Thursday, December 18, 2008

Wild Bore Hunt #3. Thwarted by the Sludge

In a final act of adventure the pre-christmas wild bore hunt took us to Glasson Dock at the mouth of the River Lune. At last we caught sight of real pig meat. Bacon baps were devoured from the 'Lantern o'er Lune' cafe in preparation for our 'Tour de Lancaster'.

'The Lancaster Round' is a lengthy day paddling trip that combines the rising waters of the Lune Estuary with the stillness of the Lancaster Canal. It took us around an hour an a half to reach Lancaster where the waterfront has undergone some splendid re-generation. Many of the original buildings from Lancaster's bustling past as a trading port remain. The wonky house with leveled windows is one that has survived in spite of some merciless subsidence.

Unless there is an unusually high spring tide it is necessary to portage Skerton Weir in order to reach the Lune Aqueduct and the Lancaster Canal less than 500 metres further upstream.

The Canal runs 19 metres above the river. It was only once a couple of kayaks has been carried up the bank to the canal we saw that the canal had been drained for maintenance. All that remained of our inland route back to Glasson was an 18th century trough full of mud.
Thwarted by the sludge, we beat a hasty return back down the Lune Eustuary to some spectacular sunset scenes.............

Wild Bore Hunt #2. Take aim .............. mist!

The intrepid bore hunters stirred from their slumber to find the Leven Estuary blanketed in thick fog. Undeterred, the hunters hurried their kayaks to the advancing waters edge in readiness for the search for Chapel Island.

Technical minds, knowledgeable experts and a doctor from Yorkshire were summoned. They consulted their books, orientated maps, and pointed .... and following an undetermined amount of time paddling on a varied bearing the island was found much where it was last time.

Chapel Island was explored thoroughly but sadly no boar were to be found. As the mist lifted the hunters fled north with the flood in search of a place for rest and nourishment. Coffee and cakes were dispatched with yaffle and glee.
The only blot on the landscape of fulfillment was a sweltering, greasy, pungent bowl of 'Bovril and kebab floater' soup. A retreat on the ebbing estuarine waters followed soon afterwards for fear of reprisals.

Wild Bore Hunt Day 1 - The Slightly Irritated Piglet

The elusive and notoriously fickle wild bore of Arnside haunts the shores of the Kent Estuary, in the northwest corner of Morecambe Bay. A muffled roar is often heard as the wave approaches. Small animals scatter for cover and birds take to the air. Shortly afterwards patient members of the local paddling community experience the ride of their lives, or monumental disappointment.

We paddled some way out towards the retirement capital of the south lakes coast. Grange-over-Sands has an elderly community which supports a number of doilie adorned cafes providing afternoon teas. Local residents are waited upon by the younger mini-skirt and low top clad generation, but the correlation with this 'generation gap' and an unusually high incidence heart attacks has yet to determined.

The water arrived late. Not so much a wild tidal bore but more a slightly irritated piglet. we rode the surge of rising water back to Arnside and consoled ourselves with some surfing beneath the railway viaduct.

Having failed to catch any wild boar we continued on up the estuary and into the tributary River Bela where we were tempted by some Reindeer maturing in a festive manner. Our final destination was Kate's house where we washed down a herd wild boar sausages and a mountain of mash with a good old glug of mulled plonk!

Monday, November 24, 2008


My involvement at the Kendal Mountain Film Festival was mostly kept to the 'Basecamp' retail area at the Brewery Arts Centre. Festival folk were coming and going throughout the weekend in search of information, inspiration and the odd little bargain....

...But it was on the high street away from the hum-drum of the festivities that I spotted the real bargain!

Unfortunately the shop was closed by the time I could find my wallet so I settled for collecting a film festival souvenir on behalf a friend. Adventure film maker Justine Curgenven won 'Best Mountain Adventure Film' with the film of her circumnavigation of the South Island of New Zealand from 'This is The Sea 4'.

