GUIDE TO THE RIVER ALLEN
(Cupola Bridge to South Tyne Confluence)
NAME OF RIVER: Allen.
WHERE IS IT?: Allendale (nr. Hexham) OS Map 87. In a gorgeous gorge.
APPROX LENGTH: 4km.
TIME NEEDED: 1 hour+ playing.
ACCESS HASSLES: Good, honesty car park at take out.
WATER LEVEL INDICATORS: If it is going through all 3 arches and you can't see any midstream rocks below the bridge then it will be fun. If it looks scrappy and you can see the ledge river right below the bridge then it will be a bit of a rock dodge. Usually only worth it after significant rain.
Philip Kennell, Hexham Canoe Club states (20/2/01)...'Rings on the bridge at Allenbanks - Two and a quarter rings from the top of the Allen banks bridge is mega high and it was stonking like an Alpine River. At the get in, the first corner was very fast bumpy with big waves. On the way to Hag bank there was the odd stopper which if you paddled like f*** you got out of! Portaged at Hag Bank, got in below the stopper. Next - very big waves - excellent section then down to Plankey Mill rope bridge. Reasonably bumpy to the next rope bridge with a Beech tree across the river. Keeping to River Left past the tree to the get out at the iron bridge. Very little opportunity to scout at this level.'
Lindsey adds (09/03/09)...'If you look at this site: http://www.fishpal.com/England/Tyne/RiverLevels.asp?dom=Tyne and then click on 'West Allen at Blueback Bridge,' 1ft 7 is a nice run. You would probably want to inspect the weir, but it went fine at this level when we did it. You would want it higher to be a G4. We also ran it on wed 29th and I think it was at 1ft 3in and rising in the morning, and about 1 ft 3in when we actually ran it. This was about the lowest you would want to run it. Nothing was a scrape and there were LOADS of eddies to practise eddy hopping. The weir was no problem at all and you could sit and side-surf, front surf and flatspin very nicely at the bottom if you didn't put your paddles in too deep. The river took about 6 hours to go from 'rising' to 'dropping off' on the day we ran it.'
GRADING: 4 (3+ at low levels).
MAJOR HAZARDS/ FALLS: Hag Fall, near the take-out on blind left hand corner. 6 foot natural sloping weir with good sized stopper at decent levels. Shoot it tight (tight) river left.
Graeme Cranston (Nov 2004)...'Large fallen tree after the first boulder garden, will be a major hazard in high water'.
GENERAL DESCRIPTION: A cracking little river with plenty of technical stuff and lots of playing. The first boulder garden below the get-on will give you the general idea, if you are struggling here call it a day. It stays pretty much like this the whole way with occasional respites for a chat. Good test of breakout technique and river manoeuvering. Hag Fall is the only major hazard and it is tricky to spot with few last minute breakouts (inspect on the left bank). Several groups have been majorly wasted here, losing boats and denting egos. It goes at all levels, usually down the left.
Philip Kennell, Hexham Canoe Club states (20/2/01)...'Two big stoppers one at the top of Hag Bank, one at the bottom. One at the bottom- probably good to play in but you'll never get out!'
Crazy Legs writes (20/2/01)...'Warning. Main text for the Allen states Hag Fall goes at any level. In a recent trip during the floods, the River was across car park at Plankey Mill (up to tarmac of road), this is very much not the case. At this level the bottom stopper of the weir is closed with about a 15+ foot (2 boat lengths) toe back, however this is unlikely to be a problem as you probably won't make it through the stopper immediately up stream. Be warned. If levels very high it's worth inspecting this drop before getting on (10 min walk from Plankey Mill), it would be very hard to portage. On a brighter note if the Allen's this high go and do the North Tyne (no weir at Chollerford!)
Keep an eye out for some great, big, surf waves in the 1km below Hag Fall that form at very high levels.
CONTRIBUTED BY: Frazer Pearce, also Crazy Legs, Philip Kennell, Graeme Cranston and Lindsey.