Running the loop when it's scrapey (or "empty")

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John K
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Running the loop when it's scrapey (or "empty")

Post by John K »

I know this has been done to death, but following a conversation yesterday I just wanted to check the current situation and see if I had missed something.

I was told that paddling at this weekend's very low conditions would be in breach of the "access agreement" and would be "environmentally damaging". As far as I was aware there is no current access agreement, and I'm not aware of any significant damage that would be caused either.

Simon Westgarth seemed to sum it up pretty well on the comments of the main Dart Loop page http://www.ukriversguidebook.co.uk/rive ... e-the-loop

"You can paddle when ever you like on the close fishing season, and with due consideration of other river users during the fishing season. There is no access agreement on the Dart, just a difference of opinion when to paddle.

... Note there are no salmon redds on any regularly paddled sections on the River Dart including the loop, they are on the upper reaches of the East & West Dart and on the smaller side creeks such as Cherry Brook, Black Brook & the Swancombe."


Anything more to add to that? Any suggestions of any real environmental significance of paddling when the levels are low? There's obviously a discussion to be had about whether it's worth paddling at these levels, but that's probably best for another time :)

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Re: Running the loop when it's scrapey (or "empty")

Post by Mark Dixon »

I drove past Austins bridge and the Indian takeaway at the weekend and both areas were packed with cars so there were plenty of people on the river, I personally wont paddle unless its a good level as my time is precious to me and have many other pursuits that give me more satisfaction than scraping my boat down the riverbed. That said I dont see a problem with anyone scraping their boat down at anytime of year as the rivers are for all, not just anglers in summer. As to wether it causes environmental damage I am not aware of the facts so cant really comment but the rocks on the Dart are pretty polished and rounded so I dont lose a lot of plastic when I paddle.
I did wonder how many people would be at Newbridge tho...

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Re: Running the loop when it's scrapey (or "empty")

Post by Bod Bagby »

Definitely no access agreement and the quoted statement looks accurate to me. Personally we went for a walk - litter picking on the Erme - but everyone has to choose their own min/max. Environmental impact is probably less than driving my dirty VW to the river....

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Re: Running the loop when it's scrapey (or "empty")

Post by StillNewish »

AFAIK, the environmental argument against paddling at low levels has to do with moving around the stones that make up the river bed, where the fish lay their eggs.

I'm certainly no advocate of angling (if they care so much for fish, why make holes in them with steel hooks...) but this does make sense; if the levels are that low that you're scraping that much, there is probably more fun to be had walking rather than paddling.

As said above though, it's for the individual to make their own call on the day :)

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Re: Running the loop when it's scrapey (or "empty")

Post by Jim »

Salmon redds = freshly cleaned gravel bed, disturbance is illegal even by accident, but if there is green slime on the gravel it is not a redd. We should all learn this and apply the knowledge if or when we ever need to.
I think on the Dart it is only relevant to the upper, I don't think there are any redds on the loop anyway?

Obviously moving any stones around could be disturbing a microenvironment for some critters so I would always advocate avoiding anything that is likely to cause disturbance unless you have permission.

Personally I just think that paddling in scrapey low conditions presents a poor image of paddlers, especially where there are other parties concerned about impact on fish stocks or other wildlife, whether or not we actually have any impact (I think it is very rare that we do). Maybe I'm a level snob, but I do find myself shaking my head as I walk away or drive by a group getting ready to do something which isn't worth getting changed for, especially in areas where goodwill towards paddlers is already low. I also think it is worth considering the viewpoints of other interested parties, although actually entering into a formal agreement over when to use a river is not something I would do, I may be sympathetic and informally avoid times they consider important.

As far as the Dart loop goes, one of the arguments against the old agreement was that it forces groups to book ahead and they will generally use their paddle slot even if the river is too low to be worthwhile, moving away from the agreement was supposed to ease pressure in low conditions because groups are now free to paddle when there is water. So whilst there may be no good reason it can't be paddled low, it is kind of shooting ourselves in the foot in that repect.....

