GUIDE TO ARKLE BECK

NAME OF RIVER: Arkle Beck.

WHERE IS IT?: North of England, near Richmond. Largest tributary of the Swale.

PUT-INS/ TAKE-OUTS: If the water is high put in at the road bridge in Whaw (NY981044) where there's space for a couple of cars, otherwise use the road bridge above Langthwaite. In very high water it may be possible to put-in even higher up for added fast grade 3 (maybe where the main road crosses a few km further up the valley?) Take out either in Reeth (at the car sale place) or in Grinton after the Swale confluence (SE046985), or continue down the Swale.

APPROX LENGTH: 10km for Whaw to the Swale, or about 7km from Langthwaite.

TIME NEEDED: A couple of hours for the full run.

ACCESS HASSLES: None reported.

WATER LEVEL INDICATORS: Needs fairly high levels and best in high water. There's an online EA gauge at Reeth - low levels are from about 0.7m, medium 0.8m and high 0.9m.

GRADING: 2/3

MAJOR HAZARDS/ FALLS: Trees and fences.

GENERAL DESCRIPTION: A trib of the Swale, which runs in high water. Starts off as fast, fun continuous grade 3 from Whaw in decent water, with few eddies.We put in just above the ford, where there was a large stopper. Continues as fast, bouncy grade 3 for several km.

It then mellows a bit below Langthwaite, where there's a sheep fence under one of the bridges which may require portaging.

The beck splits into many different channels and gets shallow when it passes through a small coniferous wood. As the wooded valley changes back to deciduous trees it steepens up a bit again as you approach Reeth - the risk of fallen trees in the river is at it's highest at this point.

OTHER NOTES: This guide was written after we sadly lost our friend Matt Parker in a freak tree entrapment accident whilst paddling the beck and is dedicated to him. He was one of the most enthusiastic kayakers I have ever had the privilege to meet and always loved the opportunity to share that enthusiasm with his fellow paddlers and would not have wanted his accident to put others off paddling this run.

CONTRIBUTED BY: Jim Pullen

 

Community Forum Comments on this Article
Re: Arkle Beck -- Jim Pullen
2013 Oct 26 03:32:15 PM
I had a pleasant paddle on the Upper Swale for the first time in a long while this morning. Afterwards I took a walk up the river left bank of Arkle Beck via the footpath for the first time since Matt's accident.



The tree has been moved by someone to the left bank and is now in a safe position. The river-wide tree about 5-10 meters above is still there, but high enough above the river level to only be an issue in very high water. There was a good 3 feet clearance in today's low levels, and it was duckable in the medium/high levels we had in Jan. I did not notice any other trees in the final km of the river during my walk. This final km looked fairly continuous grade 2/3 before the get-out as I expected.



Levels were reading 0.67m at 630 this morning and at 2 today the river looked low, but runnable, although I imagine the section where the river split through the conifers would have been a scrape.



As I've mentioned in the guide, the river is not any more inherently dangerous than many other tribs in the area. Examining the stretch where the accident happened today has only served to reinforce this in my mind. I still struggle to understand how an enjoyable morning on an easy small bouncy river went so wrong.
Re: Arkle Beck -- Jim Pullen
2013 Jun 05 09:45:05 PM
As a follow up to the above, I have just received a phone call from the police officer this evening. He is a great guy, very friendly and very open to discussion.

He asked me about what I believe to be the current access legal situation and I explained as best I could. He also asked about whether there's a campaign for river access and what effect the right to roam act had.

He was keen for the landowner to remove the tree, even offering to do it himself (he owns a chainsaw!) but the landowner wouldn't let him due to worrying about liability. He also says it is in too awkward a position, is unwilling to pay contractors and says there's more trees in the river anyway and always will be. The general feeling of the landowner is that kayakers shouldn't be on the river - he believes we need his permission. His main concerns seem to be upsetting paying fishermen and liability issues. There seems to be a general worry about liability with some of the local landowners who have mine-shafts on their land worried about whether they should put signs up warning people or whether that would then admit liability. Personal responsibility doesn't seem to figure in their thoughts!

One thing the police officer did ask me to do, was to include information in the guide, both about the tree hazards (which I've done here and will in EWW) and about the landowner being unhappy about people paddling without permission. I have therefore informed you he is unhappy, this may or may not influence your decision to paddle Arkle Beck.
Re: Arkle Beck -- Jim Pullen
2013 May 17 10:54:43 AM
Hi Stephen (aka Matt's Dad), I replied briefly to you on fb last night, but will take the time for a longer response now.



