- Last Updated on Wednesday, 14 September 2011 09:34
- Written by Mark Rainsley, also Steve Ed, Andrew Clough, Adrian Pullin, Mike Redding, Si Wiles, Dave Hanson, Atti Gray, Mark Davies, Nick Mortimer, David Parton and Philip Skinner.
GUIDE TO THE RIVER LEVEN
NAME OF RIVER: Leven.
WHERE IS IT?: It flows out of Windermere in the south Lake District, aimed in the general vicinity of the sea.
PUT-INS/ TAKE-OUTS: Either start on Windermere or put in at Newby Bridge near a wide weir. Several parking spots are available in lay-bys on the small road river right at Newby Bridge.
There is a take-out on river-left above Backbarrow, which used to be the only agreed access, however, if you're doing this river you'll want to add Backbarrow Falls and carry on down to Haverthwaite for maximum entertainment.
The get-out is then at the B5278 Road Bridge. We always used to get out on river left below this, but recently the land owners have requested that boaters get out on river right before the bridge to avoid bank erosion. There's plenty of parking room on the river left lane below the bridge, but take care not to block the lane.
APPROX LENGTH: 2 miles, plus another two below the 'Racecourse'.
TIME NEEDED: 1-2 hours.
ACCESS HASSLES: There used to be a highly restrictive agreement where you were only supposed to paddle this on special open days with not all of the river available either. In practice, the entire river is run on most days of the winter by small groups, in particular by local paddlers. I have also run this on a number of days in the summer for the last few years without issue.
Indeed, the relationship with the landowners seems to be much better over the last few years. Considerate parking is a must and avoid going off the path when portaging the big weir below Backbarrow and you should experience no issues.
WATER LEVEL INDICATORS: Can be paddled for a long while after rain, even weeks. The river runs highest about 3-5 days after heavy rain.
Adrian J Pullin...'The best guide to level seems to be the number of gates open on river left above the brick chute. If all are open, then the river is high. If all are closed then it is low and may be a bit of a scrape.'
GRADING: Grade 3 in low and medium levels, some grade 4 rapids below the 'Racecourse' section.
MAJOR HAZARDS/ FALLS: Some weirs. The only really dangerous bits are AFTER the Racecourse section. In particular the big weir after Backbarrow, which used to be very tricky to run and since the rebuild is even more manky!
GENERAL DESCRIPTION: If you have started at Newby Bridge, the weir is the first obstacle. It should present no problems in low/ medium levels but the stopper is quite sticky if you try to play in it! Below this are a series of rapids which offer good play potential...
- A weir which is usually run between brick walls in the centre...the stopper either side looks uninviting. The centre chute is fun to surf/ play.
- A sharp two metre drop on the river left side of an island. This can form a big wave/ stopper. Below this you can play in the stopper which ends the river right route around the island.
- A one metre drop.
- Some wide surf waves across the river.
- A more continuous Grade 3 section with a steep two metre drop to watch out for in the middle.
Below what used to be the official egress a short section leads to an easy curving weir on the outskirts of Backbarrow. A tongue normally exists on river right. Shortly after this the river drops steeply through Backbarrow Bridge, from the angle of approach it looks like there is barely enough head clearance sometimes, but it's normally enough. This is worth looking at beforehand to avoid getting off if its OK. In really high water it looks nasty and I've just portaged to below the next weir.
The next weir is runnable, under certain conditions, but I've never fancied it myself. A portage immediately upstream on river left is possible in most water conditions. There are some holes just upstream of the portage get-in which can give ends. Immediately after this there is another drop, the stopper of which will hold boats. (see Steve Ed's comments below) If you've portaged around both bridge and weirs, you can get in just downstream of this, but only by climbing into the pumping station compound.
More fast water leads under a huge roadbridge to a small weir. Next obstacle is a pipe bridge which I have rolled under in big water (now just a pipe after the floods of 2009 - Jim). I've portaged this once at high levels, but usually its OK. A huge weir follows giving a choice of a slide or some fishladder steps on river right. Some playholes are formed by the fishladder, but they are hard work to get (and not advisable in big water! - Jim). There is a nice little wave and eddy river left before the fisherman's bridge island. River right of the island consists of a rapid on a left hand bend followed by a narrow shoot with overhanging trees on the left. Left of the island in spate consists of colossal wave trains in a narrow channel between overhanging trees (reverse ferrying to avoid trees whilst freefalling off the backs of waves is an interesting move but great fun!). You then have to paddle back through the trees to the RR side (not difficult) and there are a few ledge holes/ waves which play nicely. When you see the arched stone road bridge immediately below last flowing bit you've reached the get-out.
Steve Ed adds more info about the second weir below Backbarrow Falls (March '00)...'the 2nd weir after Backbarrow Bridge is changing each week as building work is been done, in high water you don't want to take it on the right as its got a very nasty hole, there's a sort a tongue in the middle and the left has a hole which would give you a bit of a work over but you would get out.'
Video of the Leven (7 megs) showing Fisherman's Bridge. From Mark Benson.
OTHER NOTES: After this, perhaps consider paddling some of the rivers which enter at the other end of Windermere, for instance the Rivers Brathay and Rothay or even Stock Ghyll if you have a screw loose and there's loads of rain around.
