Scottish Borders Weekend, Border Esk & The Lune
Written By Stuart Malcolmson
After an initial interest from a large number of paddlers, the number dropped to a select few. Stuart and Steve (from Quorn and Beaumanor) and Andy O and Ben (from PaddlePlus), downed tools early (Hooray!!) on the Friday and jumped into the van and headed up to the Scottish borders for a weekend of white water.
After an uneventful journey, albeit Stuart and Steve knowing ‘exactly where they were going’ and getting totally lost, the group arrived at Bailey Mill. Once fed and watered, they headed straight for the most important location, the bar! After a very wet and windy night, the next day saw excellent weather with lots of water and clear skies.
The group headed up to Langholm and the ‘get on’ for the Border Esk. The river was pretty high and flowing fast. The first part of the river was mainly a relaxing Grade 1-2 paddle with excellent wildlife sightings, including a pair of Harris Hawks. Then the fun began.
The middle section of the river is made up of various short Grade 3 sections, with longer sections of Grade 1 between. All were paddling well and were on a high as they reached the lower section and the Grade 4 weir. The weir itself is split into the main shoot (Grade 4 part) and a long concrete slope, similar to Swans Nest, with a short technical section beyond. The group negotiated the weir with ease and carried on to the get out, only to find that the shuttle vehicle had been blocked in by a coach driver, dropping off a local football team. Once the driver had been beaten, the van was freed and the group headed back to the bar! An evening of sophisticated conversation, discussing rivers, pool and polishing off a bottle of port (Ben and Steve!!), before all retired for a well-earned sleep.
The Sunday came early, as the wind and rain battered against the apartment. Storms had been hammering across the UK all night which meant that driving would prove dangerous. However, as we all know, there’s no such thing as bad weather when you’re hunting for high water. The group quickly packed and headed for the River Irthing.
Upon arrival the group were extremely surprised to find it virtually empty. This river definitely only fills when the rains coming from the North West. They then decide that heading South on the M6, to the River Lune, was the way forward.
Having very nearly been blown off the motorway, the group arrived at the get on point. The river was very very high and fast flowing. At this point both Steve and Andy decided they would not paddle, although Andy had said much earlier in the day that he wasn’t feeling too great - Steve was just being a wuss!! Ben and Stuart decided that to pass up the opportunity would be a sacrilege, and jumped straight out of the van and up to the launch.
The flow was indeed fast and the wind much higher than anticipated (as both nearly lost paddles and were often paddling with the flow but getting nowhere!) Now, for those that don’t know the River Lune, it’s the one you can see from the M6 as you travel between the Kendal and Penrith junctions. This meant that there was lots of meandering backwards and frwards under the road. Once at the Grade 4 section, Ben paddled expertly through and Stuart bottled it. Which he will now regret for the rest of his life – well until we head back up in January.
Once both paddlers were back on, they continued down through all of the following Grade 2-3 sections with ease, only stopping when the wind held them back. On arrival at the get out point, they were met by Andy and Steve who informed them that an earlier group had just left with various casualties, (2 mild hypothermics, 1 gash to the face and 1 dislocated shoulder – heading to hospital), so they were pretty pleased that our weekend hadn’t even provided a swim.
A good weekend was had by all and were left pleased and happy with their own paddling performance. More trips will be run in the future, aiming to paddle those rivers that aren’t usually on a list of people paddling from the middle of the country.
I would like to thank Ben, Andy and Steve for coming and hope that we will all be paddling together again soon. And, if you want to know which Manchester based canoe club you should definitely not join, then just speak to one of us, as it sounds like they have epic adventures on pretty much every trip.
Photos of the trip are in the gallery including a movie of Ben on the Grade 4 section.