happy with this.
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Fleswick Bay with Mum, Guillemots and Razorbills

Penny and Mum

Penny and Mum

My mum and Richard are here for a few days. Since they are both keen bird watchers we thought a trip to Fleswick would be appropriate. To make it a little more interesting we borrowed one of Mark’s open boats (Thanks Mark!) and I paddled round with mum in the open boat, Penny paddled her kayak and Richard walked round over South Head.

We launched about two hours before low water and were very grateful to have the trolley to avoid having to carry the boat across a fairly wide beach. The sea was calm and there was only a gentle breeze. I had consulted the tidal flows and the tide would be southwards until about 3pm. This was ideal since we would be going against the tide on the outward journey but then with it on the return run.

Birds

Birds - Mostly Guillemots, one Razorbill

The bird life was interesting straight away with a variety of gulls, including one black-backed of some variety, and several oyster-catchers all on the exposed boulders on the shore-line. Once we rounded the corner we started to see our first guillemots, in rafts of between five and ten about a hundred metres or so off shore. As we progressed along the cliff we passed the main cormorant colony before getting to the ledges packed with guillemots. Here we took plenty of photos and had a little break, however since every time we stopped paddling we started going backwards we did not stop for long. Whilst under this section of cliff we saw Richard a long way up on the cliff top and exchanged waves.

As we approached Fleswick Bay we saw that there could be a slight hitch in the plan, despite Penny and me having visited many times before it seems we had not been at low tide before. The shoreline was mostly rocky and it was only by heading up to the northern end of the beach that we found a suitable place to disembark. A short but slippery boulder hop saw us on the beach and having an early lunch amongst the eroded wreckage of an unfortunate vessel.

A ledge with many Guillemots

A ledge with many Guillemots (click to enlarge)

Whilst we were here I was keen to have a quick look further north to see what the bird colonies were like. Mum and Richard stayed at Fleaswick whilst Penny and I took the open boat further north. I didn’t know that Penny had never paddled an open boat before when I offered her the back seat but she took to it quickly with minimal instruction. As we approached the lighthouse cliffs the number of birds increased dramatically. On the water there were hundreds of birds, mostly guillemots but there were also a few razorbills. There were also a few fishermen on the boulders below the cliffs. It felt wrong to be paddling through the water with so many birds about so we turned around and headed back to Fleswick.

A Guillemot and Razorbill

A Guillemot (left) and Razorbill (right)


By this time the wind had picked up and a swell was developing. Penny got back into her kayak and Mum and I navigated our way back out through the rocks. The wind was behind us and with the favourable tide it only took thirty minutes to return to St Bees and ice creams.
Mum and Me

Mum and Me

Puffins off South Head

The South Head Cliffs

The South Head Cliffs covered in guano

This evening Penny and I went for a quick paddle to look at the birds on the St Bees Head cliffs. We saw the usual fulmars, cormorants and guillemots. However, the highlight was a pair of puffins on the water with the guillemots. Locals suggest that puffins used to live just to the north of the North Head, but I have not heard of any reports of Puffins on South Head.

Puffin 1

Puffin 1

Puffin 2

Puffin 2