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Re: Running the loop when it's scrapey (or "empty")

Post by Adrian Cooper »

Jim wrote:Salmon redds = freshly cleaned gravel bed, disturbance is illegal even by accident,
Actually the law says this:

"any person who, except in the exercise of a legal right to take materials from any waters, wilfully disturbs any spawn or spawning fish, or any bed, bank or shallow on which any spawn or spawning fish may be, shall be guilty of an offence."

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Re: Running the loop when it's scrapey (or "empty")

Post by BC Waterways Env »

Adrian is right - the wording of the law on disturbing salmon spawning grounds is that it must be willful. The EA tried to prosecute a case in North Wales which was based around the potential for causing damage, but the case was rejected. News story on it here - http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-nort ... s-15727059

Just because the letter of the law is such however, I would still say discretion should be used in low water conditions. I'm not an ecologist, so this is based on conversations with people who are (but with no axe to grind). All rivers contain spawning grounds for any number of fish species - and are also be the home for many other forms of aquatic life. So bumping and scraping along the bottom of the channel can cause damage to a variety of species. The precise effects of course would vary river to river. While the actual likelihood of causing any significant harm is still low, but if it did happen it would obviously be damaging for both the species and the sport. Anything we can do as a group to promote sustainable paddling is always positive.

If we can do anything to get more information to you for specific rivers please let us know and we'll see what we can do. But in general I would advocate that if you know the river is going to be so low as to produce scraping and bumping, it's a much safer bet (for the ecosystems in that river) to paddle elsewhere.

Chris Page, Waterway & Environment Manager (Central), chris.page@britishcanoeing.org.uk

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Re: Running the loop when it's scrapey (or "empty")

Post by Mark Dixon »

If we can do anything to get more information to you for specific rivers please let us know and we'll see what we can do. But in general I would advocate that if you know the river is going to be so low as to produce scraping and bumping, it's a much safer bet (for the ecosystems in that river) to paddle elsewhere.

Chris Page, Waterway & Environment Manager (Central), chris.page@britishcanoeing.org.uk

The problem is people come from far and wide to paddle the Dart, they book time off work, book and pay for hotels and theres a lot of organising by many people for multi paddler weekends. There are commercial courses running and a large event this weekend, I am sure that involves a large amount of organisation so I very much doubt it will get cancelled due to low levels.
There are very small sections of river that offer some coaching so I dont blame anyone for continuing with their courses if it is within remit.
Not for me personally but each to their own.
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Re: Running the loop when it's scrapey (or "empty")

Post by Simon Westgarth »

There are no valuable or well known game fishing redds down river of Dartmeet on the River Dart as is commonly spoken about by the EA's local fisheries officer. Areas of concern are Cherry Brook, Blackbrook & the West Dart along the B3357 as well as at Believer Tor on the East Dart. Sadly there is little in the way of a resource that can specifically indicate where such redds are. However getting on the Cherry Brook to access the West Dart at any level is highly likely to upset EA's local fisheries officer who rarely gets to use his statutory powers of arrest. Paddling here is one location I have been told would get him reaching for his handcuffs.

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Re: Running the loop when it's scrapey (or "empty")

Post by jam bo »

Simon Westgarth wrote: However getting on the Cherry Brook to access the West Dart at any level is highly likely to upset EA's local fisheries officer who rarely gets to use his statutory powers of arrest. Paddling here is one location I have been told would get him reaching for his handcuffs.
I drive past here twice a day, how does he feel about tourists paddling in the river as its a pretty popular spot.

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Re: Running the loop when it's scrapey (or "empty")

Post by Simon Westgarth »

jam bo wrote:
Simon Westgarth wrote: However getting on the Cherry Brook to access the West Dart at any level is highly likely to upset EA's local fisheries officer who rarely gets to use his statutory powers of arrest. Paddling here is one location I have been told would get him reaching for his handcuffs.
I drive past here twice a day, how does he feel about tourists paddling in the river as its a pretty popular spot.
I am pretty sure the salmon only spawn there from late October and any eggs have hatched by February, so not of much interest for fish conservation at any other time.

