31 December 2006

New Year's Eve

I woke up today at my normal time, 5:58am, on a Sunday morning and went to do my papers. When I got on my bike I got off it almost immediately as the wheel jammed and refused to move any more. Great. I walked to the paper shop, with my bike and started on the papers only to find that my shoe broke. I tried fixing my bike, it broke again, I tried again and it worked. I went to deliver my papers and my bike lights broke. What a morning!!! So I was slightly apprehensive - OK I wasn't really, but its poetic license - when I approached this New Year's Eve paddle, as I have not taken a swim all year and if I survived one more day that would be a year without swimming, which would be nice, but with the morning I had, had anything could have happened.

Once I had sorted the palaver out of the early Sunday morning and got stuff together for paddling we headed north for the Lake District, and to be more specific the garage at Greenodd, which is also the get out for the Crake. An hour-and-a-half later we arrived at the garage and started to get changed whilst the rest of our party arrived. Once sorted we headed up the valley towards the put-in on Coniston Water, where more of our party were awaiting us. That's eighteen paddlers.

Once on the water we headed down the lake and into a rather brisk wind. When eventually reaching the river I was a bit shocked to see it at such a low level. With the recent rains I had expected it to be at a fairly decent level especially as the Crake is lake fed, instead it was at a lowish level and not even pushing medium.

Even in the low water there was the odd feature to play on, but it was nothing to huge proportions and not many moves, except the good old spin, could be pulled off.

The main event on the Crake is Bobbin Mill Rapid, which is a grade 2/3 section of small drops, which is totally impossible to walk, inspect, or extract swimmers until the very end. Most of my group had already run the rapid when I came to it, however I still sat at the bottom to wait for another group who I knew and the last stragglers from my group. It's a good job that I did hang around at the bottom of the river as one of the paddlers in the other group managed to finish the rapid and then get pinned on the run out. They were well and truly pinned, they couldn't move forwards or backwards. So it was out of my boat and into the water to perform a live bait rescue, which went without a hitch. The only problem was getting back to my boat which I had abandoned on an island in the middle of the river. There was nothing for it; I would have to swim.

Once Bobbin Mill Rapid has been descended there isn't much left on the river and most groups now take out, however I had managed to persuade the people I was with to carry on and I wish I didn't bother as the wind had picked up making progression downstream a bit hard. Just round the corner from the take-out there is a tidal feature, which only comes into play at the right levels and I think we may have just missed it as there was nothing much going down.

Once off the river it was just a case of packing up, heading to the pub and then back south to sort gear and such like.

More pictures can be found here.

Happy New Year,
Good lines, stay safe and see you on the wet stuff...

27 December 2006

Real rivers don't have curbs...

Spent another day out on the water today, and this time it wasn't a local paddle either. Instead I got dropped off at the services on the M65 just outside of Darwen and then once kit was transferred to another car we headed north to Stockton-on-Tees and the Tees Barrage. Here there is a purpose built white water course, aptly named Teesside White Water Centre, which uses the tide as its main water source and therefore is not affected by the lack of rain we've been experiencing.

Once at the centre we paid our fees, browsed the shop and got changed before heading down to the course. I was once again in my dry suit and was loving the fact that I could paddle two days in a row without having any wet kit next to my skin. Bliss!!! During the day I made two full descents of the course and one smaller run. On the first descent I missed the top wave, but caught the wave just after it, on the second run I missed both waves and on the last, half run I missed the top wave, but caught the wave just after it before swiftly getting off the water.

Throughout the day most of our time was spent at Happy Eater, which is the main play feature on the river where it is possible to spin and get some nice front and back surfs in. The more experienced paddlers have been known to throw some helixes down and also nail some sweet entry moves. I also paid a brief visit to the next play spot on the course, named Cruncher, for a bit of cartwheeling and looping fun. Though I may just state that I didn't manage either.

Once tired and cold we headed for the changing rooms and then the cafe for refreshments and general socialising before heading home via the pub. I'm not out paddling for a while now, maybe three or four days, but I'm off climbing Friday.

Good lines, stay safe and see you on the wet stuff...

26 December 2006

Boxing Day

Looking slightly sophisticated in the car park

I've been out paddling again today. I like this Christmas thing, there is so much paddling that can be done and there are nice shiny new pieces of kit to try whilst doing it all. For me I could try my nice Palm Stikine Extreme Suit, which is that new water just beads off it, for others it was new boats and the like. Oops... I've still not mentioned where we were paddling. It was Halton again. There hasn't been much water around recently and it would have been a bit of gamble driving higher up the Lune Valley so we took the easy option and had an even lower day at Halton than last Sunday.

Me testing the dry suit

I'm the small blob in the centre of the picture about a third of the way down from the top

There were quite a lot of people on the water today so I tried my best to avoid them all as I wanted to paddle on my own and have some me time on the water. I don't know what it is, but when paddling on your own everything just feels so much different. There is that added bit of danger that if the s@&t hits the fan your on your own and you've got to sort yourself out and I must admit I like that added edge.

Getting back in the boat after heading higher up the river

Today was probably the first time that I've headed so high up the river and that was just to avoid the masses that were also heading upstream. However, as I headed further up river I did discover some new features that I've never really exploited before. They weren't great, but it was something new.

Me being a chimp

As the river was so low today one of the worst holes on the river came into play. When I say worst I mean worst for catching, not the worst for playing. In fact I nearly threw down my first front loop so it mustn't be that bad, however to get in the hole you have to drop in from above, which involves a bit of a walk back upstream. This for me is quite an inconvenience as I've got to deflate my Happy Seat and Thruster and then re-inflate them when I get back in.

