GUIDE TO THE RIVER WEAR
(Durham City to Finchale Priory)
NAME OF RIVER: River Wear (Durham City to Finchale Priory).
WHERE IS IT?: Just Downstream of Durham City, OS Map Landranger 88.
PUT-INS/ TAKE-OUTS: Start at NZ 274 429. From A1 Durham turning, head west into the centre on the A690. Straight on at the next two roundabouts, then turn off left, immediately after going under a flyover. If you are going across a big bridge over the river, you have gone too far. The road now swings right, and goes under the bridge, heading parallel to the river. Park in the big carpark on the left. Access the river down a bank from the carpark. In anything but very low levels, the small weir above the get in is not to be recommended.
Finsih at Finchale Priory NZ 297 473. This is a bit difficult to find. On the A690, near the put in, cross the river on Framwellgate bridge, and right at the next roundabout, onto the A691. Continue out of the city, until you meet the A167. Turn north onto this (towards Chester Le-Street). Off right at the next roundabout, and through Newton Hall (follow signs for the prison). Then a left turn leads eventually to the priory. This is a caravan site, but they are well used to paddlers. You will have to pay for parking (in the form of Exit tokens). There is even a shop here selling Hot Chocolate.
APPROX LENGTH: 7.5 km.
TIME NEEDED: 3-4 hours.
ACCESS HASSLES: I do not know of an agreement, but this section is paddled regularly, and the fishermen generally do not cause hassle.
Alan Lilley (Sept 2006)...'Paddled this section on Bank Holiday Monday 28th August and one fisherman informed us that we were trespassing, that we should not be there, and that the owner of that stretch of the river had contacted the BCU to tell them as much. The next fisherman we met 50yards downstream said hi and had a chat with us! Approx location this occured: NZ288438. Jonathan Roberts, Chair North East Region BCU, gave me this response...
"...As far as we are concerned there has been no agreed public change to the practice of paddling on river Wear. There are some anglers who are being particularly difficult with the landowners and paddlers..."
So there is no change, and he was trying it on.'
Stephen Wilkinson (Sept 2005)...'Approx. 1 mile downstream is a farmer who is not very pleasant'.
Jim Pullen - 'Wasn't it this section that Brighton Uni attempted to negotiate an access agreement for to prove agreements work, only to totally scare off the landowners by asking them to sign up to legal disclaimers?!'
WATER LEVEL INDICATORS: This section can be done at low levels, but is a bit bony in places. Generally better with a little more water in. If there are no rocks visible at the get in, and the water is brown, then a good trip will be had. In these levels, the weirs on the Wear (???) just upstream are not a happy place to be. In high levels these get washed out, and there are lots of other rivers to run around the place.The number for Rivercall North East is 09066197722, which gives three gauge readings for the Wear.
There's several online EA gauges for the Wear, the most useful for this section would be Sunderland Bridge. Does anyone have any idea of calibrations?
GRADING: In low water, Grade 2, maybe up to 3 with a little more water.
MAJOR HAZARDS/ FALLS: No major height drops. This section is pleasantly natural, with no weirs. The final rapid is the most challenging, make sure you decide which side of the bridge stanchion to paddle round!
Mal - 27th September 2003...'Paddled the river at very low level! About 150-200m downstream of the old railway viaduct a very large tree has fallen from the river right bank. Only about a 5m gap now remains down river left. Hazard can be avoided but since this section is very popular with beginners - worth noting for group leaders, especially if paddling at higher water levels.'
GENERAL DESCRIPTION: A relaxing meander, even better with some more flow, through very pleasant woodland countryside (after you get out of the city). This is usually the first taste of moving water for our freshers. There are usually quite a few fisherpeople near to the city. Please be considerate, as this is our local section. The priory at Finchale is quite nice, if ruins are your thing, and there is pleasant walking near for shuttlepeople. There is no convenient road access until the end, although there is a footpath near to the right bank for quite a lot of the way.
OTHER NOTES: Consider carrying on downstream...the river continues on in the same manner, until Chester Le-street. Upstream, the river in Durham city is very nice on a summers evening, but has lots of rowers. Nice views of the Cathedral. Above Durham is nice. Much further up the valley the river has good sections of whitewater.
Redwatch River Runners Carl, Andy Rob (Nov 2005)...'River report update. We paddled the river Wear from Durham City down to Finchale Abbey on the 4/11/05, starting from the old ice rink (just below the weirs). The river is quite full and running at a steady pace making a good grade 2 most of the way, with a possible grade 3 section about half way. There are some play sections on route but the best has to be just below the bridge at Finchale Abbey, this provided some good fun at the end of a good paddle session but be careful not to get too far below the bridge as it is a hard paddle back up to the steps for the car park. All in all a most enjoyable paddle taking approx 2 hours. (One to avoid is the weir just above the old ice rink car park. It has a 2 metre or so tow back and a very strong wall to wall stopper; making it easy to get into but hard to get out, providing one of our group with an early swim and a 5 minute wait for his boat to be returned (with a little damage)).'
CONTRIBUTED BY: Gwyn Ashcroft, Durham Uni Canoe Club, also Stephen Wilkinson, Redwatch River Runners, Alan Lilley and Mal.