Andrew Clough (Spring 2005)...'Always paddled the 'Fisherman's Island' down river right, it seems to be a better route. Never had any probs there even prior to Jan 05. Heard rumours about it being dodgy but its fine even in big water although it can develop a bit of a grabby hole, having said that I've not swum down it!'
Atti Gray (Nov 2003)...'I paddled this river today at medium high levels and it gives a good trip. The upper section (racecourse) is grades 2 and 3 with play interest all the way down. The lower section is a blast with up to g4 water. The weir after Backbarrow weir is very very sticky, there is a green tongue but my friend got worked here. After this there is several weirs chute's and g3 rapids for a long way until the take out.'
Adrian J Pullin adds...'Did this at at high levels in Feb 2000. The fall river left after the brick chute tends to flatten out, leaving less of a drop but more of a wave. Not a problem in kayak but may swamp unwary open boats. The graveyard section (referred to as the continuous grade 3 section above) becomes a fast bouncy set of waves. It will run anywhere if the rocks are covered, but may catch in experienced paddlers out with it's speed and power. At this level, the hardest part is getting the entry right. A big trough leads into the first wave, which crosses most of the river. Hit it straight and centre and you won't have a problem. Hit it at an angle and it's swim time. Also watch out at high levels for overhanging trees, particularly river right after the graveyard.'
CONTRIBUTED BY: Mark Rainsley, also Steve Ed, Andrew Clough, Adrian Pullin, Mike Redding, Si Wiles, Dave Hanson, Atti Gray, Mark Davies, Nick Mortimer, David Parton, Philip Skinner and Jim Pullen.
at Fisherman's Island which nearly holed 2 boats in succession ( not visible
at medium/high flow until you're spiked ): this is in the centre of the flow
a few metres after where the river divides . There is also a rock hidden in
what looks to be an innocous haystack right smack in the middle of this
channel on the last little drop .
Running the channel right of the Island would avoid these hazards , but
inspection not easy (fierce dog in garden river right)
The old fisherman's bridge reported to be a hazard on river RIGHT seems to have long gone, though the narrow channel can easily trap floating strainers that may happen to come downriver, to catch the unwary.
The tree across the river left channel is still very much there and is a real hazard. There is no line through the river left channel and, at any kind of flow, the strainer it forms presents a real danger.
Anyone who doesn't know the river would do well to eddy out at the top river right tip the island on the dog-leg entrance to the gorge and have a quick peek (the gorge can catch debris washed into it) or at least make certain they run river right of the island. The island is ~300 metres below the big river-wide diagonal weir after the A590 road bridge crosses the river. (SD 349 840 on OS maps - shame that a certain Geordie's boat didn't go left instead of right that last time we paddled it really!)
Firstly so you know before you read, I am not usually a user of forums but in this case i thought it was the best way to get the information accross. so I’ll introduce myself first I’m a kayaker from the north west and I mainly paddle in the lakes with a great crew of mates and local lads. Although I don’t call myself a great paddler I think of myself as an able and competent paddler with some good rivers and experiences to my name.
Today something happened on the river Leven that I never wanted to or thought would happen to me, it’s a river I have ran over 100 times and today was a normal run in low summertime levels with just a desire to get out and do something after our long spell without the wet stuff. A few months ago a post was put up on UK Rivers stating that there was a jetty or object lodged with mill force rapid just below the brick chute weir. After paddling this river at all sorts of levels since that post it had become common knowledge that the object had been removed.
Unfortunately it had not….. Today I approached Mill force in my play boat, I stopped on the lip of the drop in the Eddie river right I had a good look, and from above the drop looked normal. I decided to take the line river left as I like the boof off the lip and land in the white stuff (fun at low levels). My mate Jonny also a competent paddler waited in the eddie for me to go first. I dropped over the lip landed flat and got a bit of down time all normal in a play boat. At this point I felt the boat hit something solid and slide under an object. I became pinned at chest height under the water and I was unable to move. I was right in the base of the hole and completely submerged I tried to move but there was no moment for jiggling the boat free after several seconds I managed to push myself up a short distance and get the top of my helmet out of the water this created a small air curtain where I got some breath I put my hand in the air for my mate to see where I was. I realized my options were running out and time was getting quite slim I took a breath and put my head back under the water wriggled several more times every so often taking a breath in the end I relaxed and took the decision that I was not able to remove my deck and I needed to get out without it. After reaching down again for one last attempt and push at getting myself out, my spell of good luck came just in time. I became free and managed to swim out and hug the bank. I was in the company of a good friend at the time, he saw me go over the drop land in the hole and not resurface. He says all he could see was my hand reaching up in the air. And when I finally came out of my boat after the longest minute of my life I was greeted by an organized friend who had eddied out and was preparing single person rescue efforts to get me out.
I am not writing this to tell you of my epic day, neither for you to tell me your opinions of what I should or shouldn’t have done in that situation. Only in the hope that those reading this will pass on the information to Uni clubs, clubs and other forums to stop this occurring with possibly more serious consequences.
I am also interested in getting a group together to meet up whilst the levels are low and attempt removing this jetty before the Uni groups arrive with the crowds of inexperienced threshers and take the on the Leven. If you’re a local boater to the Leven and happy to give a hand while the water levels are low please give me a email on email@example.com
This is a link http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C0Por8AUBYs to the pics of the object and my pinned boat. Like I said if you wish to place negative feedback then please don’t bother as this topic was raised as information to stop any serious situations occurring not for you to debate my level of paddling competency.