River Tees, The Rumour Tour (Cotherstone to Barnard Castle)
Saturday, 26th February 2022
Written by Clive Edwards The day started early and bright, 6.50am - the trailer and minibus were being loaded up and we were soon on our way with Niamh bedded down on the back seats, and Sophie crunched up on a single seat with her coat over her head.
A straightforward journey except for a detour along the M18 and M62, due to the A1 being closed, returning to the A1 near Wetherby and a comfort stop at the services.
At Cotherstone, down a steep narrow lane, we met up with Cian, Tony, Anne and Nathan with Whistler. It was difficult to know what to wear being sunny, but I decided to have my onesie under my dry suit because of the water temperature. While the shuttle arrangements were made, we transferred the kayaks to the water ready for the off. It’s a nice launch point with calm water, cut off from the Tees and a feature by an island. Despite the heavy rain during the week the water level was low, but high enough to cover rocks.
A few of us got on the water to warm up. I felt very uncomfortable to start, too hot, and my BA felt very tight on my chest. I stuck with it and felt a bit looser when we got going and was just nicely warm. When the main paddle started, we went around the island to warm up below the rapid. This was Cian’s second paddle on this type of moving water and Tony and Fay soon had him crossing confidently across the flow. We then moved on downstream.
The lead was shared by the more advanced paddlers who had knowledge of this stretch of water. It was my first paddle here and it’s typical of parts below Barnard Castle with rocky rapids. A simple secret with rocks is to let Scott lead and follow him. If he gets through ok, you know you will be alright. If he gets stuck, choose another line.
There are lots of features to get through, interesting rock eddies and as I have said earlier, lots of rocky rapids. I can’t recall all the features but there are at least two that are testing and even though you have the correct line you don’t know what’s coming until you drop in. Keep a straight line and paddle!!! Tony looked after Cian, holding him back so he could see the line and then sending him on his way. Great to see how confident he was, never once having any trouble.
It was a very social paddle with lots of time to chat and play on the features. Tony, Anne, Nathan, Scott, Jon, and Sean were very keen to take advantage of surfing and pulling into small eddies. It was at one of these we had our only swim of the day when Scott overcooked things.
Below one set of rapids a local ‘character’ started to video the paddlers and then called them over. Anne was the first (I think) to go over and chat. The reason I have used the word character is because he was naked to the waist and only shorts beneath (February remember). Perhaps this was what attracted Anne, although I noticed she kept some distance from the bank. He wanted to share the video with us, so he was told to send it to PaddlePlus.
One of the most striking features of this paddle is the remains of the old railway viaduct near Pecknell Wood. You come around a bend and high-up stands the remains of the viaduct, very Game of Thrones. More interesting is that there is nothing on the other bank until you get some way further down the river.
Eventually, Barnard Castle came into view, and we dropped down the weir and made our way to the get off point. This wasn’t without incident. I was following Jon with Anne behind me. Suddenly Jon peeled off, leaving Anne and myself staring at a big rock. I went right and Anne went left!! After the bridge I eddied out, but when I broke back in I was faced with Dean and Tony coming down. It required a quick turn but there was still a bump. Sorry Dean, my bad.
After getting off the water there was a scenic tour of Barnard Castle town in an attempt to find somewhere to park the minibus and trailer. Eventually with a bit of manual movement of the trailer we were parked up and walked to the chippy where we were seated wating for fish, chips, pies, chicken nuggets, curry sauce etc.
As with the journey north, the journey south was without incident, just a comfort-stop at Wetherby again.
Big thanks to Dean for all the organising and driving, and thanks to all of the group with everyone involved in one way or another, to make it worth the long journey. Clive
I’d like just to finish with a comment on the award by British Canoeing to PaddlePlus (a now registered ‘Quality Club’). I feel that Saturday’s paddle reflects the real nature of PP, making it a brilliant family club. Just on this trip, the age and skills range, just shows what the club is about. The more experienced paddlers giving time and support. The sense of humour and friendship which can only be found where everyone is truly comfortable.