Congratulations Justine!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Crossing the Solway

There is always a fascination in paddling across a significant body of water like a lake, large bay or a sound to a small group of intriguing islands. Such fascination is greatly increased when the destination is a different country. I stood on the promenade at Silloth gazing across the estuary to Criffel, the most obvious hill to view, and imagined that the word 'Scotland' ought to be visible on its southern slopes.

Silloth is a seaside wonderland, at throwback to the days of 19th century industry borne affluence. This purpose built seaside town still retains its Victorian charm with its wide cobbled streets, distinctive buildings, coastal park and promenade.

Sean and I started our crossing on the slipway in some ungainly fashion beside the lifeboat station. I only managed a successful second attempt after getting some welcome assistance from an onlooker. His ribs were no doubt aching having witnessed my first attempt.

The crossing was un-eventful if a little choppy and despite paddling into a stiff breeze we arrived at Southerness in around two and a half hours. We had originally planned to go further west to Hestan Island but failing light, the strong westerly and my tiredness strongly suggested we camp at Southerness.

After dark we were kept entertained by the local moluscs by candlelight.

By the morning I had come down with a well defined cold and my appetite for exploring had disappeared. The wind had also increased so we opted for the quickest route back to Silloth.

After a long carry down to the waters edge the crossing started as un-eventful as the day before, but all that changed after we had covered 4km. A line of foaming waves leapt about like a tribe doing a war dance, daring us to approach English shores. The exceptional spring tide generated confused seas around the sandbanks in the middle of the estuary. Huge breaking waves were all around me. I could only catch an occasional glimpse of Sean 20-30 metres over my right shoulder. One moment I would be surfing at great speed down the face of a favourable wave the next I might be dodging the attentions of a hungry breaker from one side or the other. This battle between exhilaration and fright went on for over 7km and lasted for the best part of an hour.

Relief at finding smoother waters close to the cumbrian shore was short lived. This is where the tidal stream runs at its strongest and we were still at risk of being swept north and completely missing our landing. Some keen paddling and a course change was the solution and we made landfall with great relief on the gritty beach south of Silloth after 13km in less than 2 hours.

I'd like to take this opportunity to thank Sean for his good company and for tollerating my snotty feebleness. His accounts and some more photos for the outward journey and the return journey are well worth a look.

Monday, September 29, 2008

The Reefs and Caves of Flamborough Head

With the North Sea so unusually calm I took the opportunity to have a look at the reefs and caves of Flamborough Head. The Yorkshire Wolds chalk foundations end abruptly here and there are frequent reminders to be seen, that the North Sea and 'god's own county' do not get on. At Flamborough the result is a spectacular headland riddled with caves, adorned by sea stacks and footed by kelp infested reefs.

On close inspection the reefs are cris-crossed with a network of narrow gullies that often lead into some of the larger caves. For once the beach at North Landing was not as tempting as on one past occasion I used this small haven to escape the ravages of a possible maritime nightmare. I find it unusual to see people angling from the edge of the 80 metre high cliffs but I suppose this high altitude technique is borne out of the necessity of keeping out of reach of the sea. We continued to the eastern end of the towering Bempton Cliffs before turning round and making our swift return to South Landing with a following flood tide.

Filey Without Fret

Several weeks ago I visited Filey and paddled along the coast from there to Scarborough and back, but there was almost nothing to be seen. The Yorkshire coast is frequently fogbound with dense sea mists locally known as 'Sea Fret' and on that particular day we were deprived of any views. This time the coastal journey was bathed in glorious sunshine, good visibility and blessed with unusually calm seas.

Leaving Filey Brigg and the North Cliff behind us we explored the reefs that extend over 500 metres offshore from Grissthorpe Cliff. In stark contrast to my last visit these reefs were eerily quiet with one lone sea angler and several seals to break the spell spun by the glassy seas.

The rock ledges form long channels and sandy bottomed lagoons infested with kelp which are surely happy hunting grounds for the seals and cormorants.

