Thursday, 10 November 2011

The Cumberland Ring - In Film

Our adventures, trials and tribulations seem like such a long time ago. The memories of those intense days on the water may have faded a little but the good news is that we shot some video footage along the way. This has all been put together into a short film.

Enjoy the moods of the river and the freedom of the coast and perhaps dream up your own plans to try the Cumberland Ring, or plan your very own local expedition / challenge.

Friday, 4 March 2011

Mission Accomplished!

51.5 km
5hrs paddling

With plans to make the most of the flooding tide, we woke early and were well underway by 7am. Setting off at low water had the obvious disadvantage of a long way to trolley the boats before we found the water. The plan was to catch the flood, shoot past Silloth and finally reach Beaumont, where we finished our Eden descent just as the tide was at its highest.

Once afloat we paddled off into an eerie mist, keeping well offshore to avoid extensive sandbanks. The sea was completely flat, land was out of sight and it was really quite difficult to paddle on a compass course with no features to act as reference. The GPS showed that we were being carried along nicely at speeds varying from 8km/h to 19km/h.

Just after passing Port Carlisle we caught up with the flooding tide and found ourselves surfing a very small bore. It was a bit odd to be surfing a wave with the bow of the boat hovering over sand, but it added to the interest and kept us moving in the right direction.

It wasn't long before we were in the river channel paddling against gentle flow, past Rockcliffe and on to Beaumont, our intended finish where we found Jimski waiting armed with the biggest camera I have ever seen.

Is this mission accomplished? Water levels were low in the rivers at the start of the week so we didn't start quite as high up as planned. The gap between where we started on the two rivers is 16km as the crow flies, and a little longer by boat or walking. In all we have paddled the greater part of two fantastic rivers and had a wonderful 4 days on the sea. We have covered a total of 340 km. Yes, I think it's mission accomplished.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

North from St. Bees

An early start was needed to catch the last of the flood, although we still ended up paddling against the ebb long before we got to Allonby. The ice on the tents was even thicker in the morning and Kate's tent still had a good amount on it when it was pitched again at the end of the day.
Wind farms were a persistent feature along this section:
Wind and tide against us, plus the consideration of how far out the water is at low tide, meant that a stop short of Allonby made perfect sense. We even got a connection to the Internet to post the first version of this blog entry.

Dinner included the rather splendid sticky toffee pudding provided by Cartmel Village Shop. Heating it up in a pan with an inch of boiling water seems to work fairly well and the water can then be used to make instant custard:The sunset gave the campsite a deceptively pleasant look; the photo doesn't show the busy road that was 20 yards away!There was even enough driftwood for a fire:
We need to catch the flood again tomorrow, so the kettle will go on at 0530 for a coffee before the long trolley haul down the beach. The run up to Carlisle needs to be timed so that we hit the tidal limit of the Eden at 1230. It should be a fast paddle but it all depends on the wind.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Piel to St. Bees

Long hard slog but with the wind behind us. Landed at St. Bees just as it was getting dark. Ice on the tents within minutes of landing but a good hot meal warmed us up before getting an early night.

Last night's dinner of pork chops came from Damien, a Piel Island pig. Breakfast came from Phoebe:
There is still industry at Barrow:but also some wildlife:We had a view of the hills that not many people get to see:A rest and the last of the excellent Cumberland sausage occupied us during a forced long lunchbreak while we waited for the all clear from the Eskmeals firing range. The people at the range were very friendly and helpful, driving down to let us know when it would be safe to proceed.
The downside of the long lunch break was the distance to the water afterwards. Not only had the tide gone out a long way but we also had to go around a stretch of rocks that it had uncovered.
Our afternoon paddle took us past Sellafield:and we carried on paddling past sunset:

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Salt water at last

This morning, we launched into a chilly river Lune at Lancaster. There was frost on the ground, but the blue sky gave a hint of the fantastic day to come. It wasn't long before we felt the pull of the ebb tide hastening our progress out to Morecambe Bay.

Navigation was unexpectedly tricky - a mist reduced visibility enough that the far side of the bay could not be seen for the first half of the crossing. The buoys guided us out of the Lune channel but after that it was a matter of keeping to a bearing and checking progress on the GPS.

After the cold start, our only real problem was overheating. The 37km trip became hard work as we crossed the bay; the tide was against us more than it was with us.

We found a warm welcome at Piel Island - an island with easy access where you can camp near a castle and a pub. What more can you ask for?

We're as happy as (Piel Island) pigs in mud! It's just a shame that Jim wasn't able to join us.

