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...