The popular broad sands of Cayton Bay with its attendant buildings break the spell of solitude and wilderness, but the coast still has its charms. The wooded cliffs around Osgodby Point and White Nab are also footed by the sandy beaches of Cornelian Bay.
The protective reefs of 'High Scar' and 'Perilous Rocks' hold names that have been earned through years of mariners fear and respect.

Once around White Nab the holiday delights of Scarborough are a little over 2km away and fish, chips and mushy peas were beckoning. The food of gods was devoured eagerly and without fuss and fully re-fuelled the return to Filey was soon underway.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

The Middle (north) East

North Yorkshire (Sunday)

I met with Richard at Saltburn by the Sea to investigate the surf conditions that are well thought of in the region. The messy conditions were already being endured by many so we decided to head off for quieter and cleaner conditions elsewhere. Skinningrove, where the fishing fleet are celebrated with this fine monument, looked gloomy and messy too so we decided to descend upon quieter cleaner conditions at Runswick Bay.

Teeside (Monday)

Our presence along the coasts of Redcar, Teesmouth, Seaton and Hartlepool were met with comic suspicion and a relentless supply of 'John Darwin' jocularity. I came to the conclusion that the main attraction to paddling from Saltburn to Hartlepool is avoiding the traffic chaos of Teeside. After visiting the ancient semi submerged wreck at Seaton Carew beach we went in search of enlightenment at the dockside Museum Of Hartlepool. Following our taxing day off the water we found refuge at the Crimdon Dene Caravan Park north of Hartlepool where Peter was waiting with baited breath anticipating a cunning plan for paddling.

The Durham Heritage Coast (Tuesday)

Our paddle along the Durham Heritage Coast took us from Harlepool past the famous headland where there are 3 historical sites in stark contrast. The peaceful Church of St Hilda stands dangerously close to the Heugh Gun Battery, yet close by seemingly undetterred by the proximity of bibles and battles, stands a bronze statue of Andy Capp clutching a pint of ale. A little to the north the coastline is dominated by Magnesian Limestone outcrops, caves, pinnacles and deserted shingle beaches. One landing in dumping surf was enough to keep us in our boats for the rest of the day. The only potential exception may have been amongst the relentless and disorientating clapotis ridden seas near the entrance to Seaham Harbour. Thankfully we safely crossed the harbour entrance. Bums remained firmly planted upon seats until kayaks were firmly planted upon Seaham Beach. Upon our return to the caravan we were joined by Ray and Graeme.

Sunderland (Wednesday)

The 5 of us continued in the morning with a short sunny interval but once we arrived at Sunderland dark grey clouds began to gather once more. The coast between Sunderland and South Shields is a delightful mixture of rocky coves and caves, with arches, inlets and islets. We spent over an hour marveling at this short stretch beneath Souter Lighthouse before landing close to the Marsden Grotto pub at Marsden Bay.

Back at the caravan a great feast was prepared in honour of the days fine and respectable journey, then devoured by all in minutes with less than honourable style.

The Tydal Tyne (Thursday)

In search of calmer waters we aimed to go placidly amongst the noise and haste of Gateshead and Newcastle upon Tyne. The paddling idea of descending the ebbing waters of the Tyne was simple but the reality of the logistics took plenty of cunning and patience. If the peace of the paddle wasn't shattered by the dumping surf landing beside South Pier then it was lost amongst the Gateshead rush hour traffic.

The North Tyne Coast (Friday)

The adorably named Seaton Sluice was to be the start and finish of the day's paddling. We headed south towards Tynemouth. Our journey took us past 'the Sluice' and beyond the desolate reefs disused lighthouse of St Mary's Island. After crossing Whitley Bay and Cullercoates we landed through the surf at Longsands for a delicious hot chocolate treat at Crusoe's beach cafe before heading back. The return was slower than anticipated as wind and tide turned against us but the final hurdle was yet to come. Surf was now breaking heavily off the headland, over the sands and across the harbour entrance at Seaton Sluice. Careful timing and questionable skills aided our return. Not so much landing but controlled washings up!