More pictures and a couple of videos can be found here.

Good lines, stay safe and see you on the wet stuff...

24 December 2006

Christmas Eve

It's Christmas Eve and what better thing to do than go paddling and avoid all the mad rush at the shops and supermarkets. So it was an hour until mid-day and we parked up in the Halton Trainstation car park to be greeted by a cold winters day, with a little breeze. Getting changed was a bit unpleasent with temperatures just above freezing. Once on the water I warmed up quickly; even after having a couple of rolls.

The river was quite low today and even in low levels there is usually something to do on the rapids, but I don't know what it was but I just couldn't get anything going and everything just felt mechanical and unsmooth. Strokes weren't really linking into each other and I just got a bit frustrated and it just got worse and worse. I think I could have been slightly off form because over the past three days I've only had about ten hours sleep, as we've been calling in on people most nights to do our Christmas duties, and I'm knackered.

I should be back out on the water in two days time and hopefully I'll be back to better form as I can have a nice lie-in Christmas day and catch up on my sleep.

Merry Christmas!!!

Good lines, stay safe and see you on the wet stuff...

21 December 2006

Christmas Time

It's four days until Christmas and I've still not even given this festive day a real mention in the blog; so here it is. College finishes tomorrow at twelve and then I have four-hundred and fourteen hours off from formal education. I have got A Level modular exams when I go back so there will have to be some revision, but that doesn't mean I won't be paddling for a vast majority of the hours I have free.

As for the sepia image of my Christmas Tree; I just thought it looked a bit different!!!

Good lines, stay safe and see you on the wet stuff...

17 December 2006

Swimming Gala

Well, I've just got back from another trip on the Kent, the river I paddled last week before we did the Duddon and lost a boat. This time the trip took a different path, which could probably be put down to the fact that it was an organised trip by the local canoe club. This means that the ability of the paddlers varies greatly and therefore some people are a bit out of their depth. It does, for some reason, with all club trips, work itself out and everyone pulls together to try and make sure everyone enjoys themselves on the water.

Last week there was only two of us on the water and this week when we pulled up at Kendal Leisure Centre there were eight other paddlers waiting. I had managed to get a lift up to Kendal from Fulwood Leisure Centre, where the club runs pool sessions, and on this car was four more boats meaning the final number on the trip was twelve, which isn't to bad a number. So eventually, after managing to organise people we got changed and headed to the water. Briefings were done and I was assigned trip leader seeing as I had done the river the previous week and had scouted out all the lines and hazards.

Once on the water, in Kendal, we headed downstream and stopped to play in three friendly weirs, which were great for spins and such like. We eventually reached Scroggs Weir, the place we got on last week, and this is where you could say the river starts to pick up a bit. I, as trip leader, ran the drop, which marked the entrance to the first gorge and turned in the current to watch the next paddler get gobbled by the hole and take a swim. Thankfully, as I was the only paddler on hand the swimmer managed to take care of themselves and I just shadowed the boat to shore for them to empty. This rapid claimed a few more people, but luckily they managed to roll up. We carried on downstream.

When we hit the second gorge I went ahead to set up safety for the main drop, and two other paddlers followed. The rest of the group were scouting the rapid whilst safety cover was organised and thank god we had safety cover as the main event in the gorge claimed a further two paddlers who both had moments where paddler and boat parted company. Pieces of kit were collected and we headed off downstream again. Soon after, however, we came to the weir which we portaged the week before and I suggested we did the same. This seemed to take an age as it involved twelve paddlers getting out of their boats walking across the footbridge, down the road and down a steep bank to a spot only big enough to launch one boat at a time. We eventually managed it and headed on downstream.

The third gorge on the Kent is probably the worst as if you swim on the lead in you could end up swimming the next drop, which you definitely don't want to as well unless there is some pretty swift rescue work carried out. Two members of the group got out to inspect, whilst the rest of the group, with me leading, ran the first drop. Once the group were safely at the bottom of the drop, and the two paddlers were still inspecting, I shot off down the gorge to find somewhere to set up safety. Luckily I found a fairly wide ledge ten to fifteen meters above the next drop and got out of my boat and set myself up with a rope in case the two paddlers inspecting took a swim. The rest of the group ran the next drop and waited.

It was ages before anything upstream happened and when it did it was quite spectacular. The first of the paddlers, who inspected, ran the drop fine, nailing their line, and the second paddler, to put it bluntly, did not. They parted company with their boat and they were swimming where they did not want to be swimming. I got everyone's attention that their was a swimmer and then deployed my rope, landing it bang on the swimmers head. They took hold, I reeled them in like a fish and pulled them up on to the ledge to safety. Their boat meanwhile ran the next drop and got a bit of a hollering before being rescued by the rest of the group. I repacked my throw line and went to join the rest of the group who were now sorting out the swimmer and their boat.

I ran ahead to run the last drop on the river and nailed my line quite well apart from my right hand flew off my paddle as I landed the drop and my paddle was thrown back into my chest. I took hold and broke out to watch the next paddler come over the drop, miss their line and roll up. Sweet. The next paddler came over with out a problem and then the next four all took a swim. One of the swimmers parted company with their boat and it ended up being sucked into an undercut. I was back to being rescue bunny, I pulled out my sling and managed to clip it to the boat as I precariously edged my way into the undercut. As I pulled it came out and the pieces were all put together until all paddlers and kit were reunited.

Good times.

Good lines, stay safe and see you on the wet stuff...

