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Les’ December Paddling Tour


I’d not planned to be on the club trip to the Wharfe as I was supposed to be elsewhere, but when those plans changed a spot of last minute texting (i.e. it’s going to rain, lets paddle tomorrow) saw me heading up to Devil’s Bridge to meet up with Gill and a few others from Leeds canoe club for a paddle. And an ambitious plan it was – over to the Kent and then back to paddle the Lune.


With only four paddling the logistic were simple: arrive at the bottom of the Kent, have a quick inspect of the final drop, get changed, put all the boats on one car, drive to the get on and paddle – why can’t all trips be that easy.


Or indeed why couldn’t this one – as the other three had all paddle it before and I hadn’t I didn’t bother looking at where we should be going, I’d just drive where I was told! Unfortunately the guide book was in the boot and the memories little sketchy – never mind we get on at the ‘other’ get on missing out the 1km of grade 2 arm up for the trip and drop straight into the first grade 3 (a check of the guide afterwards revealed the memories and directions were perfect, if we’d been on the right road).


On with the paddling, the innocuous first rapid had boils and swirls galore, rolling one and ‘unseating’ another.

Re-grouped, round the corner was a nice grade 4 with big stoppers and wave, then dodgy weir to portage, before the drop into the second gorge – complete with boils and swirls, quickly followed by L-shaped drop with a very evil stopper that was best avoided on the bank. Next a little weir, bringing us to the last drop, with the obvious line down the 3m fall not being so obvious from above. And that was it a quick short blast down some big drops.


A quick change, load up and collect cars then off to the river no 2, the Lune. I would always advocate getting on the river early to be sure you have enough daylight for the trip, so getting on at ten to two seemed wrong, but the river was shifting and with a small group we knew we cold bounce down pretty quick. And it was - just 50 mins to get down! Although we did get off at Killington missing the last mile of the usual trip, but with the river high the two weirs below here wouldn’t have been appealing.  All the gorge sections on the way were fun and playful. The constriction, usually the hardest rapid, was just a straight shoot through and usually a choice of routes available out of the pool.


The following weekend it was an early start to get to Barnard Castle for a full weekend on the Tees. However the plan couldn’t have been more different to the previous Sunday’s fast trips. Instead Saturday was day of coaching working with club paddlers developing towards their 4 star leader award, spending around 2 hours playing on the short section of rapid in Barnard Castle, before doing possibly the shortest river trip possible down to abbey rapids, covering just 2 miles in the whole 4 hours plus of paddling. Again the focus of the trip was about taking time to play on all the rapids, hitting as many eddies as possible.


And for the finale a run down abbey rapids at a nice bouncy level, into the grade 3 final drop which caused a few spills, and a major rescue to recover Vicks’ brand new paddle that had come to rest in a cleft in the rocks on the far side – all videoed by Sarah in case it became a rubber duck moment (sorry to disappoint).


Fortified by a large pub meal and a few  beers it was back to the river Sunday to meet up with Cliff, Dig, Guy and Nick for a longer trip.

The over night rain had lifted the river about a foot, so we opted for the run from Cotherstone to Barnard Castle. The higher level meant bouncy waves and big volume flows, fun paddling all round. About half way down is a little ledge giving a powerful rapid with some big waves that needed to be crashed through, all under the gaze of Digs’ new headcam shame the video didn’t come out.


Getting out to walk round the big gobbling weir in Barnard Castle, Dig managed to provide the one piece of entertainment that we needed the camera for. Stepping out of his boat and straight into contention for the rubber duck award, he missed the bank and went chest deep into the river.  


The river that had been rising steadily all morning, had by now gone up another foot so getting back on after a bite to eat gave a fun ride down through Barnard Castle bridge – very different to the previous day, and confirming it was a good decision to get off here rather then run down to Abbey.


However the high level was just too tempting so Nick and I headed off the mile and a half to Abbey in just 30mins including getting out for a quick look at massive stopper now  occupying the bottom of the rapids prior to running through it – big volume paddling at its best I think.


The final trip of the month was back to the Lune heading off through the snow with Nick and Jess to meet up with Mark L at the riverside. He immediately filled us with confidence by regaling us with the tale of his 11 swims the last time he was on this river, quickly adding that it was a while ago on his first ever river trip.


The river was again at a nice level and Mark made it down the first rapid so things were looking up. In fact it was half way down the river before the magnetic rock tripped him up. At this rate he was never going to equal that swim record!

Although falling out of the back of the eddy at the constriction, allowed another to be added to the tally. This time round we ran the trip through the two weirs, a more complete trip enjoying the final few rapids on the way to the confluence with the Rothay and the get off. The Lune is always a great trip, and I’m sure Mark enjoyed it much more than his previous day on the river.


Les Ford