River Wear – November 22nd 2014.
On a cold November Saturday, a group of paddlers of various origin, took a fleet of Canadians down the River Wear from Bishop Auckland to Sunderland Bridge – a paddle of around 9 miles. Despite thick fog on the two drive to the put-in, the weather ended up actually almost perfect. A heavy downpour the night before had filled the river and ensured quite a fast flow all the way along our route. And although still quite cloudy when we set off, the morning was dry and the sun eventually broke through to bathe the river in hazy sunlight.
The river itself was murky and fast-flowing due to the over night rain. The raised levels ensured that we encountered a constant series of rapids ranging from little riffles through to the occasional very short Grade 3 one. Most turned out to be Grade 2 however, with a nice amount of waves and moving water for the open boats to play in. There were no real drops as such – just a very shallow sloping weir. The countryside was quite picturesque in places but the close proximity of towns ensured that the banks often exhibited quite an amount of litter.
The swollen levels ensured that we moved fairly fast with minimal effort, covering the 9 miles in around 3.5 hours including time for stops for playing and lunch. However, the shuttle run to ensure cars were at either end and to retrieve the boats proved to be quite a lengthy process as we had to negotiate the Saturday afternoon traffic of Bishop Auckland and it’s tiny streets. On reflection, an earlier start and moving the trip to a Sunday might be beneficial should we do this one again.
And do it again we all probably would. Although the levels ensured a more exciting ride than is probably the norm for this stretch, after a bit of rain, this proved to be almost the perfect open boat trip. Bouncy, fast flowing and with enough features to keep it interesting.
One of the nice aspects of the day was that everybody we encountered seemed to be curious and friendly. That even extended to (believe it or not) an angler near the put-in who genuinely wished us a nice day and a safe journey! It made a wonderful change to being shouted at and set the mood for the rest of the paddle.