Cresswell and Newbiggin (Saturday)

Overnight rain, the forecast of strong winds and heavy swell brought about anticlimactic feelings amongst Peter Ray and me. Peter went off in search of tea shops and surf whilst Ray and I opted for a spot of bird watching amongst the flooded dune slacks of Cresswell. Twitchers had flocked in from a far to catch glimpses of various lost feathered souls. Buff Breasted Sandpiper, Black Tern and Ruff were amongst the scrutinees.

The three of us gorged ourselves on a final supper washed down with plenty of wine before sleep preceded our respective journeys home. Thanks are due to Ray, Peter, Richard and Graeme for their company through various parts of the week.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Isle of Man August 2008

For the summer holidays Kirstine and I chose to go to the Isle of Man. The first part of the holiday would be spent attending the 6th annual sea kayaking symposium run by my good friend Keirron Tastagh and his staff at Adventurous Experiences. The uniquely informal nature of this event is largely due to the way in which the whole family pitches in and everyone is made to feel really welcome. Well over 100 paddlers attended with around half of these having traveled from far flung corners of the UK, Europe and beyond. The kayaking activities included beginners, intermediate and advanced sessions whilst other activities included rock climbing coasteering and gorge walking.
For those who were camping for the duration of the symposium, additional entertainment was laid on each morning and evening by Ballabrooie flock of Chickens.
On the first day I joined Peter Jones for the day whilst he ran the first part of a 4 star training course. On the second day I got into full swing with some guidebook research and photography. Whist exploring a quiet bay on the western shores called Fleshwick Bay I happened upon Paul Wood, a lone kayaker on a mission.

Paul Wood

Paul is from West Cumbria and had paddled across from St Bees to the Isle of Man 2 days earlier. Having already paddled 20 miles or so that day he decided that was enough. Given the dismal forecast I offered Paul a lift to the symposium base for some company, a shower and some shelter from the impending storm.

The Manx Monsoon

The Rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain,
The rain on the Isle of Man falls anywhere it can!

The weekend weather turned utterly foul and the Ballabrooie chickens ran for cover. Paddling was mostly confined to sheltered locations but the rains brought good fortune for those indulging in gorge walking in the nearby Glen Maye.

The swollen river provided excellent sport for those jumping down waterfalls as well as casual onlookers. The great rains were followed by gale force winds which went largely unnoticed during the excellent evening slide show and symposium ceilidh held in the local village hall. On Sunday once the storm had passed I took Paul Wood back to Fleshwick Bay from where he would paddle on to Scotland via the Point of Ayr.

Following the weekend's hefty schedule the week after took on a slower pace with Keirron heading off to Finland to help with Jukka Linnonma' s first symposium . Plans for various trips began to take shape including circumnavigations.

Gordin Warner lives on Vancouver Island and followed Keirron's and Jeff Norville's amazing circumnavigation in aid of breast cancer research with with great interest. Inspired by their trip, Gordin decided to reciprocate by paddling solo round the Isle of Man in aid of the Canadian Cancer Society. I volunteered to Give Gordin a lift to Ballaugh Shore near Jurby Head on the West coast for what was to be the start of a strenuous and taxing adventure.

An Overnight Trip

Finally the weather settled down a little so Kirstine and I joined forces with Duncan for a 2 day kayaking trip combined with an overnight camp. We set off around lunchtime from Port e Vullen on the East coast and headed south past Maughold Head. Dhoon Bay made for an especially pretty place to stop for a while, with a waterfall and trees lining the steep glen giving an atmospheric feel of isolation.

We paddled on across the bays at Laxey and Douglas until finally arriving at Port Soderick to camp for the night. The next day we met a weary Gordin Warner just as we were leaving the bay. Gordin has been paddling since daybreak and was in need of a rest so he joined us on our short hop to finish the day in Douglas. The waters between Little Ness and Douglas Head were quite testing as the tide turned against an opposing southerly wind. Once in the smooth waters by Douglas harbour I took out my trusty camera for a quick snapshot when like a bar of soap it slipped from my hand. I briefly caught it between my fingertips and the foredeck but with a sickening splash it quickly sank into the depths taking with it the photographs from last 3 days. The depths of the despair and frustration spurned by this moment will be with me for some time.

