Exploration Days

So what, exactly, is an "Exploration Day"? It's a day (either in the programme, or more likely at short notice) when the trip organiser has decided to go out looking for new water to paddle. Any river which has not featured in the club's paddling programme in recent years so that no-one currently paddling actually knows the river. Perhaps, even, a river that appears in no guidebook and there must be becks with no recorded descent at all...

A few years ago, the (Tees) Greta almost qualified, as it was so long since anyone had done it - now it's regarded as one of the best local trips and done quite often. In previous years we've done Devil's Water and the Upper Coquet as trips with no-one who knew the way, and tried (but failed owing to lack of water) to do the Irthing, which has now been done. The Rawthey, Clough and Yorkshire Esk have also been run for the first time in many years - the latter really was a feat of exploration, as we put on far too far upstream. Small (sometimes very small) parties have done obscure things like the River Bain, Widdale Beck, Sleightholme Beck and Little Eggleshope Beck at very short notice (two of those in the summer) when the heavens opened sufficiently. We've not found anyone else who will admit to having paddled two of those [aside: it turns out that Jim Pullen of UKRGB has found a write-up from people who paddled from way up on the moors near the Tan Hill Inn]... but Sleightholme Beck still needs a half kilometre bit in the middle to be paddled. There are other rivers we've only done once or twice as they are rarely in condition - Bowlees Beck, Hudeshope Beck, Eggleston Burn and the River Balder are all local Tees tributaries which are well worth exploring. Both Greenfield Beck and Oughtershaw Beck have now been run by club members as "warm ups" to the Upper Wharfe on days when more "mainstream" rivers were too big to contemplate. Whitsundale Beck proved to be a brilliant warm up to the Upper Swale and there are other tribs here...


Little Eggleshope Beck - true ditch exploration!

Trips are intended to get us out somewhere new, with the optimistic hope that it will be wet and that some spate beck will be available. If it's wet enough for tiny rivers, then expect that it could be a hard trip. Start thinking of things you might like to explore and let us know (perhaps via the mailing list). It doesn't have to be a single river all in one trip, but could be a collection of short bits of river (preferably all near each other) or a short tributary leading into a better-known bit of river where those with less exploratory zeal might join us. But the important idea is to get out on some water that no-one knows not because of what is there but because of what might be there...

Dropping down a tight boulder garden in a gorge high up in Devil's Water
Dropping down the steep and bouldery gorge in Devil's Water

Running the first of two drops on Widdale Beck in barely enough water
Running the first waterfall on Widdale Beck

The last get-out-your-boat obstacle on Sleightholme Beck
The heavy livestock fence marking the last bit of Sleightholme Beck before its confluence with the Tees Greta well above Bowes

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