GUIDE TO THE RIVER ESK
(Egton Bridge to Sleights)
NAME OF RIVER: Esk
WHERE IS IT?: North Yorkshire
PUT-INS/ TAKE-OUTS: There is easy access/egress in Glaisdale under the railway bridge, at Egton Bridge (Bing), Grosmont and Sleights (but this does require a carry over a railway line) perhaps better to carry on to Ruswarp. There is a large weir at Ruswarp which can be avoided by taking out on the left. You could always use the train to return to your car (no bus service between Esk villages).
APPROX LENGTH: 9 miles
TIME NEEDED: A day to do the lot but village to village a couple of hours.
ACCESS HASSLES: The only likely problem is trying to put-in/take out in Egton Bridge by the bridge where some locals may be a bit grumpy. Other options are to put-in/take out at the weir 100yds upstream or behind the toilet block 50yds above the bridge on river left where there's a footpath to the river. If you paddle past Egton Bridge you will be paddling in front of the riparian owner's manor house for five minutes. But I've never had any problems here or elsewhere on the river.
WATER LEVEL INDICATORS: If there is plenty of brown water coming over the length of Sleights weir then it's all good paddling. Grosmont to Sleights can be done in lower water. There's a gauge on river right at the Egton Bridge.
GRADING: Glaisdale to Egton II (III) in very high water (water coming over weir at Sleights less than two feet in height)
MAJOR HAZARDS/ FALLS: Trees in high water. A weir at the top end of Egton Bridge village which can be portaged on river left. There are stepping stones at below this which you might need to squeeze through if the water is low. There are one or two small weirs elsewhere which might need avoiding but they are not serious. Do not canoe over Sleights weir there is a very strong back current in good canoeing conditions.
GENERAL DESCRIPTION: The trip makes an excellent paddle for the newcomer to the kayak and a brilliant day out for the open canoe. Mostly paddling through a steep wooded valley, often with the trees clasping hands overhead. Somewhat bouldery with a couple of small ledges in the upper reaches above Grosmont the river is much easier with many grade I rapids and sharp bends below Grosmont.
OTHER NOTES: The Murk Esk joining at Grosmont has also been done from Beck Hole but worth it only for the tick, the two tribs (West Beck and Eller Beck) are good grade 4 runs in high water. The section above Lealhom (Crunkly Gill) is a wild ride in a kayak in high water.
CONTRIBUTED BY: Dave Perry.
We encountered major opposition from the owner of the Egton Estate, his wife and his son.
They declared we were breaking the law, would get lawyers involved and would damage fish stocks if we went on “his” bit of the river.
They also were most perturbed that we may disturb fishermen. We politely pointed out that it wasn’t actually fishing season.
Furthermore, they were adamant that NO-ONE
As our original intention was to put-in behind the public toilets which was their land, we offered to access the river from the stepping stones a little upstream which are part of a public footpath. The response to this was that they owned the stepping stones as well and that kayaks were illegal on public footpaths. If we put there, we would still be breaking the law and would be prosecuted and anyway, if we wanted to canoe and river, why didn’t we go to the Spey? (Seriously…)
I suppose we could have just ignored them and put off the public right of way anyway but they had seen our cars and frankly we didn’t want to leave such tempting targets of retribution.
So we re-loaded all the boats and went the two miles downstream to Grosmont where we accessed the river at the ford. This meant missing out the first couple of miles which are the most interesting. While there, we met and spoke to the owner of the land in that particular location, He told us he was more than happy to let kayakers access the river (as long as it wasn’t the height of the fishing season), that he thought canoeing looked great and as far as he was concerned left no ecological footprint whatsoever. (What a luvverly fella!)
Subsequently, we discovered from various locals that the chap who gave us such grief is renowned in the area for antics like this. We also once again met some resistance while portaging Sleights weir.
No the least stressful of paddles in the end.