Following some hearty replenishment at 'The Caff' Duncan and Kirstine got on the bus to Ramsey to get the car while I stayed in Douglas to help Gordin to negotiate a bed for the night. We found assistance at the welcome centre located within the ferry terminal. Once in through the door of the welcome centre, Gordin quietly admitted to me of having a strong sense of no longer being upwind of himself. He politely remained at an inoffensive distance from the receptionist and once budget accommodation was duly secured we returned to the boats for a toast to the day's triumphs and tribulations.

Gordin's Final Day

Chickens woke me early the next day so I drove the short distance to Douglas to help Gordin to the waters edge with his heavily loaded kayak. This would be a test of his resolve with a distance of nearly 30 nautical miles to complete the circumnavigation. Gordin would have to reach Maughold Head by 12.30pm and with curiosity getting the better of us Kirstine and I drove out there only to be told by some onlookers that we had missed him by over half an hour. This was great news because this meant that Gordin had a real chance of completing his mission. We drove on to meet up again at Point of Ayr and Blue Point where we gave Gordin some much needed sustenance for his last 10km.

Finally at around 7pm Gordin arrived at the Ballaugh Shore exhausted but justifiably pleased, and almost certainly relieved that it was all over.

North Barrule

It was time for a change from all of the water based activities so Kirstine and I aimed high for a view from the second tallest Manx peak. North Barrule stands at 565 metres and forms the northeastern extremity of a ridge that runs between Snaefell and Ramsey Bay. We Parked the Car in a small village called Corrany and walked North along the road to start our steep ascent of the craggy eastern slopes towards the summit of North Barrule.

Our quick ascent soon rewarded us with terrific views over the Isle of Man and across the sea to Cumbria, Scotland, Northern Ireland and even Anglesey. Over the following 3-4 hours we continued along the ridge to the summit of Clagh Ouyr before heading west along a lower ridge and footpath that led us to a fine pub at Glen Mona.

Time to Say Hello - Goodbye

As our Manx adventure was drawing to a close the gloomy weather began to make a return and we were glad to spend our final evening indoors in the company of Keirron's parents, Nadene and Jimmy. The time was spent indulging in cheese, wine and chocolate and spinning all sorts of yarns until the need for sleep defeated us. The following morning dawned late and heavy, but eager to help out We offered to collect Keirron from the airport following his return from Finland. This done there was barely time for us to say hello over a cup of tea before it was time for Kirstine and I to say goodbye to Keirron, Nadene and Jimmy, the rest of the nice folk at Ballabrooie(including Belle the collie dog) , and of course the chickens.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Between the Cheeks

Robin Hood's Bay is lies between Whitby and Scarborough on the Yorkshire coast. The Village is a tightly woven mesh of terracotta roofed houses and narrow streets lining a steep gorge that runs down to the sea. Away from the humdrum is one of the most beloved youth hostels in the UK. Boggle Hole is yet another steep narrow gorge but the only buildings here belong to the youth hostel that bears the same name. The northern extremity of Robin Hoods Bay is marked by 'North Cheek'. The southern extremity is marked by 'South Cheek'. Boggle Hole is mid-way between the two (don't bother with answers on a postcard).

Ian and I paddled from the 'hole' and out past the seal infested South Cheek and continued south on our 10km trip towards Scarborough. The cliffs beneath Ravenscar are far more spectacular than I had anticipated. They rise to more than 160 metres and are well vegetated with trees, bracken and heather. Names like 'Beast Cliff' and 'Rodger Trod' added to the anticipation of the journey as force 5 winds whistled over the cliffs round our ears and out to sea. As we made our way past the sheltered bays at Hayburn and Cloughton Wykes there was no sign of civilization nor any clue as to the culture shock awaiting us upon our arrival at Scarborough. Upon arrival we did as Romans and engaged in the seaside promenade culture. One cup of tea and a whippy 99 ice cream laid the foundations for fuelling the return journey through the wilderness to Robin Hoods Bay. Although the wind funnelled strongly from the valley dealing us a proctalgic slog into the bay, it was not enough to prevent us from landing perfectly between 'the cheeks' safely back at Boggle hole.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Crossing Morecambe Bay #2 (heading South)

