Tees Greta, December 2012
by Pete Ball
Sunday 23rd December had plenty of water in the rivers but gales too and worse on the west of the country. We had arranged to meet at Bowes and drive across to the Lakes to paddle the River Kent but the drive would be horrible and paddling south into the high winds would be unpleasant.
Just a short walk down from the village hall in Bowes we could see that the River Greta was at a very nice level. So we shuttled to Greta Bridge and were on the river early. The first part of the river down to Rutherford Bridge is good grade 2 to 3 with plenty of space between rapids, the level was ideal and everyone was either coping well or finding it easy. The next section is much more technical even though it’s no more than grade 3 at this level. We had split into two groups as there were 9 of us altogether but I didn’t get the dynamics quite right, I wanted a more relaxed group for new member John and think this was ok but the first group had all the young guns and we didn’t see them again until the end!
Down river from Rutherford Bridge, John had a couple of swims and really lost confidence, I knew he had paddled Abbey Rapids before and although he had come out to our South Tyne trip had ended up not paddling so this became his first club trip. The Greta is a lovely river but it’s not very forgiving. Get your line wrong and you will have problems. A swim and broken paddle turned enjoyment into endurance. We had split paddles in my boat but Clive suggested rafting up and took John down the last (quite a) few rapids with the two boats held together. This was reasonably challenging but we managed to get in front of Clive and signal a decent route. We stopped above the last rapid before Greta Bridge for John to get out and walk round.
I hadn’t noticed that Ann had been getting cold and she was not well set up for the last section of rapids through a tight gorge. Now she was out of her boat and the sides were too steep to get her out of the water so she swam the last drop, still holding her boat and paddle. We all got to the side and put Ann in a bothy bag, she was now very cold and shivering hard, we managed to get three of us in the bothy and dug out some warm drink and chocolate for her. Eventually it did seem a bit warmer inside the shelter and Ann’s shivering seemed to lessen, we heard voices from the other side of the river and Clive (who was outside) said it was the other group who were walking back up river to look for us. We reassured them that all was well and that at no point had Ann stopped talking!
So all in all it was an interesting day on the river. We had some problems but worked our way through them. John says he will come out paddling with us again … so not too much harm done! Incidentally Don was with the first group and had an excellent trip. Well at least they waited for us!
Article copyright © Pete Ball 2012