Here are some pictures and a map of the Esk taken a few weeks ago after a lot of rain. This was the highest that I had paddled it and whilst the extra water made it very fast in fact the river was less technical. Some of the rapids had a different character and most had new ‘chicken shoot’ lines. Had either of us had a swim it would have been less forgiving than usual, however despite it being quite a while since the last paddle we both stayed upright.
We have had a couple of days to relax and rest our stiff legs from our exertions at the start of the holiday and so it was time to think of the next adventure. I have been keen to take Penny down the Greta for a while having enjoyed my trip with Mark back in September. Looking at the levels this morning (before deciding whether it was worth getting up or having another few hours sleep) I saw that it had come up overnight and that by lunchtime it would be at a suitable level.
We put on at about 12:30
Penny on her new bike in Keswick
After a little uncharacteristic urgency around the house we first went to Threlkeld to drop off the boats and gear. I locked them to a tree before we drove back to Keswick and the Pencil Museum car park. Penny had bought a new bike yesterday and so we both took the dismantled railway back to the boats. She found going a little easier on her new steed. This was about 7km and a lovely ride. However arriving at the boats I realised that I had left the key for the lock that was attaching the boats to a tree was still in the car. I left Penny and set off back to Keswick via the road, and returned using the cycleway again. Some people gave me a funny look seeing me going the same way for a second time (only a bit faster and a lot muddier).
At the start
It was about 12:30 when we finally launched onto the river. The water was about 15cm below the white line which corresponds to one step covered (but not by much) at Keswick. The first few km were a gentle warm-up. Fast moving water and a few boulders and small play waves allowed us to relax and enjoy the scenery. The river then increases its gradient and gets more interesting. The first named rapid is the Magnetic Rock. There was enough water to keep well left of this infamous rock and Penny claimed not to see it.
On our way down to the wall there was some large, confused white water, this was interesting and Penny used a support stroke to good effect. The guidebook describes a whole university group being pushed into the wall. Today there was enough water to keep to the right and just bounce over a few rocks before rejoining the main flow.
Somewhere it was calm enough to get the camera out
The rapids kept coming and after a rest in a friendly eddy we headed down to the first broken weir. This is a series of small steps and we took a line down the middle of the river. The second weir has an obvious shoot down the left side of the right channel (we had looked at this on the ride up). The only problem was a rock placed in this flow. We both took the main flow but went opposite sides of the rock. After this the river was still bouncy and fun, I remembered about the stopper under the bridge and so we hugged the left back. When I was with Mark I went to ‘have a look’ at this feature. It was very powerful and quite retentive but after a bit of a battle and some interesting facial expressions it let me go. The guidebook suggests it does not normally hold boats or paddlers once they capsize but I did not want to test this out. Today we just paddled on by down towards Keswick.
We passed uneventfully through the town and took out on the shingle beach in front of the Pencil Museum car park. This gave an easy carry up to the car from a comfortable eddy.
The remarkable thing about the Greta is how continuous the whitewater is. I have to compare it to the Duddon (my other favourite river), which I think is a little more technical but also has more gentle sections. They do have different characters and I’m just clad I live within an hour of both of them. Leading Penny down safely was today’s priority so I’m afraid gnarly videos will have to wait for another trip.
Penny having fun
I woke up this morning more with hope, than expectation that any of our rivers would have come up after a bit of rain last night. Checking online the Duddon was the only river at a paddleable level so we headed south. Penny decided to join me on the shuttle, so we dropped the boats next to Hall Bridge and then left the car at Ulpha Bridge. The cycle back upstream warmed both of us up.
Penny on the weir
The first section was a little bumpy, I couldn’t tell how the level compared to the last time
we paddled it until we got to the weir. It was still a bit of a scrape down the left wall but less so than last time. I had a look at the fish ladder and the towback was too intimidating so returned to our tried and tested route.
The grade four rapid Jill’s Folly came next. Penny had been talking about portaging it but the large cows in the field persuaded her that running it would be the easiest option (or perhaps she just mtfu). This time there was a line down the far right under the holly tree. This left a sharp left-handed turn at the bottom but gave more room for error than threading between the two rocks like we did last time. The photos below show Penny edging to get round the corner at the bottom. This was where she hit a rock last time and let go of her paddles resulting in a swim. This time it went very smoothly which was probably a good thing as the water was considerably colder than only a month ago.
[slideshow]The next section didn’t start too well when I got wedged between two stepping-stones, however I managed to free myself before Penny had got too far ahead. This few hundred metres is great fun, weaving in between boulders, going with the flow. I found one or two semi-submerged rocks and Penny had a huge grin on her face after ‘doing it perfectly’. We eddied out just before the gorge section for a quick inspection.
This was higher than last time and bouncy. Again we started far right before hitting the centre halfway down. Towards the end we went back to the right to avoid a hole on the left. Today I noticed how deep and slow the water is after the gorge, this would be useful if anyone had a swim in this section.
The final section was still bouncy and fun, the stopper on the right-handed corner was in good shape and the wave went up to Penny’s chin! A dog on the bank seemed a little upset that we were there but we did not encounter any fishermen, only 8 days to go until the end of the fishing season.