Winter first half round-up
We've paddled quite a lot in the first quarter of the 2011/12 whitewater season. Here's a brief summary of some of the trips that haven't had their own longer articles.
The second time this year we've paddled this, and a bit more water made it well worth the long drive to Galloway. The first section was a bit boily in places at this level, but lines are easy to spot and no-one was unseated. Rapids follow each other in fairly quick succession, but nothing unduly difficult until the river starts to narrow into its gorge section. The video features footage from both this trip and the one earlier in the year (at least, it does now - apologies if you were puzzled by seeing the Coquet when the article was first posted - the hazards of cut-and-paste):
Different lines open up as the level rises, so the first part of the gorge was a bit changed from the spring trip. One boulder which was well out of the water last time, was well submerged this time, and had enough of a hole behind it to give Andy some rolling practice. The drop just above also provided us with a bit of rescue interest. A rock right on the eddy line caused another swim towards the end of the gorge, but this was quickly sorted, giving an exciting seal-launch to put back on.
The Keswick Greta
Paddling in October meant we were just ahead of the November/December white-line restriction, which was just as well, as the level was a bit lower than we'd expected. Some chose not to paddle, but still left a reasonably large group to bounce down, and most of the river is fine at this level. One swimmer managed to leave his drain plug out when putting back on, and capsized again as the boat started to sink, but rolled up before stopping to empty the boat and very firmly screwing the plug back in this time !
Gail picking a line down the rapid below the broken weir.
October half-term saw one group in Scotland (with Glenmore Lodge) and November saw a Pitlochry weekend (which has its own write up), followed by two members having another week at Glenmore Lodge doing rather harder rivers. This gives some of us more knowledge of several rivers we hadn't done before, which we hope will prove useful on our 2012 Easter whitewater week.
The Etive made a fine challenge for Mary (seen here) and Ann. Photo: Simon Coker (Glenmore Lodge)
Sunday 18th December was on the weekend after floods had weakened bridges in North Yorkshire and as we stood at the bottom of Aysgarth Falls we could see that the moderate amount of rain on the previous night had brought the River Ure up to a level which looked a bit on the high side. In addition we didn’t know if the river might still be rising and so we decided to drive up the valley and into Wharfedale.
The roads, fields and of course the rivers higher up Wensleydale were all very wet and we felt that we’d made the right decision not to paddle.
Arriving at Hubberholme, the Upper Wharfe looked promising. We loaded up the boats on one car and drove up the valley to Beckermonds. There was plenty of water at this part of the river and Jim was keen to see if we could get on higher up and paddle Green Field Beck which gave us 3km or so of flooded stream. Mostly this was as the name suggests, paddling across fields but there was a small drop which needed inspection and then quite a steep descent to Beckermonds. A nice warm-up!
Doug on the drop, Green Field Beck
Most of the river from here down to Hubberholme runs close to the small road in Langstrothdale and by craning our necks on the drive up we had been able to spy quite a few of the rapids. Good water levels gave us almost continuous rapids, small falls and a few tricky bits, a fabulous stretch of upland river which we were lucky enough to find in great condition.
Pete on the drop which caused most upsets, Upper Wharfe
Thanks to Jim, Andy and Doug.
Boxing Day on the Wear
The traditional trip on Boxing day is the Wear from Durham to Finchale Priory, but there had been little enthusiasm on the mailing list, and water levels were on the low side. A last-minute decision (we hadn't wanted to advertise an alternative trip to spoil the chances of the programmed meet happening) was made to paddle Stanhope to Wolsingham at about the same time Richard mailed that he and a guest would be paddling from Durham, but a phone call to offer them the alternative was just too late...
Hence, Dave, Andy and Mary met up outside Johnny's house, just as he was setting off for a family walk - much muttering ensued. All the boats on one car, and shuttle to Stanhope where the level was just about adequate (0.7m and falling on the EA gauge). There was barely enough water for the playwave under the first footbridge, but there was always enough to get down the river without grounding, so we made quick progress down the river.
Steeper shingle rapids make for quick progress, even in low water.
The demolition of the previously difficult weir has dropped water levels upstream, so another weir under a bridge now provides a brief moment of excitement (and can form a nasty stopper at high levels - but just a bit of a bounce down today), followed by a series of diagonal stoppers which maintain interest right down to the big wave under Wolsingham bridge, which provided another brief play, but by now it was getting a little cold, so we ran away.
Article copyright © Andy Waddington and Pete Ball (as credited) 2011; photographs copyright © Andy Waddington except as credited, photo copyright © Simon Coker 2012