16 December 2006

More parting with cash antics...

Well, this morning I parted with more money.

This time it wasn't on a posh dry suit, like last Saturday, oh no, but it was kayaking related never the less. I have on order from Penstock Productions their Seven Rivers Expedition DVD and I also signed up to a year's subscription of LVM.

Whilst I was browsing their catalogue I came across a section dedicated to Katie Hilleke - sister of Tommy Hilleke, a well know creek boater from Asheville, NC - who isn't that bad a paddler herself. This section was there to help raise funds to cover medical bills incurred for the chemo therapy she has been having on a recently diagnosed case of colon cancer. I, with out hesitation, clicked the button to donate some money. Being a paddler means that you are part of a tight knit group who will try and support each other in a myraid of ways and this is how I felt it was best to show my support. It is nice to think that the paddling community would also pull together if I was in need, like they have done for Katie.

If you'd like to donate money to help Katie Hilleke you could do no worse by clicking here.

Good lines, stay safe and see you on the wet stuff...

12 December 2006

I've always wanted a suit for work...

Saturday was an expensive day for me as I purchased a Palm Stikine Extreme Suit and an IR Union Suit to go with it. It's unfortunate that I can't actually use the dry suit yet (some of it was paid for by my folks as a Christmas present) as the temperature is suppose to start falling over this coming week meaning for cold water and colder paddling. I am therefore left to wearing it around the house for now!!! With the dry suit however, I can now say, when I'm working in an outdoor centre, that I have a job which requires a suit.

Good lines, stay safe and see you on the wet stuff...

10 December 2006

One car, two paddlers and no real plans

It was Thursday when I sent an email out to everyone I paddle with on a regular basis and I only got a few replies back, and all of them, mark one, were a no for a paddle on the coming Sunday. So on the Saturday night I texted the person who had replied yes and at quarter-to-nine the next morning we were on the road heading for the Lakes and the Kent. As we only had one car the plan was to pull up at Seathwaite Bridge and get changed in the hope that some more paddlers had turned up and we could hitch to the top with them.

It didn't look promising when we pulled up. Well the river looked good, it was the best level I had seen it at, but the chance of hitching a lift didn't look promising. However, as we started getting changed a car with a boat pulled up and out popped one of the chaps I had paddled the Ingleton Greta with. They were heading up to the Brathay Pool and had just called in to have a look at the rapids under Seathwaite Bridge. They kindly offered us a lift up to Sroggs Weir and we politely accepted it. So we now had a means of getting to the top of the river and could still leave our dry gear, in a car at the take out.

Loading up the boats at Scroggs Weir

Once on the water we headed off downstream catching the odd wave and eddy before entering the first of the gorge's found on the Kent. The lead-in to the gorge was a fairly simple drop which had a bit of a powerful pile of water at the bottom, which buffered the boats about a bit.

Paddling through the first gorge

After this first bit of gorge the river opens up for a bit before the banks start getting steeper and form the second gorge of the river. This gorge is a bit more demanding when compared to the first as there is a more of a lead-in to the first drop and then there is a series of river wide stoppers to avoid/play in. In the level we were paddling it today the stoppers were OK for playing in, but in higher flows they start to form nasty holes of the highest order.

Looking up the second gorge

The river starts to widen out again and there was the odd wave to catch and some breaking in and out to do. We then came up to a weir. This weir has been run, and I have run it in low flows, but it just wasn't worth it today. It would be marginal whether you would get through or not, so we cut our losses, shouldered our boats and walked around it.

Walking over the footbridge whilst portaging the weir

The river once against enters a gorge near the take out and this is probably one of the most interesting sections. The gorge starts with a drop into a totally inescapable section for a swimmer with some fairly meaty waves before dropping over an l-shaped weir. The river then widens out before dropping over Force Falls. A two/three meter fall which marks the end of the trip and the take out.

The lead-in to the third gorge
The l-shaped weir
Force Falls

At the bottom of the river we came across the managers of UK Canoes and Paddlesport and a couple of other people, one of which is a member of my club and I had been paddling with them the week before. In fact they were the person who rescued my All Star when I was in the Eskimo Topolino Duo and the river started rising, almost taking my boat with it.

As it happened the manger of Paddlesport and two of their friends were carrying on to do another river so we teamed up with them and headed off to the Duddon, which they had never done, but the two of us had.

So it was a case of loading up the cars and heading along the west coast of Cumbria and heading up the Duddon valley to Ulpha to get on the river. This was the second time I had been on the river and it looked to be a similar level. If anything it looked like the river would be rising whilst we were on the river.

Walking the boats down to the river

The five of us got on the water and headed downstream. It wasn't how I had remembered the river, but that was over a year ago, and if anything it has improved the memories I had of this river. It was a real blast with lots of continuous grade III rapids with some pretty lumpy waves and holes.

We eventually came to the main rapid of this section. I ran it first and nailed the line, then four more paddlers came through, and one was swimming. I scrambled out of my boat, made a bit more difficult by my Happy Seat/Thruster Combo, and grabbed my thowline but it was too late they were out of reach. However, the swimmer managed to get themselves to the bank shadowed by the three other paddlers, which was a good job as there looked to be a pretty nasty weir soon after. I got back in my boat and ferried over to where they were on the bank starting out on the portage of the weir. I jumped out of my boat once again to discover that during the swim we had lost both the paddle and the boat. Shit.

