Little Eggleshope Beck

Little really is the operative word here…

Starting with a lot of lying snow, a big thaw hit on Saturday night, so rivers low down were always going to be big. However, by morning Sunday the temperatures had dropped, so our plan to find something in spate higher up to avoid the pitfalls of potentially long cold swims in the main rivers was looking less likely. The main group (having abandoned the idea of driving across to the Rawthey early on) made its way to the South Tyne, but Dave Peel reckoned we should do our own thing. The Upper Wear looked perhaps a bit big with just two of us interested, but Little Eggleshope was an exploratory classic with just enough water and no major hazards like trees (we thought).

The first drop on the beck – just wide enough !

After shuttling Dave’s car to the bottom, we staggered through soggy snow at the top to reach the beck just above a little drop. By the time we reached the water, we’d already got frozen hands, and ten minutes with both of us fighting to get Dave’s deck on, then a similar period on my own to get mine on didn’t help. Once actually on the water, however, things went better. For a while. It’s a bit of a bump and scrape in places and eddies are all but absent, leaving room to get your paddle in the water just occasionally (usually in a frantic stern rudder where there’s room for a blade). So when we came round a bend to find a log (with a wire trap for grouse-eating carnivores on top) right across the water with about a foot of clearance, stopping was always going to be a bit marginal. Dave managed it with a few feet to spare, and I tried to turn round to paddle upstream whilst I looked for a shallow enough spot to leap out. However the width of the stream was well less than the length of a boat, so I solved the problem by pinning neatly, both ends embedded in the peaty banks. Getting safely out of the boat was no problem, but levering the damn thing back out again in the freezing water was a bit of a task.

Boat nicely jammed across the width of the flow – oops !

Back on, we soon came upon another one, with an eddy or two to stop and check this time. Dave reckoned he could sneak it on river left, and just got under. I followed, but neglected to tuck my paddle low enough and left it on the upstream side – damn ! Out of the boat (not a swim – it was never deep enough for that) and regroup.

It’s about to go pear shaped – that paddle should have gone underneath 🙁

Fortunately that proved to be the last man-made hazard (though there were a couple more logs that had apparently washed out and were no longer across the stream) and the rest was pure entertainment – of a perverse sort. Finding purchase for a paddle to steer round the shallows and rocks made for constant active and interesting paddling, with a few thrutches over shallows or grunts to get out of brief pins. At one stage I noticed that I was ahead and on my own, but managed to find a tiny eddy in time to see Dave’s paddle heading towards me. Dave wasn’t far behind (he’d leapt out of the boat again, since it was pinned), but I didn’t manage to catch the paddle as I couldn’t let the boat move from the eddy or I’d have been back in the flow, heading backwards with no room to turn… He caught it in the end, managed to get his deck on without assistance, then found his drain plug out and managed to get that back without giving himself a hernia too.

More typical of the trip – fairly easy paddling with few eddies

At this point we weren’t far from the end, and Dave had seen that there were no more man traps ahead, so we set off again confidently. Dave grabbed an eddy/shingle bank river left just as the road came into view, but I thought to get a bit nearer, then found it too shallow to reach my chosen eddy, grabbed the last possible eddy, popped my deck and then found I was being sucked back into the current before I could get my legs out.

Spot the deliberate mistake: it would have been an entertaining little tunnel and drop – with a deck…

I got turned and paddled under the little tunnel, and over the drop at the far side safely, but with no deck I then sank and had to make another hasty exit from swamped boat. Oh well, no harm done, just a bit of struggle to get the boat emptied and up the steep snowy bank in a strong wind… This trip now features as the first run in my “Ditches compilation”:

The Kent and the Leven

We had quite a few people keen to paddle on Saturday following the very wet period over New Year. The Kent had dropped off to a quite nice level, whereas Windermere keeps the Leven high for much longer and this was at quite a chunky level compared to the last time I paddled it (as a fallback when the Keswick Greta was too low).

Once again, we started with a big group (twelve, including six non-SOC paddlers), putting on above Scroggs Weir. It’s quite a quick trip at this level, and we only had one swimmer, so we were finished quite quickly, since some people had already planned for a second river the same day. We didn’t bother to retrieve the car from Kendal before heading over to Newby Bridge for the Leven. The put-in isn’t quite where I remembered it, but minor navigational errors were soon corrected and the shuttle run (very limited parking at the bottom today). We yet again split into two groups, though we were quite close together (overlapping ?) most of the time. The river is mostly easy water apart from a series of weirs and a few other drops (and one portage round a very serious weir) though there’s some fun rapids in the middle, too. None of the stoppers proved problematical, and some even provided playspots. We all took out river right to look at the drop under the bridge at Backbarrow, and I think one or two chose to portage this. I managed to find a good spot on river right almost under the bridge and shot video with a camera fixed to a paddle blade. I think about 50% of us had to roll up (myself included) but everyone came up first time, despite the very aerated water – but there is plenty of time in the big downstream pool.

Towards the end is a rapid which had quite escaped my memory, so I cheerfully set off down it in the lead, down the right side of a large island. I was a little surprised to find it was harder than anything I’d recalled this far into the trip – maybe we’d gone left last time, but Dave had always come right and thought there might be some unknown hazard on the left… Everyone else came down upright, too, so there was no problem – just a slight surprise. Not far below this is the take out river left under the final bridge before the river becomes tidal.