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Re: Running the loop when it's scrapey (or "empty")

Post by pete thorn »

Just to clarify, there is no active 'arrangement' nor 'agreement' on the Dart. I have had a series of discussions with representatives of the Dart Fisheries Association, but none in recent times. They produced a helpful statement but it was too restrictive to be endorsed by British Canoeing as it did not include summer spates. I think there is mainly goodwill between us and we have built a constructive relationship with RDCP about the weir issues. My own view is that it is not good PR to paddle regardless when there are such low levels. There are lots of other options for your booked weekend. Surfing at Bantham? Caving at Pridhamsleigh? Mountain biking? Climbing? The levels are very well known before you set off for Devon. To insist on paddling an empty river is 'poor choice of toys'.
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Re: Running the loop when it's scrapey (or "empty")

Post by Franky »

Taking a somewhat broader perspective... That there is a fuss about scraping a few fish eggs off the bed of the Dart, when all across the country animals' habitats are being decimated every day by government-sanctioned building projects whose sole purpose is to prop up the economy... Am I being cynical here? Who is behind this campaign, is it ecologists or anglers?

As for these arguments about the "poor image" of kayakers who paddle in low conditions... There is no poor image until people start talking about a poor image. The image should be of no importance whatsoever, what matters is empirical evidence.

All it takes to establish a "poor image" is for somebody to make some arbitrary claim against a group and thereby to put the group on the defensive. For the group then to worry persistently about the poor image, rather than empirical evidence, is to play into the hands of those who make these claims.

Who talks about the "poor image" of farmers who kill badgers on spurious grounds? We can be sure that if badger hunting were a popular pastime, farmers would be getting as hard a time as kayakers.

But maybe I'm being overly cynical and there are nothing but good intentions behind this, and other, campaigns to portray paddlers as enemies of the environment.

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Re: Running the loop when it's scrapey (or "empty")

Post by Mark Dixon »

I think if there is no environmental impact then it shouldnt be a problem whatsoever, as Franky says "Giving a bad impression" is a myth and general public dont have a clue about levels. The only people that think we give a bad impression are some Anglers and some kayakers. Over the years I have changed my opinions about when people paddle after much debate on this site.
I disagree with Pete Thorn, if people come down here on a kayaking holiday why should they they be influenced by the opinion of our area representative to do other things? Its their choice and there should be no pressure from peers or kayaking organisations.
I drove 600 miles to Scotland to paddle on an organised kayaking holiday, it was pretty empty and I was gutted, I still spent 2 days doing drops on the Etive along with Moriston and Ben Nevis, I couldnt care less what people thought, so if trips are organised people will paddle at any level. I will never bother with Scotland again unless its last minute and theres water. Club/peer trips have to be organised and they will paddle whatever the level.
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Re: Running the loop when it's scrapey (or "empty")

Post by morsey »

Bod Bagby wrote:Environmental impact is probably less than driving my dirty VW to the river....
Everyone except Olaf and a few others are guilty of that aspect, in so much that in order to get to rivers; we all chug down gallons of petrol, diesel, gas and aviation fuel, and or use electricity to charge vehicles. Boats in water have limited impact at that point, but to get to that point the collective impact of humans on the planet is significant and is not diminished by engaging in low impact activity. Yes, it's the same for walkers, ramblers, climbers, cyclists (save the few that use cycles as the sole transport unit, and even then there are impacts from sourcing steel/carbon/aluminium/rubber/plastic.), skiers, anglers, tourists.

There are currently not access restrictions to vehicles into National Parks. The general view is that there should be free vehicle access, is that sustainable?
Yes, it's hypocritical of me to raise that issue, I use my bike a lot for 90% of transport in town, and jump to bike on train for longer journeys, but for canoeing the car becomes first choice transport.


Personally the Dart loop is a section I avoid in low water. Reason being the style of the river. Wash machine and Triple are generally okay with the bed rock channelling the water, but lots in between is mostly wide, angled and strewn with joy sapping rocks. The paddle out of the Upper (save for the last three rapids) is similar in nature, but the rest of the run sits well in channels. The lower is probably the default (Been not enough rain for ages but want to get out in a boat and enjoy the river) low water run. The lower is inevitably where I end up with groups in low water. That's my thinking, everybody else gets to choose what suits their requirements.