Plans were made and implemented. The swimmer walked out from the river and headed for the road with my bivvy bag and pogies to keep warm whilst the remaining four headed downstream, after portaging the weir, to look for the boat and paddles. It didn't look that promising that we would find them as the river was moving at a fair speed. However, not long after getting back in our boats to go kit chasing I broke out into an eddy to find the paddle right next to my boat and that was only about three hundred meters from the weir. We carried on downstream looking for the boat and came upon that, wrapped around a tree, tree hundred meters from the take out. Ropes were attached to it and it was removed by the manager of Paddleworks and myself whilst the two other paddlers headed back to recover the paddler that had walked out.

All in all, when considered, it hadn't been a bad day. There had, at the beginning, been two paddlers, one car and no real plans and it had finished with us paddling two rivers and meeting up with three paddlers, of which I had met one of them on a previous occasion as they sold me my All Star and I am sure we'll be paddling with them again at some point.

More pictures can be found here.

Good lines, stay safe and see you on the wet stuff...

06 December 2006

Ever wanted a...

Canoeing Logbook for your computer?

With a GCSE and an AS Level in ICT I've amassed a fair bit of knowledge in Microsoft Access. So, with this knowledge I've developed a logbook for all canoeists to record their day's out on the water. If you want one click here and place a bid, or just click buy it now. If this one sells I'll be putting some more up for sale on eBay so keep checking back and search for Canoeing Logbook.

Good lines, stay safe and see you on the wet stuff...

05 December 2006

Responding to the Brighton Report

You may remember that a couple of months ago I posted on how the English access situation sucks. Well today Tamsin Phipps, of the River Access Campaign sent out a template to all canoeists, through the UK Rivers Guidebook, to help them lobby their local MP's. So get writing to your local MP by using the template below and with a bit (more like lots and lots) of luck all things access may start to improve.

Dear MP (MP NAME),

RE: River Access in England and Wales for Non Powered Craft

Did you know..
One of the biggest issues that face British Canoeists is the lack of access to the rivers of England and Wales. Canoeing, for the fifth year running, has been recognised as the fastest growing watersport (RYA Survey 2005). The sport is socially inclusive, ecologically sound and a fun, healthy activity for people of all ages and abilities. Canoeing also plays an important role in local economy.

The latest situation
The Environment Agency (EA) commissioned the University of Brighton to look into the feasibility of voluntary access agreements, the report “Putting pilot voluntary canoe access agreements in place” was published on October 3rd 2006. The British Canoe Union (BCU) has raised grave concerns over the report, the manner in which it was undertaken and its implications for the sport.

On behalf of DEFRA the Environment Agency asked Brighton University to test and demonstrate the processes involved in negotiating voluntary agreements and to secure voluntary canoe access agreements on four rivers in England (Mersey, Teme, Waveney and Wear). These rivers had featured in an earlier feasibility study carried out by the Countryside Agency.

What has the study actually achieved?
Very little indeed, 72kms (45 miles) have allegedly been "given" to paddlers, but in reality over 25 miles already had access agreements in place (the EA had sponsored a Canoeists Guide to one of the rivers). So in two years, hundreds of thousands of pounds have been spent to potentially gain a meager 20 miles of access, “secured – in principle”.

What is more, these voluntary access agreements tend to be highly restrictive and complicated.

There are over 41,000 miles of rivers (over 3 meters wide) with no access! At this rate gaining access to rivers is too slow. Voluntary access agreements are certainly not feasible or a practical strategic solution.

The report has shown in no uncertain terms that the work carried out was fundamentally flawed.

Just a few reasons why the study is flawed
• There was virtually no consultation with the British Canoe Union, the National Governing Body of the sport, representing the interests of over 50,000 paddlers. The Environment Agency do not understand a National Governing Bodies role I.e. not a statutory body or police force
• In the light of the Scottish Land Reform Act and CRoW as well as following example from other European countries, Canoeists are right to expect a more realistic approach to access.
• Emphasis has been placed on supply and demand being broadly in line. The supply of “water” includes lakes etc and bears no resemblance to the demand for moving water on rivers.
• Rather than finding an innovative solution this study fuels the angling versus canoeing debate.

What are we campaigning for?
New legislation such as the successfully implemented Scottish Land Reform Act 2003, that codifies responsible access to land and water. It protects the environment and activities of canoeists, anglers, other users and landowners who are all required to adhere to the Scottish Outdoor Access Code. Canoeing is not seeking a conflict with anglers and other river users. It wants to successfully co-exist to the wider benefit of the whole community, as canoeists do in Scotland, all over Europe and the rest of the world.

Why more rivers access?
Increase participation in sport and recreation
A legal right of access to rivers would provide phenomenal recreational opportunities for a whole group of people including canoeists, swimmers, and boaters with, knock-on benefits for public health. The recreational aspects of canoeing could coincide effectively with government’s “everyday sport” and Welsh Assembly Government’s “Climbing Higher Strategy” if only river users had more access.

Olympic success
It is not just recreational paddlers that would benefit. British Canoeing has an outstanding record in the Olympic Games. Our athletes achieved three Olympic medals in Athens and in London 2012 we want to achieve 4 Olympic Medals including possibly 2 gold. A legal right of access will directly help to improve the UK’s Olympic standing.

Contribution to the economy
In addition to increased opportunities for recreation and elite sport, increased access to rivers would mean more money for rural communities. Research has shown that canoeing contributes about £750 million a year for the economy of England and Wales as well as supporting over 15,000jobs.

Support for the campaign?
As my MP I am also asking you to support the campaign. There are many ways in which you can do this. Perhaps you would ask Parliamentary Questions on our behalf? Sign EDMs that will happen in the next session of Parliament and ask questions of DEFRA.