Monday, 28 February 2011

The River Lune in one day

8.5hrs paddling
Several weirs
Several moments of concern (no swims)
4 fishermen (2 very happy ones!)
5.9km/hr average speed.

Over the last 3 days, we have paddled many kilometres of stunningly beautiful river that few people will see until rivers access is changed here in England. It is quite possible that more British paddlers have toured along the Ardeche, Sun Koshi and Colorado Rivers, than the hidden stretches of Rivers Eden and Lune. Yet these beautiful British rivers are national treasures, hidden from public view by outdated traditions and rules that bear no relevance in todays modern age of outdoor excersise and fitness.

With no significant rain for the last three days, the water levels in the River Lune were low. Rather than our intended start at Newbiggin-on-Lune, We launched at the begining of the classic whitewater run at Beckfoot.
Shallow pebbly rapids led to the first of the narrow limestone chutes that typify this well-loved stretch. Each chute became more technical until the notorious 'Strid' was reached. Two of us missed the eddies above, which led to bottom lips quivvering for a moment or two. Friendlier rapids led to two weirs, the lower of which is Stangerthwaite weir and has a fearful reputation. Both Passed without incident and we soon emerged below the Rawthey confulence into more placid waters. 

The River Lune then led us peacefully through the world of the landed gentry. A beautiful rolling landscape with a mixture of farms, woodland and hunting land. When we reached Kirkby Lonsdale we stopped for a break at Devil's Bridge before heading on to the second half of the day. 

Further on, the river becomes broad and shallow, meandering accross a flood plain in a broad valley. In this ideal fishing territory we met four anglers, two of which were very happy to have just landed a catch and were willing to share their moment with us.

A while after Loyn Bridge we met up with our friend Peter Roscoe who joined us for the final section. Peter paddles Halton Rapids regularly and showed us the best lines. When we eventually arrived at Lancaster we landed close to Skerton Weir and made our way to Brookbank Canoes Lancaster branch nearby. They made us very welcome providing us with a place to get changed and hot drinks all round. Peter then gave us a lift back to Kates van before we all tucked into some more Cumberland Sausage back at Kate's house.

I'm sad to say that I have decided that I must finish the trip here. I have aggrevated a prevoius injury to my left arm and it would be unsafe and irresponsible for me to carry on. Kate and Sean have every chance of completing the Cumberland Ring. As they head out to sea this morning making for Piel Island, I wish I was with them. However, all I can do now is wish them anything and everything that could help them in reaching the end on Friday.

Sunday, 27 February 2011

Eden completed

First, a few statistics...

2 days (8.5hrs + 6hrs paddling)
109.2km (68.1 + 41.1)
1 portage
8 fishermen (7 pleasant ones!)
8.7km/hr average speed on day 1
8.3km/hr average speed on day 2

Paddling almost the entire length of a river gives a perception of how a river evolves as its waters travel from the hills to the sea. We started in the Scandal Beck at first light on day one, at the highest place with enough water to float, and finished just above the normal tidal limit on the second day. The night was spent in a sheltered bivi spot on the riverside.

A little more water would have been nice in the upper section but we got down to the confluence with the Eden without too much scraping. Skills in dodging trees were tested from the start, as the clear, shallow water flowed swiftly over the brown, yellow and grey rocks of the river bed.

There was much more water as soon as we joined the Eden, quickly boosted by a series of other tributaries. The river depth increased enough to be able to put in proper paddle strokes, improving our rate of progress. The banks were a mixture of woodland and grazing on either side of what we discovered to be a beautiful touring river.

Second breakfast (or first lunch) saw us get through some more of the local sausage (*), this time as sandwiches. This meal was a welcome break on a small island in the river after 23km of continuous paddling. All afternoon we made swift progress along flat, but fast moving water, until we arived at Eden Lacy. Here a weir forced a quick inspection, and momentary excitement before we landed for lunch part two and a tour of Lacy's caves. Our first day ended with a blast down the usual white water section of the Eden to finish at a Armathwaite for beers and a bivi.

An excellent pub in Armathwaite (the Fox and Pheasant) gave us good food, good beer and internet access. However, sheer exhaustion forced us to leave fairly early and return to our bivi site.

Pre-dawn preparations allowed an early start, followed immediately by a strategic portage of Armathwaite weir. None of us had any desire for heroics and a possible dunking so early in the day. Flat but fast-moving water assisted our passage through much more open farmland, while giant looping meanders increased the distance we had to paddle to reach our destination at the tidal limit. The narrow, shallow stream that we started on had become a mature high-volume river on its way to the Solway.

[* - The last of the sausage was a vital ingredient in this evening's pasta sauce. We look forward to trying the second variety after tomorrow's paddle.]