Firstly, I hope you don't mind, but I merged your topic with the one associated with the Arkle Beck Guide on here, so that this discussion will be brought to the attention of anyone reading the guide.



There are two seperate points here, firstly the general legality of kayaking on England and Wales' inland waterways and secondly the issue of liability/responsibility relating to obstructions on rivers.



Given the associated tragic circumstances of this discussion, I will just keep the legal discussion on access very brief as this has in the past resulted in 14+ pages on numerous forum topics on here.

The current view of the kayaking community is that the general public have a right to use all of England and Wales' natural inland waterways without the need to seek permission from the landowner, provided the river is accessed from public land and due environmental care is taken. This view stems from the Magna Carta, some legal mis-interpretation in Victorian times has led to the opinion by some landowners that they have the right to control navigation, but no kayaker has ever been prosecuted simply for being on a river - until such time as a test case is brought this remains a legal grey area.

For detailed legal interpretations see: [url]http].

For the national govering bodies' advice see: [/url] and " class="bbcode_url">[url][/url]
On the day that myself, John and Matt chose to kayak Arkle Beck, we accessed the river at Whaw where it was next to the road and had intended exiting at the bridge by the car sales place near Reeth - both on public land, so using our interpretation of the law, I would have to disagree with the landowners opinion of our right to be there enjoying our commonly shared natural heritage.

In terms of the tree itself, I have no issue with what the landowner says. He owns the banks and the tree was still attached on river right. Kayaking is an assummed risk activity and no land owner should be held liable for such obstructions - I think the whole community would agree with this, the last thing we want to see is a blame/claim culture enter into such events. The only aside to this is that the Environment Agency has a responsibility to remove any obstructions which are liable to cause flooding. I have also heard of circumstances where they have agreed to remove obstructions which may cause risk to life - I'm not sure if they would be prepared to in this case, and don't know if the landowner would need to give his consent.

I had heard rumour that the tree had been removed, but this seems not to be the case. There is a footpath on river left, but the tree stems from river right, and anyone attempting to remove it without the landowners permission could be seen to be tresspassing and also be liable for an act of vandalism.

I still haven't returned to Reeth and Arkengarthdale, I may take a walk up the footpath sometime soon to see what the current tree situation is. Whether it should be removed or not is a tough call. I have paddled dozens of rivers in the UK where the tree issue was more severe than that on Arkle Beck (as had Matt). In this case the river was passable on the left and ironically would have been easier to negotiate in higher water levels, when more of the tree would have been submerged. I successfully made the line, Matt, who was ten seconds behind me, for some unknown reason did not, resulting in this sad tradegy.

My river paddling has been very limited since this event. We had intended carrying on up Swaledale and trying out some other tributaries such as Barney Beck and Gunnerside Gill, where the tree problems would no doubt have been similar or worse. Whatever paddling I do in future, I doubt I will return to these small tributaries, for now I've been sticking to artificial courses or managed sites and hopefully return to larger rivers soon. The relative risk to the skilled kayaker of such tradegy occuring remains thankfully small, but the only way to eliminate it completely is simply not to be there. Whether the risk verses percieved reward is worth it is an individual decision. Up until that point we all really enjoyed Arkle Beck, but the enjoyment of a hobby matters little compared to the life of a friend.
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I am in the process of finishing the update for the Northern sections of the guidebook "English White Water," if we as kayakers were to share the same opinion of the law as this landowner, then out of the 400 odd rivers described in there only a handfull would be accessable and our sport would simply not exist in its current form.



On the day that myself, John and Matt chose to kayak Arkle Beck, we accessed the river at Whaw where it was next to the road and had intended exiting at the bridge by the car sales place near Reeth - both on public land, so using our interpretation of the law, I would have to disagree with the landowners opinion of our right to be there enjoying our commonly shared natural heritage.



In terms of the tree itself, I have no issue with what the landowner says. He owns the banks and the tree was still attached on river right. Kayaking is an assummed risk activity and no land owner should be held liable for such obstructions - I think the whole community would agree with this, the last thing we want to see is a blame/claim culture enter into such events. The only aside to this is that the Environment Agency has a responsibility to remove any obstructions which are liable to cause flooding. I have also heard of circumstances where they have agreed to remove obstructions which may cause risk to life - I'm not sure if they would be prepared to in this case, and don't know if the landowner would need to give his consent.



I had heard rumour that the tree had been removed, but this seems not to be the case. There is a footpath on river left, but the tree stems from river right, and anyone attempting to remove it without the landowners permission could be seen to be tresspassing and also be liable for an act of vandalism.