One question that could be asked is:
If the Government is a firm believer in championing outdoor activities why then is it taking so long to move on the access issue? Could you please explain why your Government has chosen to approach Costal Access with legislation but continues to look at access to rivers through voluntary arrangements? Is not land and water intrinsically linked?

Where can I find more information?
Visit www.riversaccess.org

I trust you appreciate the valuable contribution that canoeing makes; to the health of our nation, to the economy, Olympic medal success and to the community.

Legally protected access would remove conflict from the situation and provide clarity and certainty for those visiting our rivers.

Thank you for your support.

Kind regards,


Get campaigning.

Good lines, stay safe and see you on the wet stuff...

03 December 2006

Rising water and punishing winds

Well another day at Halton; there was no swapping of boats, kit or people to head off to better things this time because the water wasn't coming over the whole weir at the get in. This in all honesty means that the grade 3/4 gems of Sedburgh, like the Clough and Rawthey wouldn't be up. So I stayed at Halton with the rest of the club. I had managed to persuade one of my paddling buddies to drop the club's Eskimo Topolino Duo off at my house on the Saturday so I had that to keep me entertained on what has become a very familiar stretch of rapids.

Logistics were somewhat complicated seen as I had two boats, three seats and one person, myself, to get up the river to the rapids. It worked out that I shoved my All Star deck in my All Star and paddled the Topolino Duo up the river, towing my play boat from my chest harness. Once at the rapids I deposited the All Star on the island. I waited around for a while to see if there were any prospective candidates to go in the Topolino Duo, but when it looked doubtful I swapped boats and headed further up the rapids for a bit of 'me time' in my boat.

There were some alright waves on the river to get a bit of soul surfing in and I even managed to get a 360, and stick it, in one of the least retentive holes on the river. There was also one wave that I got air borne on for a split second. It was kind of unexpected so I didn't managed to throw anything down, but it was nice all together.

I eventually headed back down the river to my first victim (candidate) for the Topolino Duo so it was boat swapping time again and we eventually launched on the river. With a bit of shouting at my 69-year-old front passenger we got the boat ferry gliding and breaking in/out fairly successful. In fact we even pulled off a rescue when someone swam. It wasn't long before I had a new passenger, and this passenger had paddled with me before in the Topolino Duo on the Washburn in August. This ultimately meant that I could push it a bit more and we headed higher up the river.

By now a couple of hours had passed and the river was rising slowly, so when we headed higher up the river the water was getting bigger and a bit more lumpy when compared to earlier. In fact the river had risen that much a nice looking Christmas Tree floated past us as we launched onto the water and headed through the big waves to where the rest of the club were waiting to head on downstream and get off the water as it had risen that much the rapids were starting to get a bit washed out, and the place where we usually got out was under water.

Another picture and a video can be found here.

Good lines, stay safe and see you on the wet stuff...

26 November 2006

Another car shuffle... Another Greta

It was to Halton again today, like it was last week, however we arrived an hour earlier to allow for any change of venue, which some of us, me included, did, whilst others stayed at Halton. Those that stayed at Halton were the beginners from my club, but I felt it was a shame to waist all the water we had, had over the past week so four of us headed elsewhere in the general direction of Keswick, where we were meeting another paddler and one of their buddies. Whilst en-route to the motorway from Halton another paddler, who I've paddled with on several occasions, passed us going in the opposite direction, spun their car around and followed us to Keswick.

I may just point out at this point that I had made unofficial arrangements of sorts, through the UK Rivers Guidebook, to meet the Design Crisis lads in the South Lakes to paddle with them. However, it didn't work out, but it didn't really matter as I had a group to paddle with and we were heading to check out Newlands Beck. A river/beck I had never done and it is supposedly a nice grade 3/4 paddle. Good stuff.

On the way to Keswick we got a phone call from the paddler we were meeting in Keswick to say that Newlands Beck was a bit too low so plans were changed to paddle the Greta, which we thought would be absolutely tanking it down. It was not, when we peered over the bridge at Thelkeld the water was just over the white mark that has been placed on the bridge, but it was on.

It was back in the car to Keswick to meet up with the caller and their mate. Here we moved onto the climbing wall in Keswick to get changed and re-arrange some boats before heading back to Thelkeld Bridge to get on the river and head downstream. The river was nothing outstanding, I can honestly say that I have never been struck by the Greta, maybe with another two/three foot of water it would be this amazing river in some outstanding scenery, but I've just never caught it right.

Two hours later we were off the water and back at the climbing wall. People got changed, drivers were dispatched to get the cars from the top and everything was loaded up before we headed back to the M6 and Halton. I think I may have forgot to mention that I had managed to get a lift up to Keswick, so I was needing to get back to my house now. We pulled into the car park at Halton to find one lone car with boats on in the car park. Boats were moved around on this car and I was heading for home.

Good lines, stay safe and see you on the wet stuff...

25 November 2006

T'other Greta

This trip was organised about 10 hours before I was actually picked up, on the pool side at Fulwood Leisure Centre where I was instructing one of my paddling buddies to front deck roll. I just mentioned: "fancy paddling tomorrow?" and they did. So one simple text later at half-eight the following morning we had a destination sorted and I was picked up a couple of minutes later. We were on the road heading for a lay-by near Junction 34 where we were to meet another two paddlers; who I have never paddled with, but I do think I have met them before on some riverbank.

Kit was sorted out in the lay-by, all the boats were thrown on the roof of the Transit van and dry gear was shoved in the other van once we were changed. Then it was back on the road to the get out for the Ingleton Greta. Here the van with all the dry kit in was abandoned on the grass verge and we all piled into the Transit van, which carried onto Ingleton.

