GUIDE TO THE RIVER SWALE
(Grinton to Richmond)
NAME OF RIVER: Swale.
WHERE IS IT?: It flows down from the Pennines through Swaledale, funnily enough, towards Richmond.
Tony Neale (06/08/07) notes an alternative... Put In at Healaugh, about a mile south on the B6270 towards feetham there's a small bridge at a camp site. Owner of camp site very friendly and let us get on river there. Took out at road bridge in Richmond B6136.
APPROX LENGTH: 8-9 miles.
TIME NEEDED: 2 hours +
ACCESS HASSLES: Unknown. I have paddled the Swale as part of an organised charity tour.
I have been told that the Swale is a navigation but have no way of verifying this! The landowners certainly don't agree. In particular the stretch by Marske Bridge can be sensitive. Again, lots of men with sticks and string.
Tony Neale notes... Campsite owner was very friendly although as we had a canadian canoe he didn't have a good putting in point as the bank was about a metre high on his field. We used his neighbours field just below the bridge,a nice shingle beach. He said he wouldn't mind. No fisherman seen all day...What a Joy...
Jim Pullen notes: The only "official" access agreement for the lower Swale used to be the weekend of the annual charity paddle organised by Swaledale Outdoor Club. However, since paddlers have been regularly using this section with few problems over the last few years, SOC have now decided not to continue organising this event. There was one chap who seemed to enjoy taking photos of paddlers at the take-out, but my understanding is that since the police got involved he's quietened down somewhat! In addition Richmond Falls is on publicly-owned land, so legal-clarity not an issue here.
WATER LEVEL INDICATORS: I have paddled this in low paddleable conditions. It is a much more satisfying trip with higher water to speed things up.
Tony Neale... Ensure the rocks are covered else you'll have a bumpy trip..
Photos of level indicators at Richmond are here from Nigel Wilford.
There's an EA gauge for this section at Grinton, but it seems quite temperamental! Calibrations are roughly - Low: 0.2m, medium: 0.4m, high: 1.1m.
GRADING: Grade 1 - 3(4).
MAJOR HAZARDS/ FALLS: None I'm aware of, but there were trees dangling in the river...
John Lucas...(Dec 2004) 'Town falls had a big tow back when we paddled in high water, and shallow landings in places; it was quite meaty at this water level but there was a nice line on the left which had a shallow ish landing.'
Tony Neale (06/08/07) 'Rocks seem to be trouble some, we had to get out and walk the canadian down streem a little else risk being grounded and thrown out.. There are a few boulder gardens at lower levels. Also a couple of trees down in the water. Plenty of time to avoid them though. no real danger unless your going down in spate conditions.'
GENERAL DESCRIPTION: This section offers pleasant touring in scenic Yorkshire countryside. The first rapid of note is a mile after the put in, beside Marske Priory. The river steepens here for a few hundred metres. Marrick Steps near the Priory (Grade 3) is hardest in medium water (low - scrape and bump, high - float over) It takes takes the form of a diagonal cross from left to right. We got a boat pinned at the entrance this year as the water flows straight into a rock at the turning point.
Tree rapid (Grade 3) just past Swaleview Caravan site has all the water flowing into a strainer - easy to avoid in high (steer) low (get out on the rocks!) water but very rocky in medium water - the water passes down a shallow groove straight into the tree. Ended up doing this backwards this year after hitting a rock!
Downstream of the takeout described is the town of Richmond, where the river falls over a small but notable natural weir, Richmond Falls (3/4).
This section makes a good Open Boat excursion.
OTHER NOTES: The section above this is also a nice trip. Upstream of that section is some excellent waterfall paddling, the section below is also worth a look with a fun playwave at Catterick. Arkle Beck comes in at the put-in for this section and runs at a similar grade, there's a guide in Nick Doll's book, but we don't have one for this site - anyone paddled it?
Tony Neale notes 'Beautiful scenery. Didn't see any fisherman or any other canoeists all day..a real good touring trip. Probably not for the committed white water paddler but for introducing to moving water or canadian trip then it is great. We paddled it on Sunday 5th August 2007. Down to Grinton we had no trouble. After that we had some fun. I thought it would be a nice paddle to Richmond introducing a friend to canadian canoeing. we were in an "old town" Osprey. Didn't even contamplate getting wet...How wrong I was. Rocks were the cause of every swim...By the time we tried to evade it we had hit it, canoe went over and we fell in.Paddles and gear every where although tied to rope its still hard work getting it all back in. We must of had about half a dozen swims. Boat got pinned between two rocks on one occasion, took 10 minutes to get it out,lucky we didn't loose it,She made it through though. One good thing for "Old Towns". A good day though even if we had a few bumps and bruises after. Don't let it put you off, just be weary if you planning to trake a canadian down it.'
CONTRIBUTED BY: Carol Haynes, also Mark Rainsley, John Lucas and Tony Neale.