I was in Dartmoor at the weekend, didn't fancy any low boating. Got my nature fix down by the sea Image

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Re: Running the loop when it's scrapey (or "empty")

Post by Jim »

morsey wrote:and strewn with joy sapping rocks
Having done the Dart low, this is my main objection to it, and many other rivers in low water conditions.

But it's a personal call, some people enjoy that sort of thing.

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Re: Running the loop when it's scrapey (or "empty")

Post by jam bo »

when the loop is empty, the mtb'ing, climbing, walking etc is great on the moors.

no point being a one trick pony when levels are so dependent on rainfall.

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Re: Running the loop when it's scrapey (or "empty")

Post by DaveBland »

Paddling when rivers are low and scrapey is no fun compared with the other biking, hiking options around. Really, in the UK – a one sport approach isn't sustainable.
And the "we've booked a club trip"' argument doesn't wash. It's simply irresponsible to book a club trip with a big group to go to paddle a river that may or may not be running – without having a back-up plan.
The fact is the UK is not reliable enough to 'book' paddling time.

Of course there's nothing 'wrong' with it. From an environmental aspect, I can't see how a boat can do much damage. Maybe the odd coloured plastic scrape left on the odd rock. And a small group will probably not even get noticed. Big groups do have to be more careful though.
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Re: Running the loop when it's scrapey (or "empty")

Post by Adrian Cooper »

DaveBland wrote: It's simply irresponsible to book a club trip with a big group to go to paddle a river that may or may not be running – without having a back-up plan.
The fact is the UK is not reliable enough to 'book' paddling time.
And that is fine if you are not running a club or if your club never has any trips or if you all sleep in your cars over night.

The reality is that a club needs to book bunkhouse accommodation and likely very well in advance. Indeed, our last trip ran into real difficulties because with four weeks to go we were struggling to find accommodation in South Wales.

So, once you have booked your bunkhouse and paid a substantial deposit, everyone has organised their shifts for time off work, half of the people don't do mountain biking, there starts to be an imperative to get on and paddle even if not ideal.

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Re: Running the loop when it's scrapey (or "empty")

Post by DaveBland »

Adrian Cooper wrote:
DaveBland wrote: It's simply irresponsible to book a club trip with a big group to go to paddle a river that may or may not be running – without having a back-up plan.
The fact is the UK is not reliable enough to 'book' paddling time.
The reality is that a club needs to book bunkhouse accommodation and likely very well in advance. Indeed, our last trip ran into real difficulties because with four weeks to go we were struggling to find accommodation in South Wales.

So, once you have booked your bunkhouse and paid a substantial deposit, everyone has organised their shifts for time off work, half of the people don't do mountain biking, there starts to be an imperative to get on and paddle even if not ideal.

That's kind of illustrating my point.
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Re: Running the loop when it's scrapey (or "empty")

Post by Adrian Cooper »

No, really it's not Dave. If it is irresponsible to organise a trip like this then no trips should be organised and club whitewater trips would be ended. And when I say clubs, I mean universities as well. The result would be a substantial reduction is whitewater paddling.

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Re: Running the loop when it's scrapey (or "empty")

Post by Mark Dixon »

This year the French paddling season was very poor levels, the snow pack was poor and most of it melted early, we booked our Eurotunnel and accomadation months in advance so not to be disappointed, as did many others. We were on a kayaking trip and our intention was to paddle, taking bikes would have been ok for 2 of us but not the others, nobody is really into walking. As it was we hit it really lucky on our week and it poured down for a few days and levels were fantastic, but weeks either side was rubbish, I am planning on returning next year and take the same risks with levels, thats no different to organising trips in the UK.
I have no problems with people paddling Dart at any level and they are welcome to it, if theyve come from far away then why not just get on it? Those that value their boat can chillax in other ways if they want, everyone is free to choose.

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Re: Running the loop when it's scrapey (or "empty")

Post by John K »

Thanks for everyone's thoughts.
John K wrote:Any suggestions of any real environmental significance of paddling when the levels are low?
That seems to be a pretty unanimous "no" then. Which is good news I reckon.
There's obviously a discussion to be had about whether it's worth paddling at these levels, but that's probably best for another time :)
But proved irresistible! ;)

Even at a foot below the slab I was surprised how paddleable it was, having heard tales of doom and gloom. I wouldn't want to do it regularly but we all had a good weekend, and the less experienced paddlers in particular got a lot out of it and were absolutely buzzing.

