Lower Swale - local water new to local paddlers ?
by Pete Ball
Three hours parking at the swimming pool car park turned out to be just right for the trip from Richmond down to Catterick Bridge.
We had hoped to get our sea kayaks out for a day at the coast but the forecast didn’t look too good with rain and perhaps some fog too. The trip was meant to be easy and this section of the Swale has been written up as suitable for introduction to whitewater and also for open canoe paddling. Terry and Pat were protesting the association of beginners trips with open canoe suitable rivers, well I really didn't expect it to be too exciting.
Just after getting on the river there are some small but interesting rapids to warm up and this seemed to be about right for 0.5m on the gauge at Richmond. There was good definition to the water and we were not catching rocks on the way down, there was plenty of opportunity for practising moves on the rapids and soon after passing Easby Abbey there was a drop with a super wave that the open canoes were able to surf on and with a small audience on the footpath alongside. We passed under the disused railway bridge, well it is used as a footpath now with plenty walkers out enjoying the fine weather between wet days.
More rapids, all with some interest, continued with a few flat sections in between right down to the get-out. Being a Sunday we used the car park for the weekly market and could park right next to the river.
Altogether a really nice trip, very suitable for open canoes and to be honest it would have been a bit pushy for an introduction to whitewater at this level. This section of the Swale is less than ten miles from my house and it's the first time I have paddled it. I suppose it's not known as a great section for paddling and also it's a fishing river but at a good level we drifted quietly past the one angler who was out enjoying the river too.
Thanks to Terry and Pat for a very nice day out and a surprisingly good paddle!
Article copyright © Pete Ball 2012