Just ten years ago this coming Thursday, we were in Dumfries and Galloway looking for water. We were not having much success, but took a look at the River Doon, which is supposed to run on the compensation flow from the dam. We walked away, and found water in Carsphairn Lane which was being released from the other end of the dammed loch. We’d wasted so much time driving around that we finished that run in the dark, with ice forming on our buoyancy aids.
This weekend was shaping up to be very similar, as despite huge levels on Friday, we found no water in the first two rivers we’d gone for. So once again we found ourselves at the top of the Doon, on its 2½ cumec compensation release, with only a couple of hours daylight left. A check had shown that Carrick Lane would also run, but the forest road was closed. No-one fancied either a 2km walk-in or the risk of benightment on the river, so this time, we decided to put on the Doon, which a quick inspection of the first few hundred metres showed to be a reasonable proposition.
Over the horizon line running blind in full confidence – guidebook grade 3…
Grade 3, the guidebook says, and with comments like “this guidebook tends to overgrade things” we set off expecting a technical but not too demanding run with the main hazard being odd bits of timber. It soon proved steeper than we’d expected, and quite narrow in places with plenty of rocks to get hung up on. With a group of seven and small eddies, we made quicker progress than might be expected, with a few odd pins and some drops not done entirely elegantly. A footpath followed the left bank, providing us with spectators who also thought it an entertaining day out… and did provide some scope for inspection or setting safety
Mary on the only actual drop on the Doon.
The gorge ended soon enough, and the river opened out, flattened out and became a little tediously shallow in places, with even more overhanging branches. The final part was deeper water but very encumbered with willows before we came out into a shallow loch with plenty of wildfowl and just about enough daylight to get the the take-out bridge at the far end.
Just like the trip ten years ago, we elected to head for the Nith on Sunday. This was just over two feet at the Drumlanrig bridge gauge (0.75m on the SEPA gauge) which is a fine level – enough water to keep moving well and provide a few boils, but quite technical in the gorge.
No-one seems to have told them it isn’t a Boater-X !
We met up with the other SOC group putting on just ahead of us, having done the same trip the previous day with a foot or so more water. We soon overtook them, intent on a mission to see if we would have time for the Border Esk as a second river.
Only brief stops for playboating tricks at the start of the gorge…
The gorge proved to be read-and-run all the way, with the tree that blocked the entry rapid last time we were here (in low water at Easter 2013) nowhere to be seen. Mary had a successful roll, and we were at the end well ahead of the other group. However, by the time we’d shuttled (still only 12:30), enthusiasm for a second river had waned somewhat and we got changed.