I still haven't returned to Reeth and Arkengarthdale, I may take a walk up the footpath sometime soon to see what the current tree situation is. Whether it should be removed or not is a tough call. I have paddled dozens of rivers in the UK where the tree issue was more severe than that on Arkle Beck (as had Matt). In this case the river was passable on the left and ironically would have been easier to negotiate in higher water levels, when more of the tree would have been submerged. I successfully made the line, Matt, who was ten seconds behind me, for some unknown reason did not, resulting in this sad tradegy.



My river paddling has been very limited since this event. We had intended carrying on up Swaledale and trying out some other tributaries such as Barney Beck and Gunnerside Gill, where the tree problems would no doubt have been similar or worse. Whatever paddling I do in future, I doubt I will return to these small tributaries, for now I've been sticking to artificial courses or managed sites and hopefully return to larger rivers soon. The relative risk to the skilled kayaker of such tradegy occuring remains thankfully small, but the only way to eliminate it completely is simply not to be there. Whether the risk verses percieved reward is worth it is an individual decision. Up until that point we all really enjoyed Arkle Beck, but the enjoyment of a hobby matters little compared to the life of a friend.
Re: Arkle Beck -- smokey
2013 May 17 12:11:47 AM
Matt's Dad: I felt compelled to comment on this, as a good friend of mine died tragically open canoeing after his boat was pinned on a tree on the River Eamont, Autumn last year. I went through the same things in my mind - but I drew this conclusion.



First and foremost, you are going through something that no one should have to go through, so my sincere condolences.



You have just asked the question that is arguably the biggest "hot potato" in the canoe and kayak scene in the UK (most promenent in England and Wales) - Access. This, for the forseeable future, boils down to the fact Matt was paddling the water of a river which is owned by the state - i.e. had free access to all. BUT he was hindered by a tree which grows on the land that is owned by a specific person. This is in the same way that paddlers use areas of land to access rivers that may be owned by such people.



To cut a long story short - Matt had every right to be paddling on the river that he paddled. But, LEGALLY, the landowner (unfortunately; and this is my personal opinion creeping in here saying it was unfortunate) is well within his rights to make the statements he is putting forward. The trees grow on his land - he can do what he likes with them.



The tree that led to the death of my friend, Grant Kinnie, has been removed (I think by an outdoor centre, I am not completely sure). BUT this is not to say the same can be done as easily at Arkle Beck.



The take home messages here, and what I think we would all encourage you to remember; no matter the legal stance, is:

1. Matt had every legal right to be paddling that river, in that, he was floating on water that was owned by the state (you and me). BUT the landowner had every legal right to not maintain his trees - they are his trees. This (in my opinion) is a stalemate and not worth fighting over. How he accessed the river is neither here nor there.

2. Whilst it would be perfectly ideal that this tree be cut and the hazard removed for future paddlers - please do not centre your approach on this. Hazards on the river are numerous and arguably countless - this is an assumed risk sport. It is not the landowners responsibility to minimise these hazards.

3. (You know this bit already I am sure, but I will say it again) Matt died doing what he loved: take huge pride in that and ALWAYS remember that. Entering into a legal debate about trees and access will only sour this over-riding fact (in my opinion) - one fact which is highly credible.



Matt
Arkle Beck -- Matts dad
2013 May 16 11:04:02 PM
i don't know much about kayaking. I know that Matthew loved it and lived for it, and also that he died doing it. I also now know what a wonderful community of people are involved. I am still amazed at the guard of honour at Matts funeral.

However, this post isn't about that.

At Matts inquest I asked about the tree that caused the accident. The policeman who was at the inquest went in his own time whilst he was on holiday to check it out. I will try to relate what he has told me. If I have misunderstood and am misrepresenting the opinion of the landowner, then I apologize, I have no desire to do so.



The tree that caused Matthews death is still there. The policeman took the trouble to find out who owned the land and spoke to him.

Firstly his opinion was that the beck is on his property and that kayakers have no right to be there, if Matt wasn't on his property, he wouldn't have died.

He is not inclined to remove the tree. He feels that it would be dangerous for him to do it and he is not prepared to pay specialist contrators to do it.

So, he accepts no liability for the tree because kayakers have no right to use Arkle Beck. If they die, his conscience is clear.

The reason that I am posting this is that I have absolutely no idea what the legal position is. Hopefully someone who does know how the law works will read this and comment.

In the meantime, please don't kayak on anybody's private river, it belongs to him, and you have no right to share it.
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