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Re: Running the loop when it's scrapey (or "empty")

Post by gp.girl »

Back there this weekend, the forcast says some rain so hopefully won't end up struck on every rock in the river! Really not got much choice about booking weekends in advance so will paddle if possible. Apparently there were rapids on the lower lower Dart that noone had seen before last time!
I can roll :)

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Re: Running the loop when it's scrapey (or "empty")

Post by TechnoEngineer »

So.....consider the duality case here - if the rivers are stupidly high with trees and bridges being carried downstream, when Grade 2 becomes Grade 5 with monster holes, would you still get on the river to try to get your money's worth out of the trip? Because that's what it comes down to, after all.....
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Running the loop when it's scrapey (or "empty")

Post by John K »

No it doesn't, and you're just being silly. It's in no way a valid comparison.

There are no consequences of running at scrape levels other than extra scratches on the boat and a bit of wiggling over boulders. The same can hardly be said for running a river at spate levels, especially for lower experience paddlers.

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Re: Running the loop when it's scrapey (or "empty")

Post by Jim »

I am fortunate that I can be a levels snob most of the time :)
Trying new kinds of paddling with new people has caused me to do a few things lower than I would have preferred over the last couple of years so I completely understand why people do it, I just try to encourage them to wait for water....

Most grade 2's don't rise to grade 5 in flood, the nature of the paddling changes dramatically, you need to be prepared for big volume and high speed, but rarely does the difficulty increase that much. Sometimes the difficulty can decrease in flood - the seriousness usually doesn't, but it may not matter.

John K you are wrong about no consequences of running rivers in scrape levels. There can be stuff below the surface that will never influence you at normal levels that you won't even be aware is there, but which at low levels is a syphon or boulder sieve that can easily catch you out. I am thinking in particular of a rapid on the Tilt where I parked my boat in the entrance to a siphon that no-one even knew existed - at normal flows the siphon was too weak to have any effect on the surface flow way above, but when the top of the boulder is high and dry so the only way is a round or under..... I had a pretty nasty pin on the Findhorn in low water too, any time you pin simply because the water isn't deep enough there is a danger that you could flip and get wedged upside down in a way that makes escape difficult/impossible.

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Re: Running the loop when it's scrapey (or "empty")

Post by John K »

I don't think that's very likely on the Dart loop, which is what this thread was originally about. But a fair point generally I guess.

I'd be surprised if anyone would suggest a spate run as an introduction to white water, but lower than normal levels seem to work OK.

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Re: Running the loop when it's scrapey (or "empty")

Post by TechnoEngineer »

Not silly at all.

The commonality between the scenarios is that the accommodation etc is booked months in advance, with no idea on what the levels are going to be like.

Some people will go on a trip and not consider choosing to do any alternative sport. At the same time they don't want to lose money on accommodation.

The principle of "getting your money's worth" or "I've come all this way and don't want to turn back now" can drive people to get themselves into situations that are either unpleasant (monkey shuffling your way down a river) or positively dangerous (running a river in spate). So if they would do something else if the river is in spate, why not do something else also when the river is empty? (admittedly on the Loop it is possible to session certain sections of it)

Yes there is a difference between the two extremes, however I see the mindset of dogged persistence as being the problem here when bailing out would be the wiser option.
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Running the loop when it's scrapey (or "empty")

Post by John K »

TechnoEngineer wrote:So if they would do something else if the river is in spate, why not do something else also when the river is empty?
Because, as it turns out, they may still have a safe and enjoyable day out on the river.
Yes there is a difference between the two extremes, however I see the mindset of dogged persistence as being the problem here when bailing out would be the wiser option.
Maybe the wiser option for you, because you choose not to run it at scrape levels; or the wiser option for mountain bikers or climbers, but for our particular group bailing out would have been a very poor option. It's not dogged persistence, it's making the best of what's available.

Given the absence of any environmental reasons why paddling at low levels should be avoided then I don't see any benefit in denigrating other people's choices just because they don't coincide with yours.

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