GUIDE TO COWSIDE BECK
NAME OF RIVER: Cowside Beck
WHERE IS IT?: North Yorkshire, running down from Fountains Fell into the River Skirfare at Arncliffe.
PUT-INS/ TAKE-OUTS: Park on side of road at SD884689 (OS Sheet 98), where the Pennine Way crosses the Malham/Arncliffe road. Only really room for one vehicle. Walk downhill for approx 100 metres, through gate and across fields towards the beck. Put on as soon as there's enough water running through the grass to 'float your boat'! Take out at road bridge (SD929719) in Arncliffe.
APPROX LENGTH: 6km.
TIME NEEDED: 2 hours.
ACCESS HASSLES: No problems known as it won't get paddled much. Suitable for small groups only. Not suitable for novices.
WATER LEVEL INDICATORS: The higher the better! It needs to have been raining very hard for quite a while (and still raining) to make this trip worthwhile.
GRADING: 2/3 with two sections of 4.
MAJOR HAZARDS/ FALLS: Numerous fences and low bridges - particularly in first third, but need to be vigilant the whole way down. Long (1 km) grade 4 gorge section after 1.5 km, currently (August 2009) with river-wide tree/strainer near the top. Grade 4 drop (visible from road) 500 metres above egress.
GENERAL DESCRIPTION: A great little paddle in an incredibly steep-sided valley with a brilliant gorge section and beautiful scenery.
For the first 2 km the beck is grade 2 and is narrow and winding with numerous fences and a low bridge to watch out for.
The gorge starts just after Darnbrook Beck joins from the left (SD903700) and this is the best section of the river. There are no major drops but the gradient is fairly sustained and (if you've got the right levels) it's a bob-sleigh ride of curling reaction waves and stoppers. Great fun.
The beck changes character again beneath the gorge. It becomes flatter and wider and the grade drops to 2, but this is compensated for by the fine views of Yew Cogar Scar. There's still the occasional fence to watch out for but these are now much easier to see than they were in the upper part of the beck.
The final fall is lurking round a right-hand bend 500 metres above the egress. Inspect river right.
Get out where you can either above or below the bridge in Arncliffe. The eddies are small and the river is still fast-flowing. Then go to the Falcon Inn in the village for a well-earned pint of Timothy Taylor (served straight from a jug!).
CONTRIBUTED BY: John Wootton.