We put on the river about half-an-hour later with many other paddlers who were enjoying all the rain we had, had over the past week, but now the sun was shining and life couldn't get much better.

This was my first time on the river and what struck me the most was how scenic it was. The river meandered through open farmland with the Ingleton fells constantly over your shoulder. It made for some nice photography and it turned an easy grade II river into a very nice day's paddle.

We eventually reached the end of the river, where we had left the van, which wasn't the Transit van, about three-to-four hours later exhausted, hungry and a bit cold. It had been a nice paddle though, especially as it was totally unexpected, what with not having anything organised until the late hours of Friday night.

Drivers were dispatched to Ingleton and I was left to watch over the boats and take the final shot of the day (below), which put a really nice end to things.

I'm off paddling again tomorrow, not sure where yet, as I put a shout-out on the UK Rivers Guidebook to see if I could hook up with any paddlers in the Lakes.

More pictures can be found here.

Good lines, stay safe and see you on the wet stuff...

23 November 2006


I got a letter through today from PGL, one of the three companies I have applied to for work during my Gap Year. The letter I got sounded positive ("...you have the potential to make an excellent asset to the PGL staff team"), and I'm hoping it's going to work out for me and I get placed in France for the majority of the year instructing English school kids to kayak, whilst also getting in some of my own personal paddling on some Alpine rivers.

As for the present, the situation for the weekend is looking good. There is still alot of water around in the Lakes and Howgills, and just as much in Scotland and Wales, though it is unlikely that I'll get to the last two destinations. Maybe I'll get out on both Saturday and Sunday and start making headway on the list of rivers I want to do this season:
  • Upper Lune (done)
  • Rawthey
  • Clough
  • Hindburn
  • Roeburn
  • Kent - with lots of water; not just the low levels I'm used to
  • Sprint
  • Mint
  • Duddon
That's all for now.

Good lines, stay safe and see you on the wet stuff...

20 November 2006

It looked to be a good weekend...

I've just finished checking out all the online paddling stuff for the UK. It was the usuall stuff really start off on the UK Rivers Guidebook and head on - eventually after looking at photos, videos and websites linked from UKRGB - down to Canoe Cafe for the same. What is clear is that the UK has been hit with some mighty fine river levels this weekend.

On the northern side of the border, in Scotland, the Calair Burn was run.

Over the other border, in Wales, tourist levels meant that it was possible to get down Fairy Glen and some dedicated soles at Bangor Uni. were on the Ogwen this morning to catch the water.

The water wasn't just contained to over the borders. The Thames Valley witnessed some impressive levels and Hurley hit four gates and Sunbury Weir came into play.

Whilst I was on the Upper Lune, the guys at Bread and Butter hit up the Ingleton waterfalls just down the road from where I was and they looked to have a fair bit of water in.

As for the coming week, it's looking good. According to Metcheck there will be rain over Kendal for most of the week so I may get out on some nice rivers this weekend so make an effort to come back this time next week to see what I got up to.

Good lines, stay safe and see you on the wet stuff...

19 November 2006

In search of water...

Today was suppose to be another day at Halton, whilst the canoe club I'm a part of ran an introduction to moving water for some beginners. However, the rain gods blessed us this week and threw down some moisture to bring the levels up at Halton so that it was just not practical to take some newbies onto the fluffy white stuff. Therefore plans were hatched to take them else where, and I hatched plans with a couple of other dedicated soles to go in search of something harder and that is what we did.

After rearranged boats, kit and people a van and car left the main group of people, who were going to do a section of grade 1/2 on the Lune, to take a look at the Clough. I was in this group and we flew up the motorway to Junction 37 and Sedburgh, the center of the Howgills where there are some real grade 3/4/4+ gems, and one of these is the Clough. With good conversation in the van time soon flew by and we were at the get out for the Rawthey and then in no time at a bridge over the Clough, where one of the gorges were. It didn't look good; the river was empty. It needed another two foot of water; we were downhearted, but it was back into the van to the get out for the Rawthey for a regroup. When we stopped again we moved boats around a bit and it ended up that we had four boats on the van and four people, in a two person van, heading for the get in for the Upper Rawthey, another gem which flows out of the Howgills. The other car was left at the bottom with our dry gear.

We pulled up again at a suitable spot to scout the Rawthey and again it didn't look good; the river was empty. It needed a couple more inches of water; we were even more downhearted, so downhearted in fact that my heart may have dropped out of place!!! So it was back into the van and back for the car we had left earlier. There was a bit of people swapping before we were heading off to scout another river. This time it was the Upper Lune. We got to the take out and rearranged people again so that the van could head to the top and the car left at the bottom for shuttles at the end. I may just add that during all this driving we had been passing many cars with boats on the roof giving us waves and the odd person giving us a thumbs down sign to indicate that the water levels weren't good. What camaraderie?

We pulled up again and it looked good; there was enough water in the Upper Lune. The last time I had done this river there was a shingle bank fully exposed at the get in, and this time water was flowing over it. It wasn't just flowing over it, but it was actually flowing over it sufficiently enough to float my boat. It was on!!! We pulled boats and gear off and out of the van, moved the van into a better parking spot and got on the water. I probably didn't stop smiling for the whole time I was on the water. It was just great, continuous grade 3 rapids with lots of water coming down the river. The gorge sections were high, so high in fact that nasty looking boils were forming on eddy lines ideal for tail squirts and other slicing-your-end-under the-water type moves.