Following the success of the journey north, our return to The Fylde Coast from Piel Island was to be a little more of a challenge. Our target this time was to be Fleetwood. Strong coffee and tea were consumed to boost our resolve. The prospect at carrying our boats to the low water was almost enough to keep us in bed! But by 9-00am were were paddling out of the Piel Channel against the incoming tide and out into Morecambe Bay.

By the time were making our way out past the outer channel marks at South East Walney we were struggling to make any headway at all and the gloomy skies did little to lift our spirits.

As we turned to make for Fleetwood we aimed our bows due south using Blackpool Tower as a visual reference and all seemed well for a while. After about an hour it was becoming clear that it was going to take much more time and effort to reach Fleetwood than we anticipated, despite the shorter distance.

We were being swept east faster than we had thought likely. The westerly breeze wasn't helping matters and conditions in some of the overfalls were both challenging and exhilarating (sorry no photos). We were unintentionally approaching the hungry jaws of the Lune Estuary when we found renewed resolve during a mars bar break, just as the tide began to loosen its grip on us.

After over four and a half hours on the waters of Morecambe Bay Peter and I arrived exhausted but relieved on Fleetwood Beach. Although some small children helped us to carry our boats ashore we still didn't have the strength for a pint at the conveniently situated 'Wyre Lounge Bar'.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Crossing Morecambe Bay #1 (heading North)

With the aim of reching Piel Island near Barrow in Furness, Peter and I set off from Rossall near Cleveleys on the north Fylde Coast this Morning. The crossing involves making a 20 km ferryglide accross the powerful flood tides of Morecambe Bay.

The water was choppy right from the start and even leaving the beach presented its difficulties.Conditions remained choppy for most of the crossing and we encountered some more challenging overfalls before we had reached the half way point. The second half of the crossing was in some ways easier but with a littltiedness setting in I was finding it difficult to maintain a good pace and my cockpit plenty of water.Eventually after 3 hours and 25 minutes Peter and I arrived on the eastern shore of Piel Island and I discovered why my boat had been so sluggish. I had not fully sealed the rear hatch cover and most of my posessions were floating around gently in plenty of Irish Sea water!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Fish Chips and Mushy Peasoup

In search of adventure, I met with Dave and Jules at the Yorkshire seaside town of Filey to paddle along the coast to Scarborough. I had never ventured along this stretch of coastline before and having now made a successful return journey, I feel very much none the wiser.

Shortly after leaving the beach in pleasant morning sunshine we ventured around the Filey Brigg, which is the headland and reef the forms the northern end of Filey bay. Within minutes we found ourselves in choppy conditions with dense fog locally known as 'sea fret' descending dramatically allowing us to see less than 50 metres at times. The sea conditions soon relented but it was difficult to see the shore. Pinpointing our position was tricky making map and compass essential and GPS quite reassuring.

Our 16km trip was plagued by the fret for all but the last 2 km of the approach to Scarborough where we were landed in brilliant sunshine amongst crowds of holidaymakers indulging in the great British seaside tradition of sandcastles, deckchairs and knotted hanky head wear. We opted for another great British seaside institution - Fish and Chips! It was hoped that adding mushy peas to the equation we might please the gods in the hope that they would leave our return journey clear.

It is now clear that we got that one quite wrong! Within minutes of leaving Scarborough we were paddling in fog thicker than before, making route finding amongst the reefs beneath Grissthorpe Cliff quite tricky.

Eventually we found Filey Brigg and the only challenge between us and a safe return. The north going tidal stream combined with some gentle swell to give us a roller coaster ride into Filey Bay where the mist promptly cleared allowing us to find our cars and, more importantly a tea shop.