GUIDE TO THE RIVER KENT
(Arnside tidal Bore and Playspots)
NAME OF RIVER: Arnside...it's the estuary of the River Kent.
WHERE IS IT?: Arnside, Lancashire.
PUT-INS/ TAKEOUTS: Arnside...
APPROX LENGTH: 1 mile...that's how far you can surf the bore.
TIME NEEDED: 2 hrs.
ACCESS HASSLES: Good - its tidal. Park on the promenade road, somewhere between the viaduct, and the pier. Do not park in the car park next to the railway viaduct! Your car has a good chance of getting flooded.
WATER LEVEL INDICATORS: Need a big Spring tide - at least a difference of 9 metres between high and low tide at Barrow in Furness, 9.5 is better. 10 is a must!
Wayne Hewson...(Dec 2004)...'Bore has been very disappointing lately, wonder if there has been a change in estuarine topography, i.e. silting? The 10m tide difference suggested is quite rare. www.pol.ac.uk/ntslf/tides/?port=0050 gives tide details for the month ahead.'
GRADING: Grade 3 skills needed. Can be very boily.
MAJOR HAZARDS/ FALLS: Quicksand, Long swim back to shore, Trains. Water quality can be poor, it's silty and the high tides clear the banks of all sorts of muck. But it is salt water.
GENERAL DESCRIPTION: Roughly every month, on a good spring tide, the Arnside bore provides boating potential. There are two main features. The bore itself, and playwaves under the railway bridge arches.
The size of both features depends on a number of factors. Wind direction and speed, size of tide, formation of the sandbanks, amount of water coming down the Kent estuarythe list goes on. It can seem a bit hit and miss. The main contributing factor is definitely the size of the tide. Don't even bother if the difference between the high and low tides is less than 9m. 9.5 is best, and legendary sessions have been had at 10m. You can get great sessions at less that 9.5, but it is hit and miss.
To catch the tidal bore, you really need to be at Arnside 2 hours prior to high tide. Hopefully all you should see is mudflats, with some flat water in between. If the tide is already coming in, you have probably missed the bore, but you will still be in time for the viaduct features.
Get yourself a little way downstream of the stone pier, usually as far downstream as you can, whilst still staying in a fairly narrow channel. If you get to a mega wide part of the estuary, the bore will be about an inch high!. The coastguard helpfully sound three sirens, about 15, 10 and 5 minutes (approx) before the bore arrives. You can successfully surf the bore 500 metres or so, right up to the viaduct. I usually find it better to drop off the bore, and catch some haystack waves, rebounding off the viaduct, and wait a while before dropping through the viaduct, since there is rocky debris, and it can be shallow. If you can surf the other waves for a bit, there will be plenty more depth.
HM Coastguard (Arnside) team member (Sept 2004)...'The Coastguard don't sound the siren - it is sounded by South Lakeland District Council. Also, the siren is only sounded twice. The first time roughly 15 to 20 minutes before the tidal bore is due (it is not an exact science). The second siren is sounded as the bore reaches Blackstone Point (New Barns). The sirens are also only sounded during the Summer months and then only between the times of 08:00 and 20:00.'
Once the bore has been through, you need to wait about 10 minutes until the features start appearing under the viaduct. There are about 30 arches under the viaduct, of which the 3 or 4 on the Arnside side produce the features that you can reach.
Typically good surfing waves form, in or below the first, second and third arches. Small stoppers can form, and on exceptionally good tides (only once or twice in 20 visits) you can get fantastic breaking waves in between the pillars, with perfect banked shoulders.
Back in my uni days 1992-1995, a wave used to form below the first arch, next to the eddy, in recent years this does not appear to form as well. Recently it seems to be better to carry up UNDER the viaduct, and paddle out and drop into the arches, to gain access to the best waves. Obviously, make sure you know what you are dropping into. A closed in hole could be waiting for you...
All the arches produce some sort of whitewater, and downstream is a mass of seething whitewater...you don't really want to swim here, since the only eddy is right by the viaduct.
The features can last for the best part of an hour, or 30 minutes, depending on the tide and prevailing conditions. As the tide gets higher, the features will eventually wash out. Sometimes the features will flatten after 15 minutes and reform. So don't leave too early. If you timed your arrival right, you can get about 1.5 hours on the water.
It's a great spot, and somewhere I would certainly aim to paddle at if the tides are right. It can produce the best playspots in the lakes, or it can be disappointing. Persevere. Often if it is not quite good enough, the next day may be higher tides.
This spot does get quite crowded on summer weekend, best time for avoiding the crowds is mid week. This runs all year on spring tides, so you could go in the winter, but its cold. Some of the bigger spring tides will be at night, it's a great place to paddle with a full moon! Once you are used to how it works at daytime, of course.
OTHER NOTES: The Leven Estuary, near Ulverston, has a similar tidal bore, which can be run at similar tidal heights. It doesn't seem to form any good whitewater under the railway viaduct, but from my experiences the bore was superior. I may have just caught it on good days though. Start at Canal Foot, and work your way upstream a suitable distance to catch the bore.
CONTRIBUTED BY: Simon Wiles, Whitewater tourist, also HM Coastguard Arnside and Wayne Hewson.