The main attraction to this river is near the end and so it was with great excitement that we headed on downstream. Our day was perfect, it was good paddling, in a fine location, with good mates. Then it happened. A shout came from the bank: "you can't canoe on here!" Great, then when looking at the culprit of the shouting it was no other than the farmer's son. We, needless to say, ignored the child and headed on downstream after exchanged some conversation where we pointed out that you couldn't actually fish the river either, which they were doing. Just after this we came upon the main attraction on the river, The Strid.

The last time that I paddled The Strid there was a rock in the entrance to the gorge that made the line some what more difficult to get, but this time it was just one mass of falling water, with a current which was falling, perpendicular, to the other to create a kind of folding fall. I ran it first, making two eddies to check out the river below the fall before I paddled into the abyss. I got the line spot on, I dropped off the top folding layer of water and flared it slightly before hitting the hydraulic at the bottom. My bow spat up, I threw myself forward to tame the spitting bronco before placing the bow rudder and making the eddy. Good stuff. I gave a thumbs up to the others and they followed on down. The river now eased off slightly, with stuff that was pretty similar to what we had already descended.

The bridge where we left the car was soon upon us, and out we got to get changed. One member of the group and myself were then left at the bridge with the boats whilst two of the group went and got the van back from the top and came to pick us up. During this period I had made a couple of phone calls to find out where everyone was - in the pub and this is where we headed.

Good lines, stay safe and see you on the wet stuff...

15 November 2006

For all you tea lovers...

Personally I can't stand the stuff, I much prefer a good cup of coffee, but it seems some people like the old Rosie Lee.

Check it out - Tea Total

Good lines, stay safe and see you on the wet stuff...

12 November 2006

Local Paddling

When November comes around many of the paddlers in the north-west head for Halton Rapids at, take a guess, Halton, just east of Lancaster. This section of river has some of the strictest, and most ridiculous access agreements in the country. Paddlers can only frequent the water in the months November, December and January and during the rest of the year they are 'unpaddleable'. Now this is the stupid part to the agreement; fisherman, the people who seem to have the upper hand when it comes to agreeing access to rivers, don't fish this section until the end of March and then when they can fish the river they don't. So why can't we paddle the river then? Well, know one is sure, but the agreement states we can only paddle it in the last two months and the first month of the year. Stupid isn't it?

Well, today I paddled the river for the first time this season and it was pretty similar to every other time I've been there at this particular level.

It was at a medium to high level with water coming over most the wear at the get in. Once changed I headed up the river as the rapids are upstream of the get in and worked my way up the smaller sections of rapids by ferry gliding and eddy hoping my way gradually upstream. When I had reached the farthest point upstream I could get with out getting out of my boat I explored the play potential in this area. The play potential was actually quite lacking. There looked to be this really sweet wave, which was actually near impossible to get on by ferrying out of the eddy. There were two further waves, but again these weren't great and required a ferry glide of momentous proportions with a really high stroke rate.

I eventually got bored of the rapids so I jumped out of my boat and clambered over, round and through trees until I was below the big open-book wear, which marks the farthest upstream point of the rapids. Again there wasn't anything that really stood out as being a top play feature but there was the odd wave that could be surfed and some lumpy water you could get wet in when the waves crashed into your face. I also managed to drop onto the good looking wave I mentioned before and had a bit of play on that. I walked back, once more, to the top before getting off the river.

There's a short video of one of the play features here.

Good lines, stay safe and see you on the wet stuff...

11 November 2006

The Times Gap Year Show

I've just got back from a day out in the busy metropolis of Manchester. It isn't often that I head into the big city of the north-west but I had bought tickets to go to the Times Gap Year Show at the G-Mex so I thought it might be a good idea to go and see what was happening there.

We had an early start and it was that early we arrived at the doors to the G-Mex and the exhibition was closed. We waited for a while in the biting cold wind before they eventually let us in to peruse the stands at our leisure. Our first port of call was the PGL stand, and then once finished here it was across the walk way to the Cotswold Outdoors garage climbing wall to pit my skills against a block of revolving metal. I lasted for two minutes two seconds - only twenty-three seconds behind the exhibition best, set by a member of the British Climbing Team - before falling off and hitting the deck. We were then finished and it was only just before eleven o'clock so we dragged the exhibition out a bit with a coffee during the two minutes silence for Armistice Day, before going to investigate travel insurance for the year and finally a talk about funding Gap Years. We eventually finished and headed into Manchester for lunch and some afternoon shopping with my brother who's studying at Manchester University.

The day was rounded off with a Chinese buffet and then we headed home. I think I've now got my options sorted for my Gap Year. I'll be applying to work at PGL for the full year and hopefully get some travelling in, in between the two seasons my Gap Year covers. I may also apply for Acorn Adventure and TJM Travel if I get no joy with PGL.

I'm off paddling tomorrow so I'll post soon.

As always,

Good lines, stay safe and see you on the wet stuff...

05 November 2006

A Weekend of Paddling

I've just got back from a weekend away up in the north-east at the Tyne Tour. This was the first 'Tour' for me and this was the case for the majority of people who had come from my canoe club.

I finished college early on Friday so my Dad and I were on the road by 4pm, this meant we had a head start on many people, who we were meeting at Hexham, where we, and everyone else on the 'Tour' were camping. I thought the early start would allow us to drive up at a leisurely speed and arrive just as the sun was going down and pitch the tent. However, we arrived at the campsite in the dark to a very full Tyne Green where we were expected to find some of our party who had already arrived. It took us half-an-hour before we eventually located them - thank god for the mobile phone and texts- and a further fifteen minutes to pitch the tent, with the aid of head torches, and unload the car.

Over the course of the night the rest of our group arrived and pitched their tents, and eventually we headed into Hexham to try and find warmth with the help of a pub. However, we weren't in luck mainly because it was 11pm and everywhere was full with other paddlers. So we headed back to Tyne Green to stand in the cold. By now many other paddlers had arrived and pitched tents and there was a definite atmosphere hanging over Tyne Green. There were many little groups huddled around tents fighting off the cold and generally having a good time. At one point in the night we were surrounding by Sheffield Hallam Uni. Canoe Club who were looking for anyone to have a chat with and we spent a while talking with them before they moved on. I think we eventually retired to our sleeping bags at a-quarter-past-one though we didn't get any sleep as the Uni. Canoe Clubs that were frequenting the event made a rather healthy noise way into the early hours.

Saturday eventually came and we could eventually see the sheer scale of the 'Tour'. Every bit of grass was populated by either tents, boats, paddles or kit and many people were flitting between these items trying to organise themselves into some sort of state to be ready for paddling the river later in the day. Others just let it all pass them by and had a leisurely morning getting themselves ready. I think I fell more into this class, but I was still ready to be off when the rest of my group were so neither approach to getting ready made a difference in respect to speed. Anyway we eventually headed out as a small convoy of vehicles, which actually made up one long convoy from Tyne Green, at Hexham, up to one of the get-ins, at Barrasford. When we reached Barrasford, where the parking was on the perimeters of the local football pitch, we were greeted by car upon car of paddlers getting ready to head off downstream back to Tyne Green. The group I was with spent a fair amount of time packing boats up before we moved off down to the water.

Tyne Green - a sea of tents
Barrasford - the car park at the get on

Once at the water I got my first look at the river and it didn't really make any impression on me. The thing that did however was the sheer number of people getting on the water. So not one for being left out I headed off after everyone else to launch into the river I just wasn't aware of the route I was taking to get down to the waters edge. It was a bit steep to say the least.

Getting the boats down to the water

I was soon on the water and I just sat there taking it all in. I think this must have been the first time I had been on a river were it resembled something like a morning commute. There was little lumps of plastic everywhere you looked and some of them were in fancy dress - over the course of the weekend I saw two camouflaged paddlers in a camouflaged TopoDuo to suit (if I saw them they mustn't have been that well camouflaged!) and a Knight in Shining Armour. We soon headed off downstream and the group I was with took the right hand side of the island. I thought the left hand side looked more interesting, but for some reason we didn't go that way.

The rapid to the right of the island

After this rapid the river flattened off and we carried on downstream. I can't really say much about the river now as it got all pretty similar. There was a lot of paddlers on a river, which was full of flat sections of river interspersed with small shingle rapids with the odd play wave chucked in. Even though this may sound a bit boring it wasn't as we were on the Tyne Tour, which seemed to make a pretty average river a lot more interesting.

Paddling one of the flat sections with the morning sun in our faces
Lunch stop after the wear at Chollerford
Sat on the water at Walwick Grange
Surfing the wave beyond Walwick Grange
Sat on the water after rescuing a swimmer

We eventually reached Warden's Gorge. This gorge had been spoken about to great length whilst out at pubs with the group of people I was with and it was with some trepidation that I approached it with. I had been told it would be nothing for me to worry about, but still, when you here stories of swimmers being all the way down the gorge you start to think up many different scenarios. Anyhow we took the start of the gorge on the right, but there looked to be an interesting line just to the left of the island, but again I'm not sure why we didn't take it. We were now in to the deep, dark depth of the gorge and when looking downstream there was just a rock promontory of rescuers with throwlines to hand. I took the rest of the gorge slowly breaking out frequently to take photo's. There were some playwaves part way down the gorge but I just didn't make the effort to get to them instead I headed to the bottom and messed around there for a while and watched some carnage and spot-on throw lining from the rescue team's on the bank.

The sign placed at the lead into the gorge. The group I was with took the "G3" option
Part way down the gorge
A random paddler in the gorge with a really sweet playwave to the right of them
The surf wave at the bottom of the gorge

Once we had finished playing on the wave at the bottom of the gorge we headed on downstream and once again it was a lot of paddlers on a river, which was full of flat sections of river interspersed with small shingle rapids with the odd play wave chucked in, but it was all good fun.

That was that for the paddling on Saturday. The rest of the day, well what was left of it, was preparing for the ceilidh later in the evening and this was something that some of my group had come specially for. It was a noise affair, but it was in a drafty sports hall, which soon warmed up once you chucked over a hundred paddlers in there and a cracking ceilidh band to whip them up into an excitable frenzy it got quite warm. In fact it was such an excitable frenzy that in the interval some of the Uni. Canoe Club's set about making human pyramids on the dance floor. Some were more successful that others, but most of them resulted in bodies piled up on the floor after what looked like a painful fall.

Sunday eventually came and it ran pretty much the same as the day before. Though there were a couple of slight variations.
  1. I took the left line at the rapid by the get in at Barrasford and kind of messed it up resulting in a bit of a rock bashing and a nice set of scratches on my helmet.
  2. There were less paddlers on the water.
  3. I took the left line on Warden's Gorge, which that sign said "G4ish water fall" and hit it perfectly.
What was left now was the drive back to Preston where there was a good hour's worth of kit sorting to be done. Great!!!

More pictures can be found here.

Good lines, stay safe and see you on the wet stuff...